In the second last game of the season, scrambling a team together for a game is tantamount to recruiting for the Klu Klux Klan in the Ghettos of New Jersey… somewhat difficult. The long season (for these aged lads) was taking it’s toll and those who walk freely out of the change rooms have either taken some strong medication or like to pretend they’re tough. From Penguin walking like a Spatchcock chicken to Krusty walking stiff-legged waiting for the movement in the joints to start… either that or he was imitating his good wife Lizé who has started to walk with some fluidity again after her ligament surgery. It must be entertaining to follow those two walking in the mall; people will be tempted to take them by the arm and help them to the nearest bench. I digress.
Speaking about walking out the change rooms, it is quite something to be inside a change room pre-game. Although the subject might be taboo, it should provide enough material for a bookshelf of comics to feed on for a month. In the one corner is Spongebob who smears himself with some luminous blue lotion from the bottom of his feet to his upper torso, and a hairy one at that. Kurt is convinced he doesn’t get wet in the shower. The lad is certainly generous with the blue gel as he smears it on, up and down, side to side, offering it to one and all like it was a new miracle cure made by Acme Inc., in fact he looks like a dealer on a marketing drive. Ronald Koeman on the other hand, arrived with Fred Flintstone (aka Kurt) and never quite made it to the change room. For a number of minutes there was a belief in the dressing room that he had defected and joined Edgemead having met up with old school mates. He eventually made it to the change room and looked completely un-phased by the fact that everyone was dragging themselves out the change rooms whilst he was walking in. Next is Penguin, still (and many miles down) on the road to recovery from his twisted ankle (and sense of humour). Despite advice from our team medic for a conventional ankle guard, he insisted on strapping on some cotton wool around his ankle and tightened it with duct tape, around 5 metres of it, which equates to 5 cm thick of taping. The other 15 minutes of his preparation consisted of him trying to fit a size 8 boot on what was now a size 13 foot… muttering “Ayez pitié de moi” which roughly translated means “have mercy on me”. Fred Flintstone’s routine consists of the layering on of clothing to ensure he stays warm in the Friday night cool and on occasion wet air, so much so that he could probably hike to the South Pole if he swopped his soccer boots for a pair of fur liners. In fact, Mighty Mouse offered to take his jacket for him when the ref blew for the start of the game and Fred fought him off bravely keeping it on walking towards the goals looking like the Michelin man. So much content, so little time….
The referee, a past class mate of both Ronald Koeman and Mighty mouse, took the toss by himself, told us which side we were playing and awarded us the kick-off. Krusty was gutted because it was the only time of the game the referee normally took an interest in his opinion, and it was usurped from him before he even got his knees working. The game started at a pedestrian pace but it warmed up a bit soon enough and we went on attack. Mighty mouse showed tremendous speed on the right wing making the Edgemead left back appear as if he was finishing the Comrades. Speeding past the senior citizen, Mighty Mouse sped into the box and shot at goal and watched in bewilderment as it sped in front of the goals and out before the corner flag. For the short bespectacled speedster, this became his modus operandi for the next 15 minutes during which he repeated the exercise with drill-like execution. After the third time, I put in a formal request to the referee to move the goals 5 metres to the left to help the lad. The referee declined and said I had to submit it in triplicate three weeks before the date. Even the goalie stopped worrying when Mighty mouse ran into the box and automatically started walking towards the corner flag to retrieve the ball whenever Mighty Mouse got the ball.
Edgemead played some good passing football in the middle of the park, making our midfield work hard to get a touch of the ball. However, they struggled to get their attack moving through Popeye and Satchmo who both had solid performances in the backline seeing off almost any attack over the half way line. Satchmo has become accustomed to taking the lead in the backline chasing the slower ones to the half way line to play the offside trap like a farmer coaxing chickens out of the coop. Halfway through the first half, we changed the 4-1-3-2 formation to a 4-4-2 because the field was small and Edgemead was dominating in the midfield. Spongebob, in a welcome return after a short layoff, was working like a steam engine pumping his short hairy arms puffing and panting, so much so, that the steam was coming off his head during half time. About 20 minutes into the game, we won a free kick just inside Edgemead’s half and Penguin limped up to take it. We formed a line on the bog box and Penguin attempted to drive the ball into the box but didn’t quite make it. It hit me squarely in the chest and while stumbling to catch my breath and my balance, I touched the ball into the screaming Spongebob’s path who rounded a player and connected the ball with the outside of his right foot curving the ball in towards the goals. The ball landed just in front of the keeper’s dive and underneath him into the back of the goals. Spongebob was delighted and provided is with a Colgate smile that pushed his ears together at the back of his steaming, gleaming head. Great goal by the stocky midfielder.
