The latest third-person account of my weekly attempt to play eight-a-side football – we wear grey… Keep playin’
“We must be one of the shortest teams in the league,” says Greys defender (and Arsenal fan) Theo before kick-off. “Julien is basically our Mertesacker.” Playing in all black – and sponsored by Smirnoff – Design Bridge tower over our heroes in Grey like the intimidating evil nemeses in a Disney movie. And the first 10 minutes play out exactly like one.
Five minutes in, Design Bridge catch the Greys napping with a long ball that splits their two-man-defence right down the middle. One-on-one with Greys keeper Yusuf, Design Bridge’s stand-in striker “Neary,” who works at Coram’s Fields, keeps his cool and slots the ball in the bottom right corner.
Looking at the opposition, a few of Design Bridge’s fast-footed attacking players are clearly Coram’s Fields ringers. The kind of football-addicted kids that never seem to leave the place.
The Greys kick off again but Design Bridge win the ball back almost immediately. The team’s showboating right ringer-winger steps over the ball like a squirrel on a hotplate, ghosts past the Greys’ last man and sends keeper Yusuf the wrong way. Two nil Design Bridge.
Suddenly, things take a turn and the Greys fight back. They’re all over Design Bridge, who seem to have peaked too early. Greys player coach Thomas wins the ball back in the opposition box, juggles it and thumps it past Design Bridge’s stunned keeper.
Soon afterwards, Thomas lays the ball off to Greys midfield maestro Manu, who steps past his marker and takes his time, blasting the ball past the helpless keeper to level the score just before half-time.
Again, Design Bridge press the Greys hard early in the half. They soon get their reward with a well-hit shot just inside the area. Yusuf dives the right way and gets a full hand to it, but can only palm it in.
This time the Greys react sooner. And a pinball situation in Design Bridge’s box finds Greys winger Karim in space. But somehow, Design Bridge’s keeper stops the ball on the line. Meanwhile, Design Bridge start to implode; arguing amongst themselves, crunching grey shirts with brutal tackles and complaining to the ref about EVERYTHING.
Suddenly, Thomas creates a bit of space and lays the ball off to Karim, who tucks it away to level the score. Three all. And at this point, sniffing the blood in the water, the Greys rise to the occasion. Forward Ahmed puts in a last-ditch tackle in his own box. Yusuf saves one on the line – although Design Bridge moan it crossed the line. And Theo and Julien do their best to snuff out any danger.
Then Greys left winger Ollie finds a bit of space. He rolls the ball across the box to Manu, who hits it in seeming slow motion, the ball curling into the top left corner to put the Greys 4-3 up. Dreamland.
Design Bridge don’t take the goal lightly. Thomas gets flattened in the box. Karim goes down to the soundtrack of crunching bones. And yet, it’s Design Bridge who do all the complaining.
With minutes to go, Ahmed finds himself with just the keeper to beat but is cynically hacked down by Design Bridge’s last man. The ref awards a penalty. Then, after Design Bridge complain, he changes his mind and gives a free kick on the edge of the box. No card.
Still looking to settle the tie, Ahmed creates some space with a neat flick to Karim, who sticks the ball between the keeper’s legs to wrap things up 5-3. What a game. What a battle. And what a great way to kick start the weekend…