Week 15 in the IFFC Premier League was played on Saturday, March 17, 2011 at the Si De Park. Afrika United were the visiting team, as the eighth-placed Beijing Barbarians were looking to rebound from the previous week's unlucky loss.
This was never going to be an easy task to take on Afrika United, the IFFC's most dominant team over past decade (winning 5 out of the last 7 league titles) and the kind of squad that inevitably draws comparisons with the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Manchester United. And while most teams would consider a single-digit loss to Afrika an acceptable result, the Barbarians were in no such mood and wanted to add to their 17 points in the league.
The home team's defense lined up with midfielder Carlos flying high in goal, Chairman Kenny on the left, with Keith "Pineapple Shizzle" Bradbury and rugby player "Sideshow Bob" Thomas in the center, and Dave "The Redneck" C. on the right. The team was happy to see the return of Captain Mad Mo Manchester in his central midfield attacking role. Dary "Left Hand" Stone, a.k.a. The Energizer Bunny, started as the lone striker in place of Kevin "Shop it and Rock it" Plume, who was nursing an injury but supported the team from the sidelines. Starting on the wings were Isaac 3000 and newcomer Simon "I Don't Have a Nickname Yet". Alex "Le Punch" Crazytown started off next to Mo in the attack, and Tim started in defensive midfield for the second game in a row. On the bench were Phil "Mr. Mom" Lowes, Henri "All Night Long", Jochanan "The Tank", and Robin "I Also Don't Have a Nickname Yet".
Managers Bradbury and Wallach laid down a clear tactical approach for the team before the game, expertly utilizing a portable magnetic board to get the instructions across and explain what was needed from each player. The opponents saw Keith's deft manipulation of the little yellow and red dots and knew they were in for a tough afternoon.
The Africans kicked off and immediately started to probe the Barbars' defense. It soon became clear that the Barbarians would need to defend deep and in numbers and look for the quick break to hurt the opposition. At first the Barbarians' defending was strong, and the opposition players struggled to break them down. But after 15 minutes Afrika striker Ulrich Oguele got to a long through-ball a split second before the outrushing Barbarians goalkeeper and poked it into the goal for the 1-0 lead.
Just ten minutes later the visitors increased the lead to 2-0 after goalkeeper Carlos brilliantly saved a deflected shot, only to see the ball to the feet of another Afrika player, who somehow managed to squeeze the ball across the line.
In the 35th minute tempers flared when, as the Barbarians served in a corner kick, Afrika defender Boubbacar Diare viciously elbowed Captain Mo in the head. Concussed and with a massive bump swelling up, Mo was too dazed to argue for the deserved penalty but still continued to play on.
At halftime some fresh legs were introduced, with Robin coming in for Isaac and Henri for Alex. Both Isaac and Alex had given great performances with their tireless running up and down the wings, threatening the opposition and never neglecting their defensive duties.
The second half saw more of the same, with the Barbarians holding their ground, staying solid in the back, and constantly threatening on the break. As the game went on, Afrika seemed unsure whether to attack and showboat (as they normally do when they think the game is in the bag) or shore up the defense in an effort to preserve their lead and take the points.
Meanwhile, the Barbarians found their second wind and started increasing the pressure, just missing on several good scoring opportunities. In the end, though, it was not to be, as the African defense held firm. Final score 2-0 Africa.
Despite the defeat, the Barbarians come out of this encounter with their heads held high. They know they delivered a spirited and determined performance, defended as one unit, and attacked with speed and precision. The performance leaves a positive foundation to build on in the upcoming weeks' games.
Special mention has to go to Simon, who oin his Barbarian debut delivered a dynamite display and deservingly picked up the Man of the Match award. French Tim had a dazzling game, protecting the defense and tirelessly running to close down gaps in midfield, further cementing his role in the defensive midfielder slot.