PFFC 2 Cameron Athans 4 AET
Those who think that the revolution started by Sven Göran Eriksson is nearing completion ought to have been at Regents Park for this match in the London FA Junior Cup. The longest, wettest and coldest match in the history of Philosophy Football FC saw the best and worst of British football. A game full of passion and resilience, particularly on the part of the home side who were facing tough opposition from a team in one of the better Essex leagues, also included two-footed tackles, torrents of abuse and indifferent refereeing. When Claudio Ranieri described Graeme Le Saux’s challenge on Danny Mills later that afternoon as a ‘typical British tackle’, he might have been thinking of games such as this one. Nevertheless, it was an absorbing and closely fought match, played in atrocious conditions; a typical British cup tie which lived up to the expectations of PFFC’s Italian defender, even if he was disappointed by the eventual result.
This fixture finally kicks off 45 minutes late. PFFC have a strong squad despite missing Raj, the boy Mather, Jez and Marco. Rob the Cat, meanwhile, is out with a back injury but arrives to give much-needed support. As the captains shake hands, Paul is reminded by the opposing skipper that “winning isn’t everything; there should be no conceit in victory and no despair in defeat”. Or words to that effect. The first ten minutes of the match are dominated by the visitors, with PFFC looking tentative and a bit quiet. It is no surprise when the first goal goes in, a good near-post header from a corner. However, PFFC have shown the ability many times recently to haul themselves back from adversity, and this was another good example of the fighting spirit that won them the tournoi in France. Some good interchanging triangles down the right between Joe, Cornish Al and debutant Clarkey offer hope, while Neil and Stefan are looking sharp and hungry. Following one of the best moves of the game, Clarkey goes past full-back, cuts in and drills low cross for Stefan to finish: 1-1. Minutes later Neil has the ball in the net again but is mysteriously ruled offside following one of many collective Walthamstow grunts. After this, the match is a real tussle, with the visitors having more possession but the home side resilient at the back, with Brian outstanding and, looking to counter-attack, causing problems. Ian is called upon to make several brave interventions, one of which led to a boot in the face. Richard and Chris come on for Stefan and Keir who have given their all and David, tenacious as well as creative, is moved to central midfield. Defence remains tight with Paul leading by example and Joe and Filippo holding firm, the latter on his own admission refusing to cross the half-way line to preserve energy. Young Rob, the remaining sub, is doing a sterling job running the line and is presumably thinking that giving up his Sunday to stand about in a torrential downpour is all part of his apprenticeship. Gaffer keeps him back as extra time looms and the possibility of cramp increases.
Despite near misses, including a late one by the unlucky Chris who caused problems in Athans’ defence, neither side could make the breakthrough over 90 minutes and, despite protestations from two very wet and cold teams to go straight to penalties, the ref, who had been indecisive for much of the match, now enforced the rulebook; 15 minutes each way. A goal for the visitors in the first period was a blow but not insurmountable, particularly as PFFC felt they should have had a penalty when the vociferous Walthamstow keeper Kung-Fu’d one of PFFC’s strikers. Two more goals in as many minutes, though, knocked the stuffing out of PFFC at the start of the second period and, despite a late goal from Neil, our cup dreams were over. Everybody played well, with Brian man of the match.
Spirits still high and the post-match atmosphere was reflective as usual and enlivened by a sparkling performance from PFFC President Sam Dalla Bona, in one of his rare starts for Chelsea, and a brilliant win for Philosophy Football Women’s team on what remained of pitch ten after our earlier encounter; 3-1 winners over Camden Ladies. The declining pub attendance amongst the men’s team has led to some raised Italian eyebrows. Or is this further evidence of the Eriksson revolution?