Happy New Year to all! For those who didn't make it on the Barbarian Shanghai Soccer Social, along with those who went but drank too much to remember what happened, our own Tom K. has written what is sure to be an award-winning piece of investigative journalism on this already legendary weekend.
Friday, January 4
After plenty of confusion as to whether we would have enough players (Carlos' visa issues...) and shirts (Carlos...), we all met up at the airport. We were a total of 6 players (Charles, Ravi, Gilbert, Taylor, Tom and myself) with Charles' wife which meant we were 7 to board the plane to Shanghai without any shirts. After having a brief chat with Charles' friends (Freddy Kanoute and Darko Matic who were flying to Kunming), we boarded the plane and landed in Shanghai around 23.00 and got to the hotel around half midnight where we met up with last year's Skipper, Laurence, who had arrived from Hong Kong earlier in the day and had already had a few extra hours of drinking. We stayed in the Holiday Inn out in the sticks, but it was home to Manchester United last year, so we were in good hands. We had a few beers at D7 (the hotel bar) and had an early night looking forward to tomorrow's big game.
Saturday, January 5
After indulging ourselves in the breakfast buffet, we were greeted by Dave, the manager of Shanghai Emeralds FC, our opponents for the day. With Bishop having joined the ranks, we walked over to the International British Schoolhad with eight Barbarian players. We were given a few players from their side to make up the numbers - Adam (keeper), Steve (OZ right back) and Bruce (whose real name I've forgotten, but we called him Bruce the entire game). The pitch was a little smaller than anticipated, and we decided not to play offsides due to the lack of linesmen.
We set out the game in a standard 4-4-2, with our captain Charles pulling the strings in the middle of the park. It was not the Barbarians' best start, to be honst -- we went 1-0 down to an early goal and they quickly made it 2-0 after about 25 minutes. To our credit, we did not get our heads down, and Bishop scored a goal from one of our corners to put us back in the game.
After a halftime team talk and a kick up the backside by Charles, we switched keepers and now had a Frenchman, Thierry, in nets. He was a good shot-stopper but his kicking was dreadful. We began the second half pretty dreadfully, conceding another two goals in the space of a few minutes. A comical "offside" goal was scored by Dave who goal hanged. We all laughed when he scored and celebrated, but everyone on both sides deemed him to be ridiculously offside, so the goal was cancelled out. We managed to get a second goal when, Tom, our striker for the day finished with his left foot past their keeper in pure Fredi Kanoute style. 4-2. Dave finally got his goal, although that was dubious too, with some saying it never fully crossed the line. 5-2.
With fifteen minutes on the clock, the Barbarians needed something special, and Bishop stepped up again with another cool left-footed finish, putting us 5-3 down. We pushed forward with Taylor moving up front and Ravi covering the left wing. Bishop picked up the ball again, played a one-two with one of us, then slotted the ball home -- it was now 5-4 with only a few minutes left to go! As we kept pushing forward, our very own Leighton Baines for the day --Laurence -- nicked it in from a cross with a slide tackle. The ball crept into the corner for the equaliser. The final whistle sounded at 5-5; what an unbelievable comeback for the Barbars! And if not for the post, we could have even stolen the game right at the end.
The Shanghai Emerald lads then treated us to plenty of Tsingtao bottles from their local pub. After dissecting the game, we showered and went to another of their favourite pubs, where our keeper from earlier (Adam) was singing in a band. After eating pizzas and drinking plenty of Tsingtao, we played some pool and table football. Charles had been missing for the last few hours and when he finally arrived to our location, we asked him where he had been. He was being sketchy and would only say, "Dis is Shanghaiiiiii", a phrase that quickly became our saying for the rest of the weekend. We then made a late-night move to the French Concession area, where we went to a bar just behind Sasha's. After some shisha, dancing, and drinking rhum, we eventually back to the hotel around 4am or so.
Sunday, January 6
Waking up around 9am and having breakfast was tough, but we had a bus picking us up just after 10 to take us to SRFC (Shanghai Rugby Football Club). The bus journey was bumpy and after Laurence's talk of "Fish milkshakes with all the bones", one Barbarian squad member (who shall remain nameless) was sick in his football bag. Fortunately, this incident did not have a great affect on the team.
We began the match with our core Barbarian group, along with a few lads who played with us the previous day (Adam in goal, Alan and Steve at the back, and Phil up front). It was a much better start than our last match, and we took an early 1-0 lead when Tom (that would be me) put it home against the efficient Shanghai Krauts. The Krauts quickly equalized, but we regained the lead after Taylor was tripped up in the box and Bishop calmly slotted the penalty shot past the keeper. The Krauts were quick onto us, though, and snuck one in just before halftime to make it 2-2 at the break.
Overall it was an excellent first half by the Barbarians, despite some of us still being drunk from the previous night. Or perhaps our inebriation was the secret to our success? If so, the hangovers must have kicked in during halftime, because the second half was an absolute nightmare.Our defending was comical; I won't go into too much detail, as I can barely remember the onslaught of goals we conceded. We lost that half 7-0 to make the final score a thumping 9-2 defeat. We then had a couple of beers and, after the obligatory (in China, at least) argument with the bus driver, made our way to the airport to fly home back to Beijing.
It was a fantastic trip; a huge thanks to Charles for organizing it. He did an amazing job and is already talking about a future tour to Kunming....