The ball ricocheted to Lucas ‘Fall Goalscoring Edition’ Bulus in the area. Three minutes remained in the game and the Barbarians were beginning to wonder if the winning goal they had sought for almost the entire second half would ever come.
There are moments in football where you know that something magical is about to happen. This was not one of them.
‘The Barbecutionist’ followed his (understandably, given his levels of lamb consumption) immaculately-cushioned first touch by leaning back at an almost impossible angle. On the sidelines it seemed apparent —no, an absolute inevitability— that this desperate strike would follow so many of the afternoon’s attempts into the former tennis courts behind the goal, the attempt on goal a greater folly even than the make-you-squeal-with-delight plush, too-narrow, destined-to-be-forever-underused, under-3s American Football pitch those courts have become.
Resigned sighs, utterances of ‘not like this’, and frustrated grunts, in anticipation of yet another chance gone begging, emanated from the Barbarians’ bench.
There are moments in football where you know that something magical is about to happen. This was not one of them. There are also moments in football where you think that there is absolutely no chance of something magical happening, but then from nowhere comes a moment of astonishing brilliance. This was one of those.
‘King Carlos II’ unleashed a BULUSTERING strike. Perhaps the purest strike of a ball in the IFFC (or, even, to give the lad credit where it’s due: China) since Sham ‘I hit the ball hard to ensure it doesn’t grow any’ Mos’s thirty-five yard rocket to send Tobacco’s hopes up in flames the previous week.
The King’s Thunder-Bulustard screamed into the top corner, millimetres under the bar and SiDe Park fell silent for a moment, awestruck.
Joyous scenes followed. Wild scenes. Scenes of unbridled ecstasy. Viewed objectively, perhaps the celebrations were a little excessive. But then, football isn’t supposed to be viewed objectively, so sucks to that.
In fact so involved were the Barbarians in celebrating the fact that the Copacabana Kid had almost certainly just extended their winning streak to three games, that barely a soul noticed Bulus wheel away, sprint the full length of the pitch and scale the cage screaming ‘Finally they’ll believe me when I say that I wasn’t a goalkeeper in Brazil! Three goals in three games! I said three in three my friends*!’.
Prior to this point, the game had been more tempestuous than top-level.
Tempers flared on the pitch throughout, with players on either side questioning each others’ parentage, creatively comparing each other to various parts of the human anatomy, and even on a number of occasions alleging that their opponents were purveyors of incest. This was a spicy encounter to say the least.
On a slightly (but not much) lighter note, tensions also flared on the bench in the game’s early stages as two (alleged) Barbarians whose names may not be mentioned here due to a superinjunction allegedly discussed a mystery woman on the sidelines.
Angsty as the game was, a Barbarians victory should not have looked in doubt at any point. A blistering twenty-five minute opening spell saw the Barbars spurn upwards of four excellent chances to spank Sexy into oblivion.
With debutant Atticus De’Prospero’ working his magic down the left and Dias demolishing his opposing fullback it looked as though it was going to be an easy afternoon for the Warriors in White. Alas, as ever, this was not to be.
An injury to ‘The Beast’ Khalid who had been killing it at left back, and a booking for Ethan ‘Voice of Reason’ Collins, understandably riled by the opposition’s unsportsmanlike (even by IFFC standards) attempts to rile him and the referee’s interesting interpretation of the rules, were the only blemishes on an otherwise decent first half for the Barbarians. Except for the eleven or so missed chances.
Sexy FC may or may not have hit the post at some point after some sort of lucky rebound off somebody’s backside following a long ball and a melee, but it was the Barbars who took a deserved though disappointing 1-0 lead into half time through a controversial** penalty clinically converted by Nick ‘Cantona’ Beswick.
The second half was a hard-fought affair with Sexy’s combative approach, as well as tireless running by their centre forwards, nullifying the Barbarians’ attacking threat and helping to create uncertainty in the Barbarians’ defensive third.
