This time the alarm goes off and it means just one thing, football. Lots and lots of football. For today brothers and sisters, is the opening day of CONIFA 2018 and I'm off to 3 matches involving all sorts of teams from weird places most of you have probably never heard of.
Well, unless you read our preview that is. Which of course you did. Why wouldn't you have? All the details were in there. We even spell checked it.
|Carshalton in it's usual busy state....|
|How'd that happen?|
Having managed to dress oneself along with all the usual morningy type duties, I grab my bag and head for the car for the first hop, albeit a very short one, just the other side of Wallington Green to Carshalton for the first game of my 3 match odyssey today. Yes ladies and gents, I really did start my tournament at Colston Avenue in the Occupied Territories. No, I'm not proud of this and no I didn't do it for a bet, but I figured that getting it out of the way first was probably best and besides, spending the whole afternoon solely at GGL would just be downright lazy. So, via a short pit stop on Carshalton High Street to obtain a 'Big Value Reporters Notebook' from the Post Office for the princely sum of 89 pence, I'm soon pulling into the car park at the Factory of Sadness and going in search of my press pass. Somewhere around here, there's a chap who has it.
This process proves to be smooth as silk. As I call the given number to alert Mr Press Man Leo I'm here, he appears outside the turnstiles with what appears to be a bag full of lanyards attached to media passes. Sweet. Even better is that it turns out one of them is mine. This means that CONIFA have genuinely recognised this here blog as a media provider and them accepting our application wasn't just done for a big old laugh in the office one Friday afternoon. Nope, I can't believe it either. So after a quick flash of the old credentials at the turnstile get me in, I'm off for a cup of splosh where said credentials have markedly less success. "That's one twenty please love". Then it's time for a wander to get some pics before parking my bottom on a bench by the clubhouse to watch the world go by. Soon after, my peace and quiet is shattered by the arrival of Dr Bell. Still, it was nice while it lasted. I also get a text from Rax asking if I'd like to join him for a 'breakfast pint' in the nearby 'Sun' public house. Not now mate, I'm working!
|Ignore the sign eh lads?|
|Lining up for the anthems.|
UNITED KOREANS IN JAPAN v WESTERN ARMENIA
GROUP D - COLSTON AVENUE, CARSHALTON
Today's first game is a Group D clash between the United Koreans in Japan and Western Armenia. The Koreans are all out having a vigorous warm up a good hour before kick off and look like they'll be a fit, well organised outfit. The Armenians in contrast amble out for a quick bit of 5 a side about 20 mins before the off, which is probably more my kind of style if I'm honest. The Koreans start brightly and as suspected, are a well drilled side. Lots of passing and energy. Their number 7 Tong Jun Lee stands out and whips an early free-kick over from the edge of the box. Sadly though, despite both sides being able to play some decent stuff, they largely cancel each other out and chances are at a premium with neither seriously testing either keeper. So it's no surprise it's goalless at the break. Annoyingly, from twitter I can tell that the game at GGL between Ellan Vannin and Cascadia has been far more entertaining. Yeah yeah, I know.
The second half at Carshalton is much the same as the first, although the Armenians have stepped up the park a few yards and are now compressing the play a lot more meaning the UKIJ side are finding they have a lot less time on the ball. And by the end, it's the boys in blue who look the more likely to steal a goal. However, despite the prompting of the old head of Artur Yedigaryan in the middle, they can't quite force the issue and we end up heading for the car with a 0-0 to start off the day. Still, a team in red & white failing to score at Colston Avenue isn't anything at all unique I guess. "I bet that's the only goalless draw in the whole fucking tournament too!" I mutter as I pull out of the driveway. Right, enough of slumming it and holding our noses, it's time to head for 'home'.
|Matabeleland colours on show at GGL|
|Padania in front.|
We're soon in the car park at GGL and heading, where else, but the bar. Here I find Totts and 4 Days enjoying a smug post match pint as they've just witnessed an entertaining 4-1 win for Ellan Vannin over Cascadia. "Isn't there another game you could do?" asks my blogging colleague, clearly not wanting us to jinx the next one with our fatal nil goals hex. Having informed him where he can stick his request, I get a drink in and catch up with events from earlier, the main talking point of which is the minor technological issue which prevented the playing of the anthems pre-match. I believe Totts will be covering this in more detail in his report from the game, but suffice to say it was as amusing as it was slightly embarrassing.
PADANIA v MATABELELAND
GROUP C - GANDER GREEN LANE, SUTTON
Still, a solution has been found by the time Padania and Matabeleland take the field. Although quite how playing the anthems from a mobile phone which is at the bottom of a 50 gallon drum of treacle with a mic attached to the PA held vaguely nearby was seen as an adequate alternative to silence, I don't know. No one seems to really mind however and we're soon underway on the pitch. The Africans start lively and having audaciously tried shooting straight from kick off, have a couple of lovely passing moves in the first couple of minutes that cause some concern and seem to make the Italians realise they won't be able to take the piss too much. So they double down and as you'd expect from a team that has several lads in it with Serie A experience, they go to work. 10 minutes in and I've finally got my first CONIFA goal. Ball down the flank, the 11 Gabriele Piantoni ghosts past his man and delivers a ball to the heart of the box for Innocenti to fire home. Piantoni should make it two soon after when the keeper fumbles and the ball is laid on a plate by a team mate with the goal gaping, but somehow he rattles the outside of the near post when it seems easier to score. Anyone know the Italian for "You've had a shocker there fella"? No? Ah never mind.
|Stalking the line.|
|Padania make it four...|
Matabeleland are clearly outmatched, but stick to their task and with 10 to go to the break they're still only the one goal down. Sadly, then the world falls in on their heads. A ball through sees the Africans keeper made a very good save with his legs, but the ball rebounds to the 18 yard line where Piatoni, clearly wanting to atone for his earlier howler, firmly follows up to rattle in number two. The third isn't far behind and is largely a re-run of the first. Ball wide, medium height ball to the centre of the box and a firm finish, this time off the underside of the bar. Then with time added almost up, it's 4-0. Again the threat comes down the right, the cross is missed by at least 2 defenders and Innocenti at the back stick calmly takes a touch and slots across the keeper into the far corner. I guess that's that then.
At the break, we find that another tournament favourite, Panjab, are also on the goals trail as they lead Kabiyla 4-0 out in Slough. We also realise from reading the programme that Tuvalu may well just have nicked the kitporn award with what is quite frankly a trouser tenter of such magnitude that Billy Smarts could hang a sign off my belt and do a Saturday matinee show involving elephants in there. Seriously, check out our twitter for the pic. Obscene stuff. Now, where can we get one??
The second half is much like the first. Solid endeavour from the Zimbabwean lads, but it's Padania damaging the scoreboard as once more they tear open the flanks, deliver a cross and this time it's bundled in a the back post about 10 mins after the restart. On the hour, it's 6-0 and amusingly given that Bruce Grobbelaar is the Matabeleland goalkeeping coach (no, really!), its a classic right out from his scrapbook. The keeper comes out to meet an attacker and manages to impressively shepherd him all the way out to the corner flag. Having conceded the corner, he jogs back nonchalantly towards his goal obviously quite pleased with his work. Meanwhile, the dastardly Italians take a quick one, dink it into the box and it's placed in the back of the mostly unguarded net via a glancing header in the middle. Still Matabeleland don't give up however and having had a couple of reasonably near misses, the Bulawayo boys pull one back with 10 minutes left. A short corner is taken and after a dart to the byeline, the ball swung into the centre where it's met firmly by the head of Thabiso Ndela. Needless to say, this gets the biggest cheer of the day from most of the assembled crowd. The goal spurs them on and they're a little unlucky not to nick another one before the end, but at the whistle it finishes 6-1.
|Dulwich fan gatecrashes opening ceremony....|
|Barawa celebrate their opener...|
The Zimbabweans then endear themselves to everyone by coming over to thank each and every one of the people who'd stood behind their goal and cheered them on. Not required, but a lovely touch. I for one enjoyed shaking each and every bloody one of their hands. They stuck to their job, didn't lose their heads and kept their discipline right to the finish. So many sides in their postion would have either gone and got pumped by 9 or 10, or just kicked lumps out of their oppo. Fair play lads.
Back in the bar, I take in a softie with 4 Days and he fills me in on the LA triup to watch Mexico v Wales this week. The trip he's literally just got back from this afternoon. I also take a few minutes to chat with head coach Justin Walley. He seems pretty happy with the performance overall and his lads application in the face of such strong oppo. We also chat about their preperations and also how the boys found the 3G pitch before I leave him to his family and return to my drink. With the last game of the day over in Bromley not due to kick off until 8pm, a lot of the reprobates have headed off, but Crockett is angling for a lift albeit he won't be back local until 6:30 and I really can't be arsed hanging about the club until then. So we compromise in meeting at Gandermonium's top secret HQ instead and I'll drive him over from there. This means I can get home, shovel a quick meal in my face and freshen up somewhat.
