The two soccer seasons are over just in time to collapse on the couch, watch the World Cup and let my body try to recover from the abuse. We won the championship with fingers crossed as our late-season collapse left us needing a win over the team that had just usurped our rightful position in first place the previous week. Things didn’t look good in the first half, but our tactically challenged manager made an astute change for once in making the astonishing decision to put two players on the wings who could actually run, and we finished with a 2-0 win, a 13-3-6 record and a two-point advantage in the final standings.
I had a lousy season myself, having spent most of it playing out of position at attacker. This confused me, until I realized that any manager who regularly starts not one, but two players who lumber like crippled oxen on the wings simply doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m not sure if the team’s promotion will mean more or less playing time, so I’m contemplating a move to a different club next season.
The kids did about as well as they could, considering that we were starting three six-year olds against teams comprised entirely of eight year-olds. We finished 11th out of 16 and 10th out of 12 in our last two tournaments, and if it was a little frustrating to watch teams we beat handily for the last two years win it all, well, not only is everyone back next year, but more than half of them will be back for the year after that.
The most amusing thing was the big area church tournament. Our pastor asked me to put together a team, but we didn’t have nearly enough players to field one, so in addition to recruiting every warm body over five feet tall, I told the more serious players to bring a friend along. This was contrary to the rules, but the option was to simply not show up.
The problem was that we won our first three games too handily, prompting complaints, especially about my Dutch friend. He’s excellent in the air and I could throw the ball into the center of the area on the small field, so we were scoring whenever the other teams gave up a throw-in. So, we found ourselves disqualified even though he had to depart at noon in favor of a tournament in which his son was playing.
We ended up beating the eventual champions even without him; ironically, I later learned that three of the other teams, including the champions, were fielding more “illegal” players than we were. In the process, I also learned that black women are completely insane, as the girlfriend of an African player kept shrieking that the reason we’d been disqualified was due to the racism of the tournament directors.
The fact that the other four “illegal” players were white and no one had any problem with the five black players who belong to our church didn’t seem to register with her no matter how many times I tried to explain it. But the nadir of the farce wasn’t reached until the referee stormed off the field towards the end of our last game claiming that our goalie had punched him after he wrongly tried to award a goal to the other team on a free kick that he allowed while our team was just assembling its wall. (The ref was a total drama queen, I was standing ten feet away and the goalie merely laid a hand on his shoulder while providing some much-needed remonstration.)
I rather doubt we’ll be invited back next year, but the craziness did have the positive result of creating a genuine team bond among the players. This morning at church, it was amusing to see how Jamaicans, Nigerians and Italians who hadn’t really known each other before the tournament were greeting each other by shaking hands, bumping shoulders and bursting out laughing together.
As for the World Cup, I haven’t been favorably impressed by anyone except perhaps the Argentines, who are not as bad as I expected. Germany looks very weak in the backfield, Ivory Coast even worse, Sweden can’t break down a defense with eighty-percent possession, (and that #20 striker was simply disastrous, blowing no less than three excellent chances), T&T played hard and stayed disciplined in back but simply don’t have enough talent to go out and beat anyone and England doesn’t have any dependable goal scorers up front.
This is looking more and more like Brazil’s tournament. But we’ll see….