Saturday, 18th June, and the scene was set for one of the most monumental triumphs in tournament football. No, I am not discussing the European Championships; I am talking about Kick London’s appearance at that Waltham Forest YFC charity 5 a-side tournament!
Kick London went to the tournament under the guise of “Christal Palace”, a humourous play on words, if we don’t mind saying so ourselves! The team comprised of Andy Dutton between the sticks, Ben Lee (husband of office manager Becci) and Jack Taylor taking on defensive duties, a midfield of Alastair Park, Josh Chaproniere and Robbie Smart, and Zuko Akwuba heading up the attacks.
Christal Palace were drawn into Pool B, which turned out to be a physical and strong group, with many talented footballers in it. The format of the tournament dictated that the top two teams would enter the trophy knockout, and the third and fourth placed teams would be entered into the shield knockout, with the fifth placed team getting the early bus home.
Christal Palace were to play the pool opener, against the team that would eventually finish third in the group. Christal Palace struck early, taking the lead through Zuko’s goal. A moment later though, a well hit shot from a tight angle beat Andy at the near post to make it 1-1. Despite some late pressure, Christal Palace were unable to gain a second goal, and the game finished as an admirable draw.
In the second game, Christal Palace were playing the team that ultimately finished 5th in the group, and went 1-0 up within 5 seconds through some slick play between Zuko and Jack, one-twoing their way through the opposition before Jack slammed home the finish. A second quickly followed from Zuko to make it 2-0. Christal Palace clearly got a little bit ahead of themselves, because very quickly ended up 3-2 down, before Zuko rattled in a bullet to make it 3-3, drawing a game that should have been a win.
In the next game, Christal Palace played the eventual group winners. Dominating the early stages, Christal Palace took the lead, fully taking advantage of there being no over head height rule, as Josh nodded in a parried shot by the keeper. Christal Palace were then pegged back to 1-1 before the opposition “scored” a very controversial winner. The ball struck the far post and came out at an angle that the laws of physics would deem it impossible to have crossed the line, yet the referee gave goal anyway and then blew the full time whistle.
In their final group game, Christal Palace took on the eventual group runners up, losing 2-0 in a fiery affair which had several late tackles and flash points, with the inconsistent refereeing not helping the situation. Less said about this game the better!
Bottom of the group, and with a goal difference of -3, Christal Palace were hoping on the team they played second (drawing 3-3 with) to have a worse goal difference than them, and they confirmed this by being smashed 5-0 in the final game of the group stage.
Christal Palace finished 4th in the group, by virtue of their superior (lol) goal difference, and thus entered into the shield knockout tournament.
The Quarter-final was drawn, and Christal Palace were pitted against “Black All-Stars”. Christal Palace started off well, peppering the opposition goal with shots, but their keeper making a lot of decent saves. Then, seemingly out of nothing, a miss-hit back pass let the All-Stars go 1-0 up. Christal Palace then rallied, hitting the All-Stars with a quick two goals from Josh and Robbie, to make it 2-1. The All-Stars fought back, replying with two goals of their own to make it 3-2. Christal Palace then equalised for 3-3 through a long range, deflected drive from Ben, before Christal Palace had their moment of the day.
With the opposition on the attack, Ben hit the All Stars striker with a tackle so hard that the player literally flipped over his back and landed in a heap on the floor (think Scott Parker vs Joe Cole, Newcastle vs Chelsea. YouTube it if you haven’t seen it!) He laid the ball off to Zuko who played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Jack’s forward run, who smashed it in first time to make it 4-3. A real classic of a quarter final that neither side deserved to lose, the disappointment of the Black All-Stars at the final whistle was evident.
In the semi final, Christal Palace ended up playing a familiar foe, the side from our opening game, and again drew 1-1. This time, Christal Palace went a goal down, but pegging them back later on in the game with a smartly taken goal by Zuko. The match went straight to penalties, with the opposition taking first and scoring, sending Andy the wrong way. Goalkeeper Andy then stepped up and slotted low to the keepers left. The opposition stepped up to their next penalty, placing to Andy’s right, who read the player and got down low to tip it wide. Josh stepped up next for Christal Palace, and powered his penalty in, to the keeper right. Their final penalty was hit high wide and handsome (even though Andy had guessed the right way), which meant Christal Palace were through to the shield final.
The unfortunate thing was, as the tournament had over-run, the opposition finalists wanted to play immediately. Christal Palace had no time for a breather, and within a few moments, the final was on!
The opposition in the final were physical and powerful (without being aggressive), and it was a good natured final, in which they went 2-0 up from two rasping shots. Christal Palace then had a goal ruled out, the ref calling play on (and Christal Palace doing just that) while the opposition were mid-substitution, and had therefore stopped. Christal Palace graciously retook the keepers ball, and although thy got one goal back through Robbie, they struggled to get a second, despite a lot of late pressure. Tired or not, the better team won the final, and Christal Palace came out as Shield runners-up.
We had a really good day, and it was a time of team bonding, banter, and some quality football and goals (at times!)
We as a team would like to thank Ransome for organising the tournament, and we hope to compete again next year!
Andy Dutton – Sports Coach