So this week we played in the quarter finals of the cup. Most managers would be proud of that achievement but given that there are only 8 teams in our division, and as a result everyone qualified for the quarter finals, I couldn’t take much credit. We were drawn against Old Mutual at home, one of the stronger teams in the division, and given our league game was marginal I wasn’t sure how things would pan out. Admittedly, I was apprehensive about the game given that Almiro was in Paris and he had scored 4 of the 5 goals in our 5-4 win over Old Mutual in our league game. Remove Almiro from the equation and we have a 4-1 defeat. I have always said, ‘one man a team does not make’, all I had to do now was to believe it myself. Incidentally, I was accosted by some life members on the very same subject on Thursday evening, whilst enjoying a glass of wine or six with my female offspring in a local esteemed tavern. In my defence, I responded that I had given it lots of thought but off-record, I had no specific plan other than to field the best side available and hope like hell it would work out… in other words, I was following the same strategy I have all season long :-O
In an unexpected turn of events, Popeye (aka Richard Gurtel) granted himself shore leave for Saturday afternoon, leaving his boat moored at sea. His Saturday guest appearance was intended to be at centre back but quite frankly he wondered around the field as if he was still on his boat tossed by the tides and waves adrift at sea. At one time, I ran back to cover centre back as he had a run up the left wing. For those close followers of the team, the pattern of Richard’s strategy when playing centre back is simple: beat the other guy to the ball…. kick it as hard as possible, if it is in the field of play, that’s win, if it goes to a player, a double win, if it’s one of our players, maximum points, …. simple and effective. So with Penguin out nursing an ankle injury, Popeye played centre back with Satchmo. Dave Lovell was sent out to guard the right back position and Johan at his usual haunt at left back. A note on that position… when we played Old Mutual away, they had a particularly fast lad… an over 60 who they continually play by kicking over the top and watching with glee as he outpaces all of us to the ball. They scored 4 out of 4 of their goals like that. I was delighted then when Johan said he was available because whilst they took pride in their speedster, they hadn’t had the misfortune of meeting Johan, probably the fastest over 45 in the Western Cape, maybe the Southern Hemisphere. Rumour has it he runs to practice by matching his speed against the Springboks just other side the fence. He was the plan… until they didn’t bring speedster along. Instead they pitched up with their semi-retirement side who, with a push, could field a side for the over 60’s league. I say this with no disrespect given the fact that they still practice and play regularly and indeed were competitive. In comparison, our side’s average age for Saturday was 50.6, only making the 50 with grateful contributions from Ronald Koeman, and Popeye.
So the first half started at a pedestrian pace with each side giving the other the ball without competition. At one stage, I even apologised to the referee for the pace of the game, albeit only to ensure he hadn’t lost interest or fallen asleep. He smiled and waved and I continued to encourage the lads to get stuck in. Incidentally, Byron was guest referee for the day and probably had the best game on the park. After the match, I asked him what he thought of our game…. he replied and said “It looks very interesting, what do you call it?” We struck early in the first half with a well directed shot at goal from Ronald Koeman. In my haste to chase up, I didn’t see the assist or in fact how on earth he even got in front of the goals, but his shot was on target and beat the goal keeper’s flailing hands as it was parried into the back of the net. I didn’t care who assisted or how he did it, we were one up in the cup. As a player-manager, and in my case, catering manager, report writer, shirt washer and occasionally the side’s financier, it’s difficult to remember when things happen. Sometimes I recall if the goal came in the first or second half, but most of the time, I cannot recall around what time it happens and who was responsible, causing me to misreport the events. One thing is for sure and that is I remember us winning or losing, which for me 75% of the way into the season is sufficient.
Dereck anything-but-Tame, was in the form of his life and wasn’t about to be shown up by Ronald Koeman. To be honest, I cannot recall if Dereck’s goal came before his miss or the other way round. All I know is the he did in fact score the second goal slotting it into the net in a similar fashion to Ronald. What is more memorable is the miss unfortunately, which was more improbable than him scoring. A cross from the left (Neil if I recall correctly) and all Dereck anything-but-Tame had to do was get in the way and it would ricochet into the it back of the net. Instead he swung his foot, using a backswing that almost touched his shoulder blade and from 1 metre out scooped the ball over the bar and outside the park. I asked him what he was being paid to miss, it was so mis-timed…. Unfortunately I cannot, in words, display his reaction. Nevertheless we were two up by half time and I felt a little easier.