BARAWA v TAMIL EELAM
GROUP A - HAYES LANE, BROMLEY
A quick dash back to HQ and with sustenance taken on board finally, Crockett is messaging his arrival downstairs. Off to Bromley we go! Surprisingly, despite the time of departure, we manage to avoid any traffic and are bouncing across the mood landscape of the car park behind the away end at Hayes Lane half an hour later. Once inside, we bump into one of the COC's who's only just arrived having blagged himself a lift over on the Padania team coach. An interesting experience apparently! On the pitch, the opening ceremony is getting started so we pop over for a watch. Thankfully, it's largely just a parade of the teams and as announced on the PA afterwards "Probably the shortest opening ceremony in a while, if not ever!". The Matabele lads are keeping everyone entertained with their singing as they do their lap of the pitch. We also notice that the Tuvalu team tracksuits are almost as arousing as their kit.
|Second half underway.|
Out on the pitch with 'Hosts' Barawa and Tamil Eelam, we get to largely see a re-run of the previous game. A decent side seeing off game, but ultimately outmatched oppo. From the off, Barawa are looking most likely with their front 4 causing loads of problems with pacy, direct running. Despite this though, the Tamils stick with them for the first 15 or so and having looked to have survived the early onslaught, they fall behind to a shocker. Their keeper hitting a weak clearance under little pressure from the right side of his box to Solomon Sambou about 20 yards out and he instantly guides the ball straight back inside the upright to open the scoring. Having gone behind, the Tigers really should level a few mninutes later when a ball over the top sends their man clear. Drawing the keeper he clips it over him only to see the ball thump back off the face of the bar. A minute later a good run down the left and the ball is zipped in to the near post where it's just flicked the wrong side of the upright. They're made to pay for the misses when barely a couple of minutes further on, a surging run down the left leads to a foul in the box and having already waved away at least 2 penalty shouts in similar situations, Mark Clattenburg (yes, that Mark Clattenburg) points to the spot. The keeper is sent the wrong way and at 2-0, you get the feeling the race is run for the Tamils.
It certainly is shortly before the break when Barawa add a third goal. Their lad at 15, Gianni Critchlow a former QPR trainee, has caused issues all night so far and he latches onto a ball over the top before sending a ball into the box that loops over the Tamil keeper and drops inside the far post. "Definite cross" remark both I and Crockett as Critchlow recieves the congratulations of his team mates. Three to the good at the break, it's no surprise that the second half is a little less high tempo. Barawa still attack with pace, but without their earlier drive and with Tamil sitting that bit deeper, they find a lot of the time that having beaten a man, they're often faced with 2 or even 3 more meaning most attacks are snuffed out in and around the box. As time goes by though, the Tigers start committing numbers to go for a consolation and gaps appear again. Inevitably with 10 to go, a second penalty is won. One on one with a defender, the Barawa man goes past and is in on goal before being clipped from behind in the last ditch attempt and Clattenburg points to the spot once more. Again, the keeper is sent the wrong way and it's 4-0. They also hit the post from close range right at the death but in the end there's no more damage to the scoreline and we make tracks for the car as added time ticks down. Yes, we're those sort of people now.
|He hit the post from there.|
So, all in all, not a bad first day. Ok, so sods law dictated we started with a 0-0 at bloody Carshalton of all places, but we did get 11 goals in the next 2 games to make up for that. The standard of the football all round was also pretty decent, with sides like Padania and Barawa clearly going to be mixing it up at the sharp end towards next weekend. Having started close to home, next up, we'll be toddling off further afield over the weekend with trips to Enfield and Haringey on Saturday along with a schlep out to Bracknell and Slough on Saturday. CONFIA 2018 is shaping up to be an interesting tournament.
Today's Other Results:
Group A - Ellan Vannin 4 Cascadia 1
Group B - Abkhazia 3 Tibet 0
Group B - Northern Cyprus 1 Karpatalya 1
Group C - Szekey Land 4 Tuvalu 0
Group D - Panjab 8 Kabylia 0
PREVIEW | DAY 1 (Taz) | DAY 1 (Totts) | DAY 3 | DAY 4 | DAY 5 | DAY 6