There is a fairytale being told in the distant eastern suburbs of Berlin, the high plateaus of sunny Madrid and the old capital city of the Czechs. It tells of brave bands of footballing warriors who travelled afar and conquered the mighty Brits in the famous arena of Kopenick. The Spaniards tell tales of vanquishing the Czechs 3-1 in the ‘Top of the Table’ clash and the Czechs tell stories of bringing away the Winners’ Trophy. The Berliners sing softly of sweet victories over The Old Enemy………And, like all good fairytales there is an essence of fact, a seed of verity, but, oh so distorted by the passage of time, tricks of the light on naïve eyes, lapses of the memory in alcohol-addled minds……..so here, for those who need to know, is the real tale.
The beleaguered band of pilgrims known as the Have We Got Enoughs staggered into the Kopenick arena with seconds to spare, having negotiated endless marches, bus journeys and train rides, some barely old enough to walk and others too old to crawl, and still a man short as Arne, the ‘Ringer of Wolfsburg’ was still to make an appearance.
Team 1 was immediately pitched into battle with Ajax 2. Were our lads downhearted? Not one bit. Within 5 minutes we had scored the goal of the tournament…..so far. AC, showing dribbling skills learned on his father’s knee (only the night before) left every Ajax man on his knees as he ran the length of the pitch before deftly directing the ball into the corner of the net, as the surgeon might craft with his scalpel. This was followed in seconds by a gloriously driven volley of mighty proportions leaving the boot of SW and hitting the back of the net like a mortar shell. SW, disoriented by a blow on the head the previous evening had unfortunately found his own net.
It should be made clear at this stage that there were many variables which had to be factored into the complex scoring system adopted by the hosts in order to achieve the true scores. It is only when these were entered into the computer at the ground that the real table makes any sense. Perhaps the most easily understood is that of Age. For example when the average age of Madrid is subtracted from that of HWGE and the result is realised as ‘goals for’ on a generous ratio of 2:1 then the Spaniards would have to score 7 goals just to get to 0-0. Other less well understood factors included Pitch Surface (HWGE never play on grass), N-S Pitch Direction (HWGE never play N-S, only E-W), Referees (HWGE never have a referee), Rules (enough said)
Once we had scored both goals in such dominant fashion the first game fizzled away with the Germans merely netting another two, giving HWGE a triumphant start.
Now was the turn of HWGE Team 2 taking on the much-fancied Czechs (well, much-fancied by Duke anyway ‘I’ll take the big one’) who totally misunderstood the British etiquette of allowing a clear route to goal for anyone with the ball. While we allowed them many clear routes, they kept taking the ball from us. In the end, a disgruntled MK decided not to give them the ball and scored a further ‘goal of the tournament’. Despite their underhand practice (again, sheer joy for Duke) they only scored 6, so let that be a lesson to them, and HWGE won 8-6 on the Real Score.
As the tournament progressed it was clear that the dispirited Johnny Foreigners were only playing for the minor places as HWGE marched from triumph to triumph. The crowd were now eagerly awaiting the clash of the Titans, HWGE1 v HWGE2. No variables to factor in. Just raw incompetence. The ball travelled from end to end, successfully avoiding anyone’s attempts to kick it. Then the incomparable AC struck again. HWGE2 had 18 opportunities to clear the ball and it was a good 3 yards out when he poked it home, thus becoming the whole team’s icon……in his own mind. The score would have remained 1-0 had not HWGE2 scored 2 goals, the winner a delightful volley past the hapless GG who for some reason had dressed up to impersonate Indiana Jones, and the title was decided.
The remainder of the competition had to be played, and there were some thrilling moments. BH, our Yankee contingent, scored his ‘goal of the tournament’ giving the goalie a chance by hitting the post from 2 yards out before mishitting a perfect dummy past the goalie. Like any good Yankee, once he had scored his goal he wanted to go home, so went off for a quick shower, never to return. Even more noteworthy was his ability to block the ball, however hard, with his nose. That was not the only collateral damage suffered by HWGE. Casualties of War included RW (ankle and knee), Arne (ankle), JW (knee and hand), SW (spinny head), TK (lost use of both legs), GG(hand), DM(numb bottom, although that was on the way home). There were also those who suffered in silence.
The minor trophies were distributed to the lesser teams, seemingly as a form of commiseration. The top trophy was fittingly awarded as the culmination of the event: Goalkeeper of the Tournament (and therefore, of The Whole World) to HWGE. [Ed.: Who is writing this, exactly?] Had there been more trophies in more deserving categories we would also have won those. Most shots off target: Least shots on target: Most injuries: Highest number of own goals: Own goal of the tournament: Most goals conceded: Longest time without touching the ball: We were unbeatable.
No longer a motley crew, the tiny Band of Heroes were feted for the remainder of their stay in the city. An open-topped procession through the centre of Berlin was hastily organised–on a ship, to prevent further injuries caused by the adoring public. The vanquished teams serenaded us, sought autographs, danced before us and, humbly, in our usual understated manner, we responded (wrong tune, wrong key, wrong words) urged on by our Choirmaster with a “Bellow, lads, bellow!” (which some mistook for the chorus of another song they didn’t know).
There are those who want the facts, the stats, the detail…..but why rub salt in deep wounds. They will get their chance next year, when we will be more generous, even more magnanimous, even more chivalrous, because next year, 2010 …
FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME!