We did not qualify for the second round, no sweat. On whole, we were not in good form somehow, but we offered no excuses. Did we play our heart out? Yes, we did and in the most gentleman way we could for we did not earn any warning, yellow or red from the referee in the entire tournament. If there is an award for fair play, I truly believe we should be the winner (the part is meant as 'self consolation'). I am proud to present our team, Leisure Warriors comprising Derek (team captain), Keith (playing goalie), Winston, Chong Meng, Tommy, Ming Wei, Tommy and yours truly.
NATAS 'five-a-side' Soccer Challenge was scheduled for today at East Coast Park and kick-off at 1300 hours. Six teams from each group and there are two groups and the top four in each group will compete in the quarter-final, semi-final and the final. Each game lasted 5 mins only but it can test one's fitness even though it was only 5 mins on the pitch. There were five teams in our group as one team mysteriously did not turn up. We were in the second group and we had to play four matches.
Our first match was against the team from Hertz. I should say we started off well. I played upfront while our captain Derek will cover the back. A short while into the game, I realised I have not fully covered from the left thigh injury I sustained in last week practise game. Damn, I cannot risk it anymore. I had few attempts at goal but each attempt was feeble, alas. It was quite an even match and it ended nil nil for either side. Jenny, our HR colleague dropped by to root for us. After she left, Caroline and Nicole arrived and stayed to the end of the tournament..
Our second match was against Citystate team. I decided to play reserve, not to take any chance to aggravate the muscle pain in my left thigh. We were under attack from the opposing team. They could easily go two up had it not for the poor finishing by their lone striker. Luckily for us, Keith did well to keep the score down but a short while later, they managed to score against us. Evidently, some of us were rusty and not fighting for the ball - lack of fitness is chief suspect. I decided to switch with Winston. Again, I had few attempts at goal but poor finishing did me in. By then, we were already two down and when whistle blew, we lost our second match to a better team.
After the break, we were up against the team from American Express and again, I played reserve. One of my former colleagues, Thia was playing for American Express and when I thought I am the oldest player in this tournament, Thia is few years my senior and they are some who seem to be older than me too. I have not met Thia for quite some time but he has certainly aged much. Boy, he is still playing football in his 50s and this is his fourth participation. They were certainly better than us, from controlling and distribution which put us under constant pressure. Again, Keith did well to parry away the ball each time. We were one down and I decided to take over from Winston. I didn't play as well either, attempts at goal proved feeble each time. Thia finally scored the second and last goal for his team and I knew we did not have much chance to draw level. Again, we lost to a better team - kudos to them.
Our last match was against the team from Dynasty Tour. Earlier, we watched them played against Citystate team. It was quite a physical game and tension from either side was slowly brewing. Fouls were committed by both sides. Finally, a foul was made against a player from Dynasty Tour. He was very agitated, threw a F word at the referee and earned a red card eventually. With one player down, I must admit the Dynasty Tour team did well to earn a hard earned draw with Citystate. Hey, this is not a professional game but why must they play in such aggressive manner? I was hoping our last match against Dynasty Tour won't come to blows but if they draw first blood and admittedly I am ready for them too.
For our last match, I played reserve again. The physical fitness of some of our players is telling for we were waiting for ball, more than challenging for it. To our pleasant surprise, Derek drew first blood and scored our first goal. For the first time, we were leading the game. Keith played his heart out, either parrying away the ball or diving to reach for it. Few sure goal attempts were saved by him, I'm impressed. A tackle was made on Derek who fell flat and for few seconds, he was not moving. Someone shouted for 'medical attention' but to our relief, he managed to stand up. A foul was not given by the referee, funny. The opposing team managed to slip one goal in and to our disappointment, they drew level. They even went up one up against us. I decided to change with Ming Wei in hope to draw level, at least. Again, I could not muster much energy to harass their defence. We lost this match, 2-1.
We did not qualify for the second knock-out round. We were still in high spirit, for we did try our best though our form did let us down at the end of the day. If I have to name the 'Player in our team', the accolade should go to Keith and for the 'Golden Boot', no prize for the right answer and that is Derek for his solitary goal. This is just one tournament and also our first, but Leisure Warriors team can train and be ready for next year. I am likely not be with the team for next year but I hope they can keep going and I wish them well in future tournaments. Hip, hip, hip...hooray (3x), team Leisure Warriors. Good job!