29 May 2008

Street Soccer II

The winding down of the European club season marks an annual rite of Spring here in Singapore: the Abacus Street Soccer Tournament. This is put on by the company's Rec Club, which breaks the employees into four teams for various competitions throughout the year. Last year, our teams were named after animated characters: X-Men, Justice League, and so on. My team was the Incredibles (appropriate, given my participation; those who have seen the movie will understand the reference). This year, we are named after Formula One teams: Ferrari, BMW, Renault, and my team, McLaren.

Tonight, we took to the street soccer court for the annual showdown. You may recall last year, when I scored half of our team's goals (one of the two) during our two matches, as we solidly staked our claim to fourth place. Well, I was determined to build on that this year, as I led McLaren against Renault in the semifinals.

We were overmatched, talent-wise, and we found ourselves down 3-0 at halftime. They could handle the ball, pass well, and shoot with power. We claimed none of those qualities. In fact, our loan goal in the 5-1 defeat came just before the final whistle, when one of our opponents jokingly split his legs to let a slowly-kicked ball go through, much to the surprise of the relaxed goaltender, who just watched it roll in. We would again play in the consolation game.

We actually matched up well with our BMW opponents, and I am sure the pundits would have given us the pre-game nod for victory. They put nary a shot on goal the entire game, but our plentiful opportunities were wasted in haste or poor execution. So, the scoreless draw went to penalties.

For those followers of the European version of the Beautiful Game, you know how the Champions League (Europe's top club competition) ended last week. Manchester United defeated Chelsea 6-5 on penalties, after Blues captain John Terry missed what would have been the winning penalty. Well, I was to take McLaren's first penalty, and I was not about to relive that moment. So, I dribbled up the court, using my first of three touches to set the stage, and then I surprised the goaltender by firing with my second touch. Goal! Just because the ball didn't go anywhere near the direction I had intended didn't make it count any less - it had found the back of the net. 1-0. Two McLaren saves and another successful penalty gave us the 3rd place title. The Glory!

And so, we inch up the ladder. At this rate, should have my chance to play on the championship side. I just hope they keep it at four teams again next year!

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