Soon after, we were under attack down the left wing with what, on closer scrutiny, looked like one of the more senior player’s grandchildren, well one of the two of them that were on the park that night. Not looking a day older than 30, he sped down the left flank to be met with Satchmo in full flight intercepting him and winning the tackle. In the process, Edgemead were a corner and took it short, passing to a nearby midfielder. On the pass back, the youngster now turning onto his right foot, sent the ball into the centre towards the far past of the goals high in the air and with a curve on it. I cringed but was relieved to see Fred Flintstone move backwards and heaved himself into the air pushing the ball beyond the goals, keeping a sure goal out. I remembered last year’s game where they had scored with a similar shot from somewhere just inside our half and it was clear that Fred had gained from the experience. The half ended at 1-0 and the half-time team talk consisted of panting and puffing and encouraging gestures whilst Krusty, never to be silenced, reminded everyone to have composure.
Second half came and the unpretty soccer continued with some through balls to the front lads and to Mighty mouse on the right wing and Johan on the left wing. One such cross fell into the small box and Krusty went to collect it but was confronted with Ronald Koeman who was also calling for it. Krusty backed off and so did Ronald and then they both went for it again. The rest of the team watched in slow motion as neither could decide who was going to take it when eventually an Edgemead player took responsiblity to decide for them and cleared the ball. Krusty and Ronald exchanged some words not intended for a family blog, shook hands and continued to play. Another attack saw a cross down the left to Ronald who had the run on the equally speed-challenged Edgemead backs. Ronald headed towards the box, laid it off onto Krusty who back-passed it into Ronald’s path for a clear shot on goals. Now imagine Liam Neeson with glasses and you have the Edgemead keeper, tall lad with wavy hair and could probably hit his head on the cross bar if he had to jump under it. The lad also had a kick like a mule, managing to clear the half way line with a three step chip for a goal kick, something 99 percent of the team hadn’t done in 20 years… His drop kick out of hand was a standard flyhalf’s kick and when it went into touch almost on our 22, I was convinced they’d recruited the bloke out of the local rugby vets. I digress. Onto Ronald’s shot at goal. The keeper moved swiftly to the left, stretching hands out and deflected the thunderous effort by Ronald for a corner. It was a good save for a tremendous shot. At 1-0 however, we were still vulnerable and a break away down the left saw Capt Jack at right back with 2 players to mark. Edgemead passed a through ball into the box and the forward released a shot on line for the far corner. Fred Flintstone dived down to his left, jacket and all, and landed on the ball saving the sure goal and keeping his clean sheet. And so the game went on with breaks on by both sides and Spongebob and myself running ourselves “stukkend” from one end to the other. Johan, sporting his usual smoothed back hair and moustache could easily be mistaken on a dark night for Freddie Mercury, except if he sang, and then he would be found out. So Freddie Mercury was attacking down the left side pumping balls into the centre and Mighty Mouse on the right providing plenty of action in the centre. The 6,6 foot goalie managed to intercept most of the crosses frustrating the 5 ft tall Ronald and 6 ft Krusty. One cross from Mighty mouse came in low and, with an added advantage of a low centre of gravity, Ronald dived towards the ball and glanced the ball across his head and towards the back of the goals beating the goalie but not quite in the net. Krusty was somewhat flat-footed and couldn’t adjust himself in time to slot it into the back of the net and the ball passed safely into touch. Close call and Edgemead were under pressure. A through ball to the left wing saw Freddie Mercury screaming down the wing towards the goals. Edgemead’s centre back came across to intercept and just managed to get a tackle in but gave away a corner in the process. Mighty mouse, not known for his heading ability, took the corner and it’s trajectory was near to the front post just on the edge of the small box, too short for Liam Neeson. Krusty, anticipating that their forward-placed back would miss the header, bent slightly over and hit the ball in the centre of his head but with a half turn, bulleting the ball up into the top corner of the goal. 2-0 and 5 minutes left to play.
The rest of the game followed the same pattern with breaks on both sides but with solid defence and there were no more real threats on goal. The referee, who either took tranquilisers or had just come back from a month’s break in the Bahamas, never batted an eyelid to anything that happened in the game. Ever. And smiled and waved at every appeal from both sides. Admittedly, he was a potential candidate for the referee of the season. The game ended with handshakes all round and a beer reward in the change room afterwards. I had to fetch an offspring from the airport and left shortly after the game but stories of Ronald and Fred Flintstone getting waylaid in a pub somewhere in the Southern Suburbs buying shots all round soon emerged on the Saturday morning. It culminated in dropping poor Freddie Mercury off somewhere in Macassar at 1 in the morning and I have begun to understand why the lad is only allowed out once in a fortnight.
Great game by all who made it. Team line up was: Fred in goals, Capt Jack at right back, with Popeye and Satchmo in the middle and Penguin at left back. Midfield was Freddie Mercury, Spongebob, Mighty mouse and myself with Ronald Koeman and Krusty up front…. 11 starting and 11 finishing. Not pretty but good fun with a good bunch of lads from Edgemead still in the game for the fun. Three more points with one game to go….
Ladies, we play Old Mutual at home on Saturday in the season’s last league game. Don’t forget we have our semi-finals on 13 August at a neutral ground against Queens Park.