Misguided into a false sense of security, I made wholesale changes with Spongebob replacing Koeman, Spike letting Stuart make a comeback appearance and Dave using his usual limp to organise himself an early beer so that Wayne, pirate of the Afrikaburn go to represent us out to right back. Neil had asked earlier to be subbed but seem to have recovered from his 20m run and decided to stay on provided he didn’t have to run too much. So unlike the over 45’s I thought…But Old Mutual weren’t about to lie down and go away. They came back fighting and pressed high, winning a handball outside the right hand side of the box. It was deja vu moment for me but dismissing it thinking I have Popeye and Satchmo with height, I let it go. Krusty was giving his usual directions outside the box and everyone was ignoring him as usual. But sure enough, the ball came across to the back post, landing squarely on a big forehead belonging to a green clad abdomen and bulleted into the back of the net. At 2-1, things got a bit tighter and we defended as much as we were pressed. A break-through came whilst Old Mutual were pressing highly and suddenly, it was the Old Mutual centre forward with a one-on-one with Kurt. In the confines of my mind, I could already imagine writing a report about how we gave away a 2-0 lead to go out of the cup… I was dreading what I thought was to come. Into the big box came the big striker and boof went his shot at goal and it was on target too. At this juncture, I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Kurt’s swoop down to collect the ball, comparable to a 50 kilogram bag of wheat falling from a truck, and with the same grace too. Admittedly, he was nimble for a significant fella, but I have to thank the ground staff for the thick grass now growing in the box which could slow a greased cannonball from a speed of 150km/hour to zero in 5 meters. But what a save and a huge relief could be heard from the crowds gathered at the sideline. With the score still at 2-1, another goal would’ve really put us under pressure.
Kurt has a habit of kicking the ball from hand upfield with a close to 90⁰ elevation. I have often winced at how close to the floodlights he has kicked and if I could at all be held liable for his actions given that I am his manager and responsible for playing him in goals. However, this has nothing to do with the fact that Krusty wasn’t about to let Dereck’s miss be the only memorable one for the day. So imagine a similar situation as Dereck’s first half miss where Krusty is in the small box and receives the ball across the goals. In his defence, he was facing the wrong way but at least had some control over the ball. With a twirl and a swing, he would’ve made the score 3-1 only he managed, somehow, to also put it over the bar and I began to suspect that there was an outbreak of a scoop virus. Suddenly Spongebob, back after a two-week layoff from a knee injury, managed to tear, strain or pull something in his right leg and sent Ronald Koeman on again whilst Stuart, having played full out for a whole 5 minutes, subbed himself back off for Spike so he could catch his breath. Spike must get a mention here as he is enjoying great form and looks like a rejuvenated youth running around the field tackling like Eben Etzebeth at a North-South derby, only effectively and cleanly. One-such tackle saw Spike take possession of the ball and lift it over the Old Mutual defensive line into an open space providing Dereck an opportunity to run onto it and at goal. With incredible calmness and composure, Dereck nothing-but-Tame collected the ball onto his chest, brought it down to his feet and slotted it into the far corner of the net beyond the goalie’s outstretched hands. Remarkable play from the lad often ripped apart for missing from 3 feet and letting his performance do the talking. So 3-1 up and we were a little safer.
Seeing Stuart on the side of the field was an envious sight and not wanting him to get too complacent, I subbed myself for the last 5 minutes sent him on to do the holding midfield role. Bizarre thing is, we played a 25 minute first part, had a water break, played another 5 minutes then had half time. After half time, we played a 50 minute second three quarters with no water break. At one point, I thought the ref was hoping to be in charge of extra time and a penalty shootout simply for his amusement. I suspect at some point he realised that no-one would’ve made the extended play and was ready to blow full time. In the final minute, Ronald Koeman picked up the ball in the midfield, played off Krusty, received the return pass and was set for goals. With the speed and agility not seen for years from the lad, he was on track for goals with one thought in mind… to survive the afternoon heat… and maybe score a second. Given the opening goal, I was convinced it was going to be 4-1 until Koeman shot at goals, or at something he saw other than the goal… maybe a bird or reconnaissance plane or something because the ball disappeared into the clouds and had to be fetched in Macassar. Even the referee had had enough by then and called for time. In the post-match interview, Koeman admitted to being a little out of practise.
And so it ended at 3-1 and we’re in the semi-finals of the cup. It was great to see Mr Thomson, the club’s president and some of the life members Johnny, Greg and Chris coming down to support. A few Snoek, compliments of Kurt proving he can catch something was enjoyed by all and down-downs for Satchmo as man of the match and Mackie from Old Mutual. Well-deserved from the big lad too as he would’ve made a fortune had he been a prize bull, because he covered the whole field and everyone on it. Nothing got past him making us midfielders brave enough to venture upfield in an attempt to score. It was good to see the lads from Old Mutual stay and have a few with us, probably thanks to Johnny and Greg who have close ties with the club and hopefully the relationship between the two clubs will continue to remain. They wished us luck for the next round and promised to bring a more competitive side for the return leg of the league.
I was immensely proud of the display the lads put on. Every one played their hearts out and gave 100% for 100% of the game, just as I had asked…surprising perhaps, but encouraging most definitely so.
We now have 3 League games left, 2 of which are at home against YMO and Old Mutual. In the middle of the two is the Edgemead game and of course one, or two cup games, depending on how well we play.
So it’s the second last home game this Saturday against YMO at 14h00. So pull up your panties ladies and get ready for the home straight of the season.