[Listening to: Un Ange Frappe a ma Porte, Natasha St-Pier, Longueur d’Ondes]
2006 was the year when we were the oldest students at school. We were in Upper 6 and we ruled the place. Well, sort of because they were some very annoying Lower 6’s who belonged to the group of “mari” too. But in 2006, we won the interclass football competition.
The interclass football competition is organised in a quite sporadic fashion at RCPL. For instance, when I was still fresh at school, in Form 1, there was no interclass competition – let alone football – at all. Then in Form 2, the badminton craze took the school but a football interclass competition was organised nonetheless. We were delighted and confident of our team’s capabilities. We ended up being flattened 7-2 (or was that 9-2?) against a Form 3 team, which eventually won the cup. There was another tournament the following year, and we played against against the Form 4. We went straight out.
Then came 2006 when a decent tournament was organised. The Form 5 teams played against the Lower 6 teams while the Upper 6 teams had a competition of there own. There were approximately 12 teams participating in the Upper 6 competition and it was a knock-out tournament, meaning that if you win, you go through to the next game; if not, you’re out.
My team, S4, didn’t play in the first round thanks to a favourable draw which had been conducted in the PE department. The teams who had to perform in the first round did so and we finally had eight teams ready to compete against each other. Another draw which would dictate the path of all the teams was done, once again in the PE department, and the dates for each match were fixed. The biggest game of the Quarter finals was voted: S4 v/s T2.
There were three favourites for the cup: E2, T2 and S4. It was great to see that each department (Economics, Technical Drawing, Science) had a team among the favourites. But S4 v/s T2! This was our first match in the competition and we were playing against one of the favourites, if not the team most tipped to take the cup.
[Listening to: Boulevard of Broken Songs, American Edit, Dean Gray]
The day of the big match finally came. Three teams had already progressed to the semis and there was only one spot left. The match was scheduled for 13p.m. It rained hard from 9a.m to noon. Then it stopped abruptly. But the damage was done. The football pitch was muddy and there were huge pools of rainwater around, especially near the goals. There was rumours that the came would be cancelled but they were false. At half past noon we set out to the pitch and there already were some spectators under the trees. We also spotted players from the other teams too.
Dealing with the pressure
The match finally started. Whether it was football or water polo, I know not. Players were completely covered in mud by the 15th minute. As left back, I was suffering. The part pitch where I was playing was particularly disastrous. Besides, the team was tensed. Very tensed. It was our first game. And even if we were amongst the favourites for the cup, we were underdogs during this game.
However, the pressure faded away when we scored. It had been a more or less equal game with our two defensive/holding midfields doing a tremendous job and completely protecting our fullbacks. But when we stroke the ball in the net, we became more confident. To play on such a huge pitch is quite disconcerting but unlike most other teams, I felt we made very good use of the flanks. We eventually scored a second in the first half itself. It was no surprises.
But we conceded a goal on the stroke of half-time. A corner, a flick but a T2 player and another T2 player, out of nowhere just tapped the ball into the net. The game was back on at 2-1. This was the half-time scoreline.
[Listening to: Auf Achse, Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand]
We came back on the pitch for the second half as were wet, muddy and we knew that we had to hold them. We were in the lead and it was obvious that they would have to come at us. They did come at us and put us under pressure. They eventually obtained a penalty for a foul inside the box (we thought it was outside). It was their striker against our huge keeper (more than 2m tall and not skinny by any means) and their chance to equalise. They didn’t equalise. Our keeper threw himself to his left and saved. The amount the cheers he received from both the S4 players and the crowd was awesome and it really gave us back the confidence we needed after this lapse of possession by T2. The penalty miss was fatal to the T2 players. Their heads dropped and they got easily provoked and frustrated.
[Listening to: You’ll Never Walk Alone, Liverpool FC]
We took profit of this and played a tremendous second half. We controlled the game totally and there was no way, T2 was getting back in this game. They barely had a cohesive attack, all of which were broken down by our midfield players – even the attacking midfielders who had dropped back to defend – and the defense was happy to just watch the game unfold into our first win. To cap it all, we even scored a third goal which gave us back a two-goal cushion. 3-1.
Final whistle was blown and were in the semis. And now, everyone in the school knew that S4 was indeed a contender for the cup and we were quickly tipped to overcome S3 in the semis and meet up with E2 in the final.
[Listening to:Quicksand, 12 Memories, Travis]
And so to the semis: S3 v/s S4. We were confident. After our win against T2, we knew that we could go to the final. All we had to do was to pass this small huddle of S3. We even opted to rest one of our two holding midfielders. Indeed, we underestimated S3.
