On a chilly, wet and windy day in the middle of April, two teams came together looking for local bragging rights. The Strollers, a long established IFFC squad that have experienced the highest highs over recent years, came up against the Barbarians A, a newish team that is working hard to find their feet in their inaugural season in the IFFC's top flight.
The form book suggested that the Strollers would hold the cards, but the Barbs were determined to make sure that, in a good ol' cliche kind of way, the form book was nowhere to be seen! Turning up with both breakfast and beer in hand, the Barbs were clearly up for this game long before the whistle blew....
When it did finally blow, the Barbs were straight at the opposition. Controlling the opening period, the Barbs midfield set the pace for the game. Captain Keith was winning everything in the air, while Luc was running his ass off as he always did. Out wide, Tobias was flourishing in his new role on the left, while over on the right, Chairman Green was filling in admirably for the absent Mr. Arnold.
Putting the Chairman at left midfield turned out to be the best of several brilliant decisions by Barbs manager Richard. Chairman Green saw much of the ball in the opening minutes, winning numerous free kicks while showing great composure and skill on the ball. Mr. Arnold was now just a distant memory, and the Strollers were dazzled into submission by the new wingman's Total Football.
The opposition was so preoccupied with the Chairman, in fact, that other Barbarians found themselves with more room to create. Thus it was no surprise the silky Tobias cut in from the left and headed straight for the box, then fed a supreme cross past the Stroller defenders and straight into Chairman Green's path. With a deft touch of his left foot, Chairman Green immediately brought the ball under control, sized up the onrushing goalkeeper, set up his shot with a tap of his right foot, then rifled a powerful side foot into the far corner. 1-0 to the Barbarians!
This goal was a beauty from buildup to finish and is already gaining buzz as a Goal of the Year contender. Lee probably won't go home with the prize, however, because of the weapon of mass destruction that Luc detonated on the Strollers in the second half. More on that later!
The only real chance that the Strollers had in the first half came from lucky long ball that took lucky bounce and somehow managed to elude the impeccable Barbarians defence. With a Stroller bearing down on goal and no defender to stop him, Richard did what any good defender would do and rugby tackled the f**k out of the striker. But Richard is defender and Manager, and as such he plays a more cerebral game than most. So while he did flagrantly bring down the opponent, he made sure to do so just outside the penalty area.
The ref blew instantly, and while the commotion was winding down, Marcus, the clever man that he is, slid around and stood in the goal. The ref, now faced with to choose between yellow and red, saw that Richard was never, ever, EVER the last man and thus had no choice but to pull out his yellow card, much to the Strollers' dismay. The shot missed, Rich stayed in the game, and the Barbars held on to their lead.
And so, as the rain continued to fall, the Strollers tried in vain to get back in the game. But all the long balls and stray passes were never going to be enough to break down the Barbarians, and so went the halftime whistle. Soaked to the skin, the Barbs were happy, playing well, and winning!
The Barbarian dominance continued into the second half, and things were starting to look hopeless for the Strollers. Manager Richard, being the nice gentleman that he is (and perhaps feeling a tinge of guilt over his previous actions), clearly felt sorry for the opponent and decided to help them out. Midway through the second half he lunged with reckless gusto into the Strollers' forward from behind, earning himself a second yellow card in the process. Bye Bye Richard! (HAHA!!! – Only joking mate, it was of course the worst sending off in the history of modern football. It was never a booking, never a foul, and you should have been handed a medal for a life-saving tackle. Zero cheers to that useless excuse for a ref!)
Anyhoo, despite being down to 10 men for the final 25 minutes, the Barbs almost scored again. This time it was Christoph, playing up front on his own, who swivelled on a dime to smack a shot off the top bar and away to safety. Meanwhile the Barbarian defence held solid, as the Strollers continuted to believe that long crossing balls in to touch were the way to win a game… Looking back, it's embarrassing we only won by one goal!