The magic of the cup
PFFC 1 Deportivo 0 (Cup match)
“It’s a beautiful day, don’t let it get away ...”
The first notes of the soundtrack of Match of the Day where echoing from the ghetto blaster of Lady Phillys, the maitresse of Regent’s Park dressing rooms, when a depleted and oddly assembled PF squad started to gather in the early hours of Sunday. The apocalypse must be very close, as the sun for the seventh or more day on was continuing to shine and the month of March has yet to end. Indian summer a few months early? Waiting for the new shorts and socks to arrive with Brian, we head on to put the nets up. The mood is great. Under the direction of Al the struggle to reach the crossbar begins, and between laughter and comical situations (Marcodue with Rob on his shoulders ...) the mission is accomplished. On the pitch, grass is as rare as Filippo’s goals.
Luigi played against us in Rome, and falling artistically in the box on a generous lunge of Raj earned the Italian National team of journalists the penalty for the final 2-2. So it was time to give something back to PF. Payback time came in an unusual way though: in London for a fling with an ex-wife of a Wimbledon winner (quiz time, guys ...), he spent the Saturday night in different London clubs, going to bed at five and waking up at 8. It’s not known if Owen was with him. Stefano and John came with Marcodue. The first has already worn a PF shirt, while the second had never played a game of football: “But I play hockey, so I’m fit”. No problem. “And I also played Aussie rules football. I know that here you can’t touch the ball with your hands”. Reassuring. “What? Do we have to share the changing rooms with the opponents? It’s unbelievable”. You know, John, the atmosphere is very relaxed… “Mmmmh, so no red cards eh?”. I panicked. “Don’t panic my friend, I’m Aussie, I was joking”. With all those tattoos, I wasn’t so sure ...
The line up
First half (4-4-2): Ian; John, Paul, Brian, Owen; Al, Kieran, Luigi, Stefano; Gibbo, Marcodue (Filippo after 10’ minutes). Second half (4-5-1): Rob; John, Paul, Brian, Owen; Filippo (Stefano after 25’, then Filippo after 40’), Ian, Kieran, Luigi, Al; Gibbo.
The game (highlights)
John asks Paul what to do on corners. John asks Filippo what to do in general. John asks Marcodue what to do with the bloody offside. Filippo from the touchline mimics to John how to take throw-ins à la European, and not the Aussie way. John battling all the way, and nothing goes through from his side, a ball, an opponent, a pin. Al in the second half roars “Immense, John”. Paul at the end of the game declares John man of the match, well deserved. The injury to Marcodue, a bad twist in the knee that could prematurely end his PF career and that obliges Filippo to make his come-back, well against medical advice. The opponents hitting the bar in the first half. Some glorious passes of Luigi. Amazing runs of Cornish Al. The rock solid defence. Filippo bent with his hands on his knees after ten minutes, looking for some air at ground level. The tactical switch suggested by Al at halftime, five in midfield plus Gibbo upfront.
Stefano has to go to put some money in the parking meter, so Filippo stays on the pitch in the second half, until he gets back. Luigi gets the ball in midfield, great pass to Al on the left. Control, few steps and a great cross. Unfortunately, waiting for the ball there’s no one else than your favourite scribbler, enjoying a free role. I can see that the defender is going to miss the ball. He does. Shit. What now? This is a glorious chance to score. While I’m thinking of how to handle the situation the ball is already there. It strikes my well grown tummy (I’m trying to follow the example of my pregnant wife ...) and with billiard precision arrives to Gibbo. He controls it, and with great coolness slots it past Liam Gallagher (their goalie). I celebrate more than Gibbo. Strange, isn’t it? A few crazy scrambles in the PF box. Owen clearing from the goal-line. A glorious thunderer from 30 yards from Ian that hits the post. Hugh with the rattle. The final whistle. “One nil, to Philosophy, One nil, to Philosophy ...”
Before and after
I know you’ve beaten Strollers. “Yes, 6-2, and we played with ten men the entire game”. Uhh. We never beat them, and today we are missing several key players, you won’t have any problem with us today. Filippo undermining the opponents’ captain, Josh, in the dressing room. You can see that they are sure to win. Extra sure. And you can see that they’re really pissed re-entering the dressing room. Subdued atmosphere, they don’t believe they’ve lost. Arrogance never gives up, used to sing the Associates. And thanks to another humble and courageous performance PF are in the semi-final.
That’s my email, but that’s also the name of the Lady of the Dressing Rooms. She asked me to bring her from Italy a coffee machine. I’ll instruct the Gaffer. If we can make a presentation next Sunday I think we could ask for money frompeople to assist to such a surreal experience.
Ian (goalie) – 8: A couple of high catches in the pre-Congestion Charge traffic in the box on corners gave great confidence to the team
Rob – 7: Despite risking an injury while putting up the nets, a remarkable comeback. Kept the opponents at bay with the usual comfort
John – 8: Immense, as Al went on screaming for the entire second half
Paul – 8: After spending the week trying to sort out players, drinks, oranges, referees, pitches, shorts and socks, another great performance. Paternal with John, diabolical with the opponents
Brian – 7: upgraded to 7.5 for bringing the shorts and socks and to 8 for giving a high-speed lift to Kieran at the end of the game. Usual no-nonsense stuff. When the heat seemed to pile up, provided a cold shower to the Deportivo fellas
Owen – 8: Especially in the second half, when we suffered a bit, seemed to be everywhere. So mature ... is it for the upcoming marriage?
Al – 7.5: Started immensely, and was involved in the best moves of the game, including the goal
Kieran – 7.5: The rugby can wait. If he had gone away at half-time as requested we would have lost. Battling dynamo
Luigi – 8: Some difficulties in adapting to the “English refereeing”, and to the brightness of the day after having spent the night in some dubious clubs drinking suspicious cocktails. Wonderful skill despite the bouncing pitch
Stefano – 6: Great effort
Marcodue – 8: for providing two players, no mark on the pitch – Unlucky!
Gibbo – 8: Played alone up front for most of the game, trying to cope with taller defenders and awkward bounces of the ball. Ice-cool in slotting the ball home for the winner
Filippo – 7: upgraded to 7.5 for the usual psychological work on the opposition. First game since the injury in October, was already tired before entering the pitch. Lucky enough to found himself in the right position at the right moment, and carpe diem.