The first half was catastrophic from our point of view. S3 played with two strikers up front and one of them was very quick. S4 played with the defensive line quite high up the field and this left a big gap between our defense and our keeper. S3 took advantage of this and sent in long balls from their own half and let their quick striker run for the ball. He caused us big troubles. He was always one step in front of us. But S3 didn’t manage to score from open play. They did break the deadlock however during the first half from the penalty spot. We had been totally taken aback by the determination of the S3 team and we panicked. We conceded a penalty for handball (no excuses this time) and it was transformed. We went down the tunnels 1-nil down.
The break metamorphosed us. As defenders, we knew that we had to play more deep, to prevent us from being caught outran by their striker. At the back of our minds, we knew that we had to win this game. We beat T2 and it would be humiliating to lose against S3.
The second half was the best football we ever played. The defense was marvellous. S3 sat back as let us come at them, just as we did against T2. We attacked and it was our turn to get a penalty. That was it. That was the moment. We would equalise and we would take the game in our hands. But we didn’t score. The penalty shot went wide off target. We were down. Heads started dropping. We still had about 25min to score but missing such a glorious opportunity to draw level was hard to swallow. We were in the same position as T2 when they missed the penalty against us. But we had a true captain. And he scored in the following attack, dribbling from the left side of midfield and creating his space on the edge of the penalty area. He fired a shot and into the net the ball went. The S3 keeper had absolutely no chance whatsoever to stop this. Captain goal!
Classmates who were lodged behind the S3 goals instantly threw themselves over our captain fantastic. The players, including all the defenders, quickly was on him seconds later. We were level and what relief! Being one of the favourites in the competition, we weren’t a crowd favourite. The crowd preferred the outsiders (who can blame this?) but it sensed that with this goal S4 would, in the end, come out victorious.
Our greatest half
Game resumed and S3 had to start attacking again, having lost their lead. But this time, the defense was prepared. We intercepted all the balls and created the play from our own half. We took control of the game but being level, there always was the possibility of S3 taking the lead back. Every tackle, every foul, every blocks was crucial for the team. But we eventually scored a second. Our striker did his job, getting a ball one-to-one against the keeper. He too was swamped by the fans and players. We were nearly in the final and we could sense it.
S3 didn’t let go without a fight though. They sent one of their defenders up front while we played with everybody back. In the closing minutes, we conceded a corner and there was like 20 players inside the penalty area. All 11 of ours obviously. The ball came in and it was a lot of kicking until we eventually sent the ball flying towards the opponent goals. And a fresh pair of legs belonging to an S4 player (came in as a substitute) started running. He took the ball and only had a defender and a keeper to beat. He easily passed by the former and stroke a marvellous right-foot shot which ended in the net. We won 3-1 but we really had a big scarce against a very good S3 team. In this match, we showed character and determination and when those failed us, our captain was there.
We were in the final!
[Listening to: For Reasons Unknown, Sam’s Town, The Killers.]
E2 eventually beat S2 after a difficult which ended on penalty shoot-outs. The final that everybody was hoping for was thus going to occur. It would be a tight match, we knew this. They knew it too. We were more or less equal in strength, having played two friendlies against them, winning one and losing one.
Final, here we come!
So, to the final. E2 v/s S4. The game started. Tense, under pressure and afraid to do a mistake. Every player on the pitch was like this. Both team played tight and weren’t adventurous. We didn’t want to concede. Scoring was another matter. The first half finished as stalemate with a slight domination for E2 who were more dangerous during their rare attacks.
The second half started, and like every second halves in this tournament, we played better. We still didn’t create much but we played with more confidence and less fear. And we scored first. Our captain once again, unleashing a shot well wide from the penalty area, which the keeper somehow blundered. We were 1-nil up.
E2 came at us instantly and pushed everyone forward. We pulled everyone back. It was hard. It was real hard. But they started to get frustrated as well. They were doing all the play now and they had all the possession. Yet, they weren’t scoring. Football is not only kicking a ball, it is also keeping our heads cool – and frustrating the opponent. That’s what we were did. There was an E2 player who was particularly hard and we started getting onto him. Every foul, even those which were quite normal in a football game, was followed by shouts from our players. We would confront the ref. This, unsporting behaviour, I admit, further frustrated the E2 players. Then we would start talking nonsense every time an E2 player would pass near us. We eventually got the hard E2 player sent off.
E2 were playing with 10 men but we didn’t notice any difference. They continued to push us to our limits. It seemed that we were going to crumble but when the defenders eventually gave way, our keeper kept us in the lead. The final whistle was approaching and still we were under pressure. Every ball that came at us was fought and we would just kick it (back to them) as hard as we could. The game went on like this and we survived.
The final whistle was blown and we had done it. We won the Upper 6 interclass football competition and we were crowned Champions of RCPL. And I got a gold medal.
In the end, the stats show that we did probably deserve the cup. We scored seven goals in three games and one of our players received the golden boot. We also conceded only two goals, both coming from set-plays (one from a corner, another from the penalty spot).
2006 was a great football year indeed!
[Listening to: Love and Destroy, Demos, Franz Ferdinand]