Friday night saw the spirit of De Beers personified in the away game against Queens Park. Here was the state of play in the beginning of the week: –
Total registered players = 20
Stuart – Iron deficiency, calf strain, Achilles injury – Surgery Scheduled 08/09/2016
Dezroy – Snapped Achilles – Surgery completed but still in rehab
Clive – Splintering Cartlidge
Richard Gurtel – Strained Quad
Stephane – strained hamstring
Spike – strained hamstring
Richard Goncalves – Strained calf muscle, gammy knees
Neil Lawrence – Groin strain
Dave Lovell – Piriformis syndrome
Yours truly – Groin strain
For the more numerically astute, it won’t be difficult to work out that we were short of numbers before we even began. I was reluctant to try postpone the game because the CTTFA are dead set against it and it just means prolonging the season for the club’s veterans. I confirmed the game and sought players to travel through to Cape Town. With three of our regular “fit” players out due to work and family commitments, we were tight on numbers. However, we were still able to field 11 players and traveled with the following squad to the Cape: Kurt (goals), Ruben, Stephane, Dave and Wayne (making his season debut) at the back. Gavin, Spike, Steve and Neil in the midfield and Dereck up front with a welcome return from Richard Goncalves playing up front but deeper than usual. Clive came along for support and technical advice. It can be noted that 5 of these lads were playing with injuries and there was perhaps never a better time to name the team Amakrokakroka!
The first half saw us playing with the wind but not able to get close to scoring. The field was quite small and several attempted through-balls to Dereck as the main striker didn’t quite come off due to the wind taking the ball away. That plus the fact that the ref seemed to pick up an offside everytime we collected the ball inside their half. Other than that, the only time we heard the ref’s whistle was starting and finishing a half. He had clearly picked up on Jason’s “Play-on” philosophy which states, “…unless the ambulance is required, it is deemed to be a fair tackle..”. At one time in the second half, Dereck was on track for a one-on-one with the keeper when he got savagely attacked from the back causing a nasty, deep gash on his calf. On closer inspection after the game, the medical team (myself and Dereck) decided that stitches weren’t an option simply because there wasn’t any skin to draw over the wound. At the time Dereck indicated that he wanted to be subbed. But as I was far enough away, I smiled and waved, gave him the thumbs up and ignored him. Gutted, he played on leaving a blood trail on the pitch. Stephane obviously took strain as he ran around the field with his hand on the back of his leg shouting “sacré bleu!” in a vain attempt to relieve the pain of the hamstring. Neil kept on going down on his haunches to relieve the groin strain and Dave looked like it was uncomfortable for him to stand, never mind run after the ball. Richard took a tumble on the brink of half time and never got up. Even the ref came to help with the cramp but get up he did and despite my protests, carried on. Spike ran around the field like a rejuvenated youth but with a permanent grimace on his face indicating the discomfort he was experiencing. As sick as what it sounds, it was a lovely site to see. Grown men gritting their jaws and chasing the ball with determination around on a very cold night in the city bowl against the biting wind. Real troopers they were!
The breakthrough came in the second half when Dereck picked up on a through ball and took a shot at the keeper. The keeper, who was having a good game, dived to his right getting behind the ball but fumbled the ball where Richard following up, collected it and put it into the back of the net. Playing against the wind, Neil suggested we tighten up in the midfield and defend which worked well. We held our own and Ruben, Dave, Stephane and Wayne intercepted passes, tackled and shepherded all and any attacks to the byline or cleared it to the midfield. Kurt had only one scare on the night which he saw off after a clash with their Captain (Bashir) in the 6 yard box resulting in a corner. Wayne, who probably walked to the ground from his Cape Town home, looked alive and incredibly mobile for someone coming back from Afrikaburn and played as if he was on trials for La Liga. Curly hair flowing in the wind, he looked like a flower power child but played like a Trojan, cutting off every right flank attack. Gavin played a more advanced role assisting Richard, and Spike a more defensive role in the midfield confronting their midfield when they advanced too far into our half. I actually wish I had had any input into the tactics because they worked out perfectly, only I didn’t. Stevie and Neil kept running up and down the flanks with Neil looking particularly menacing with his crosses and cutting into the center. Stevie kept tearing back to help defend only to have to turn around to collect Richard’s passes out to him on the wing. Afterwards he admitted that the tackle from behind on a defender was nothing more than him running out of steam and falling over. The second goal came late in extra time, probably at least 10 minutes into injury time. Richard collected the ball and after making space for himself, produced a magnificent long-range, low strike aimed at the bottom right hand corner of the goals. It swerved just as it got to the goals and into the corner to beat the goalie and landed up in the back of the net. Everyone was silent because it was such a long-shot and no-one expected it or was even sure if it was inside or outside the net…until someone cheered and the ref blew for the goal. Straight after that, the ref conceded the game was over and called full-time.
Afterwards, we went to change only to discover that the change room was being used as an overnight hotel to an otherwise-homeless couple, already setting their bed up (or down as the case may be) for the night. They had a 5 liter wine bottle which was already half finished and at that point, looked as if they were only starting to settle down for a nightcap. We withdrew to the home team’s change-rooms only to find it transformed into an open-plan kitchen where we were treated to some of the best halaal chicken rotti’s we’ve ever tasted. That and coffee/cooldrink made us feel like welcome guests. Rumours of past days of animosity started by Wayne and Kurt were dismissed as urban legends and we enjoyed an incredible atmosphere with mates in football. Fortunately for Dave, our planner extraordinaire, Wayne, brought some beers to quench the thirst. In respect, these were enjoyed outside in the night breeze (read as icy-wind) whilst some stayed inside socialising with the very hospitable crowd from Queens Park. We left with agreements of friendlies, family gatherings and another round of rotties with the women whilst their men played an away game. For the record, I wasn’t involved in that round of negotiations.
Before the game, I told the lads that we had a lot of injuries so we should just enjoy the game. I said we normally conceded the points so any result would be welcome. I suggested that perhaps we should play deep and score on the break-away. Truth be told, I was hoping for a draw, given the injuries. Well, I am not sure if that sunk in at all but for the Amakrokakroka to come away with a hard-earned 2-0 victory made me proud. Well-done lads on another sterling performance!
Fortunately, we have a two-week break before the next game away to Chelsea B who are 3rd on the log. Should be a tough game indeed!
Have a good rest lads.