Weekend of Footy
Saturday's tournament was good fun. It was at the new Friendship Center building, CrossPal, in Niigata which has a gym hall. Niigata ALT FC entered two teams; Tom was captain of "England '66" (who played in the white, Bulgaria kit) and Ryan was captain of "Brazil '70" (who played in samurai blue). There were eight teams split into two groups. Our teams were in different groups, so if we wanted to play against each other, we'd have to win our matches to reach teh semi-finals or the final. "England '66" started teh first match and managed to adapt their game to the small futsal pitch quickly; the opposing team being man-marked and closed down quickly, then breaking fast and passing our way up the pitch. The game was heading for a 1-1 draw until a corner was awarded to "England '66". Cam spotted me floating at the far post and flicked the corner over the box onto my head, where I knocked it down and scored. 2-1, "England '66 win the first match! In our second match, Tom went on the rampage and scored four goals. Two wins and looking stronger each match, we were certain to qualify for teh semi-finals, but one? The third game proved difficult. The opposing team interupted our play as much as they can, so we found it difficult to get into our rhythm. At last, we scored a goal, but the oppentents protested that the ball wasn't in play. Nil-nil at half-time, but the oppentents had teh luck in the second half scoring twice against our single goal. Second place in the group meant we were through to the second semi-final. If we were to avoid "Brazil '70" in the semi-final, they would also have to come second in their group, having to lose the final match after winning the first two matches. Going down 2-0 in the first half and it looked like they could be playing for zero points, but they pulled it back an won, coming top in group B.
So there was the showdown, "England '66" vs "Brazil '70" in the semi-final. It was a tense game, "England '66" scored first, but "Brazil '70" pulled one back. In the second half, "England '66" scored again. If we could hold onto the lead, a place in the final would be ours. And after what seemed like hours, the referee blew the whistle; "England '66" were through! After a small rest while the 3rd/4th playoff took place, and we where back on the pitch putting everything into the last game. We kept the other team contained and had some chances to break. Hiten managed to find acres of space in one break, wound back his leg and sent the ball crashing into teh net for the opener. The oppenents, Chinese students/teachers from Niigata Univ, didn't sit back and managed to score and equalizer just before half-time. In the second half, "England '66" domination paid off when Will scored the winner. The ref eventually blew fulltime and "England '66" where crowned champions of the inaugral, Crosspal International Cup!! Of course, the real winners were football and international relations!
(As a bonus, I got a text later on from Keiko saying that the tournament was mentioned in the evening edition of the Niigata Nippo. I managed to find a copy so we could publicise our fame at Kate's Birthday party)
Sunday, after waking up with frenchmen marching in my head (I though I never got hangovers) and having a bite to eat at Cappricosa, I took the bus back to Tokamachi and went to Kawanishi Sports Plaza to play futsal with Dr Tomida and his mates. I've played here loads of times before and it's always good fun. Usual format; fifteen or so players divided into three teams and play round-robin for three hours. The surprise this time was that one of my high school students had as come to join us. I was lucky that because she was good at English last year, I could remember her name. I never imagined that she liked to play footy. I'm sure I would have remembered if she had mentioned soccer as a hobby during lessons last year. She's a good player who's confident and has a wicked shot on her. I wonder if she is a member of a team somewhere. It's a shame she's a high school student otherwise I'd have asked her if she fancied join us in Nagano.
We don't keep score for these futsal sessions. Again, the real winners are football and, since I'm there, international relations.
And so to the gym on Monday. In an email, Tom suggested we try "The Cooper Test". Apparently you run for 15 minutes and measure how far you get. Wait 4-5 days then run for 15 minutes again to see if there's any improvement. Not sure what it has to do with barrels, but I managed 19 laps of the circuit at the gym last night. I'll try again on Friday or Saturday and see if I can do more.
So with all this footy, I'm well and truly getting into the world cup spirit. If only I could have one of these then my preperations would be complete.