The lads at West End are always glad to have us over for the afternoon, for a few (or many) dops, a braai and then if we throw in a game of football in between, it just makes it a little better. It is always so humbling to travel to a community that isn’t wealthy but to be treated like we are in Premier Class. Salt of the earth lads who care less about the result as much as how much we enjoy ourselves.
During the week, I had a little wobbly thinking we didn’t have enough players counted by using all 10 fingers to count the confirmed players and coming to a round total of 10 (surprisingly). With this number, I published the team and immediately put in a request for a loan player from the “older” of the over 40’s, who I knew was playing at the same time. I also invited Dorian who practices with us regularly and had been considering joining. He initially declined citing a broken thumb but appreciated the invitation. Fritz, the over 40 ruler, has a squad of close to 50 and generously redeployed Justin for our game in Athlone. Justin always brings Grandoog along for the walk and who in his own right, is becoming familiar with the territory LA (Lower Athlone) treating it like a second home, mixing with the locals, discussing the finer nuances of our play and most importantly, finding out where the local pubs are. Amongst all the hype, I completely omitted Wayne from the line-up somehow, until Wayne asked where Wayne was playing. In retrospect, I probably got to 10 fingers and got stuck but regardless, was pleased when we could then travel to LA with 12. Dorian also called and said he can play 1st half if I am still short. Caught between wanting a new recruit, bending the rubber rules of over 45 soccer, and with some experience of having lads call me at 13h00 advising me they are working/sick/kidnapped, I invited him to come along.
We played downhill and with the wind at our back in the first half but couldn’t get the ball into the goals. One of the reasons resulted in the ref’s arm eventually tiring from calling offside. And, when we did get it right, we didn’t get a real shot on goals. Fortunately, we were solid at the back with the usual back 4 of Penguin, Satchmo (aka Ruben), Dave and Justin ensuring that anything near the goals was immediately neutralised and extinguished. In the middle of the park, Dorian was holding with Spike in the first half and Ronald Koeman, Krusty and myself in the middle with Dereck-anything-but-Tame up front. Fortunately, the West End goalie had about as much potency in his kicks as my grandmother on a day of vodka down-downs, and several of our midfielders/forwards picked up the ball on the edge of the goals but couldn’t put it away. Reminded many of us of our youth. Most of the game was played in the middle of the park with the occasional through-pass (generally offside) but it was still goalless at half-time.. Frustrated, we decided to play shorter balls to the forwards and run through with return passes, thereby hopefully beating the offside trap. At the same time, we had to ensure we continued to defend bravely with the wind behind the opposition. By that time Braaimaster Stevie was on the field replacing Dorian and Justin took a rest for Wayne. Wayne confirmed that had recovered from his dreaded lurgy which kept him out of last week’s clash and that he had specifically gotten home early to ensure he made it to the ground. Suitably impressed, I was expected good things from Wayne and he didn’t let the side down.
Early in the second half, Clive played a through ball to Krusty who outpaced the opposition and slotted the ball underneath the dive of the goalie to slot De Beers into a 1-0 lead. The second goal followed shortly after that with a dribble in the midfield that saw the ball ricochet off my legs beyond the defender and Krusty was through on goals again scoring the second in similar fashion. We struggled a bit from then on, for reasons only known to the likes of Pep, José or Jürgen , we had to defend as West End broke through our defences several times, getting a few shots on goals and winning some nerve-racking corners. One of the corners was sent to the back half of the small box and with no-one meeting the corner in the air and clearing, the ball bounced into the small box. Unless there was low-speed cameras to capture what followed, most of it would’ve been missed. There was a flurry of feet swinging, hands flailing, shouting, shuffling, pushing pulling, and probably some pinching and biting too, but it ultimately resulted in the ball rolling softly and slowly into the back of the net whilst everyone watched on helplessly. With the score now at 2-1, West End had a resurgence and started to put pressure on us. Their 3 foot 4 inch right wing broke away with a ball passed in behind Wayne, and ran towards goals with his eyes blazing with glory lust. Kurt lumbered out to meet him making himself larger than life (no comments here from the peanut gallery), but the lad cracked a shot away whilst still about 15 meters out, hitting Kurt’s legs and going behind for a corner. Great closing down by the big number 1 and reports of the short attacker having a look of fear in his eyes when he looked up to see Kurt bearing down on him, were later denied by their manager. Shortly thereafter and a ball rolled across the big box and a cracker shot at the goals was on target to equal the score. A heave, hurl, grunt (and some other less-known noises) later, Kurt leaped into the air, reaching up and pushing the ball over the bar, followed by a half twist and pike dive to his right landing in a heap on the ground. Pats on his back all round and with that save, and the lad knew he was in with a shot at man-of-the-match. About 5 minutes from time, still under pressure, we broke and quickly passed the ball up front but too quick as their keeper managed to collect it. What followed was unanimously voted as the moment of the match. The West End goalie (see kicking prowess above) who, at that stage was way out on the right had side of his goals, used his usual tap to clear the ball. Sadly, it went all of 10 meters, across the goals and landed squarely at Dereck’s feet. With a yawning, open goals, Dereck, just outside the big box, couldn’t resist it and kicked the ball forward. Not at the goals. At the corner flag. In the air. And then went to retrieve it. Indeed, such was his kick that it went high in the air, to the right of the goals, in fact, more like towards the corner flag. It was also slowed in the wind and was retrieved by Dereck himself who passed back to Stevie to cross it into the box. Some say he was trying a Eden Hazard pass to himself, others say he got stage fright but it was nevertheless a strange strategy, effective but strange, as most would’ve gone straight for goals.
And that’s how it ended. 2-1 to De Beers and another 3 points under the belt. Afterwards, we were treated to a beer, some Snoek and salads and a hearty cheer for the men of the match-Kurt and Lange. Notable performance put in by Spike in the holding midfield with the same solid performance at the back from the tight four. Afterwards the ref asked me where Dorian was. I said he had an injured thumb. He told me I was talking sh*t, and he had gone to play for his other club. I was astounded but the ref assured me that they didn’t mind, as he was over 45 and for them, playing De Beers was what it was all about with the result being a matter for the records.
I can personally state without equivocation, that I would play at West End on any day of the week, with one change-room, cum bar cum dining room for all, than at any other club in our league. Solid lads who love the game and enjoy our friendship and will always treat us well. The contrast between the brawl that was Durbanville and the jokes and fun on Saturday, are worlds apart but West End get my vote!
It’s the cup this Saturday lads against Old Mutual at home. Please bring your “A” game as it is the ¼ finals of the cup.