It was this uncertainty which led to a defensive mix-up and a penalty awarded against the Barbarians midway through the half.
Ethan ‘Superhands’ Collins came desperately close to saving the penalty, getting both hands to it as he flung himself squirrelesque to his right, but it was so powerfully struck that it crept in just under the bar after cannoning off the keeper. 1-1 and all to play for.
A frantic 20 minutes or so followed in the lead up to Bulus’ goal. Whilst Murchik, fresh back from another international business trip, twisted the blood of all those on Sexy’s left-hand side (eventually leading to a decidedly unsexy red card for their left back), the Barbarians continually overcommitted in search of the go-ahead goal. In response to every chance laid waste or loss of possession, a long ball would soar towards the Barbarian goal and a frantic chase would ensue.
Miraculously, the back five of Collins, Skupien, and the excellent Beavis Blackburn, were equal to the task each time and somehow managed to extinguish the threat before beginning the cycle again.
To those on the sidelines, such an end to end spectacle with so little discernible regard for technique or tactics must have been like watching round fifteen of a Rocky Balboa fight.
Chance followed chance followed chance followed chance punctuated only by howls of frustration from the sidelines and, on the occasion that Sham fell over the ball, howls of derision and delight.
Such desperate stuff from both sides served ultimately only to add context and further enhance the potential for Bulus’ bullet to enter footballing folklore. And that it will. Or at least should do.
Well, maybe it will enter Barbarians folklore. It probably could. If they manage to retain the league title. That’d be nice, although quite what it would do to a certain iconic Barbarian who may or may not have cancelled his wife’s birthday to play in this game and who may or may not have partied himself to within an inch of his life after the club’s first league title remains to be seen. Let’s find out.
Final score: Barbarians 2:1 Sexy FC.
Next up for the Barbarians: top flight new boys Cavalier and the chance to put some Barbarians old boys in their place. Saturday 22nd October 2pm @ LiDo. Let’s F-wording Smash ‘Em.
*it is highly likely that the words here are, in fact, misreported and that the goalscorer-turned-madman ended his outburst with a less-than-savoury epithet, also beginning with the letters M and F.
**controversial only in that it meant that Barbarians would go into the break ahead- a complete and unsanctioned break with tradition.
Man of the Match: Lucas Bulus Phenomenal winner, creativity in celebration
Honourable Mentions: Chris, Khalid- being beasts, Sham- managing not to win the Donkey, Atticus- Splendid debut, Nick Beswick- not sulking too much about the fact that he slipped to #3 in the ‘Most likeable Nick B in the Barbarians’ rankings, The Right Honourable Sir Keith Bradbury- 1000th game for the club, Richard Payne- Services to photography/devotion to the Barbarians.
Donkey of the Week: Ethan ‘Schumacher’ Collins Hurling abuse at the referee for awarding him a free kick, Taekwondo-style back-spinning roundhouse kick to concede the penalty.
Shampagne Moment: Surprisingly not Sham falling over the ball when dribbling. This week's Shampagne moment goes to the Barbarians as a collective for their innovative use of screen captures to highlight various incidents from the game inadvertently preserved by Richard Payne's attempts at capturing the better side of Barbarians football. eg. Keith Bradbury's now famous 'close eyes and cower' manoeuvre. Ah, those kids and their social media.
The Numbers Game
1- Barbarians who cancelled their wife’s birthday to play in this game
1- Fs in IFFC that stand for Friendship
97864- Expletives uttered/spoken/screamed/howled in this game. IFFC Record.
3- Goals in the past 3 games for Lucas ‘Yangrou chuanr only-I’m trying my best to cut down on the BBQ’ Bulus
2- Goals from the spot in 2 games for Nick Beswick. Cool as a cucumber.
15- Barbarians who took time out from ‘watching their stories’ to come out and play. Top Effort.
3- He’s back, baby. The cunning Taxi Driver disguise is really helping things along.