Saturday, May 23, 2015

Football Diplomacy

I played football when I was a schoolboy but at best, I can only make it to class team and not beyond. My favourite player was Kevin Keegan who played for England and Liverpool as midfielder. Admittedly, I tried to emulate him but still cannot improve on my footballing skills.  In the nutshell, I am not cut out to be a footballer.

When I was stationed onboard a passenger vessel, 'Leisure World' for a short spell, I organised football game for the crew members on shore.  That was in the mid to late 90s.  The ship has many nationalities but the Burmese crew are one football craze lot.  Some were really good.  Many of our Filipino crew were not interested in football.  When we had Brazilian entertainment crew onboard, I approached a former colleague who was managing an Italian class passenger vessel, 'Renaissance' for a friendly football match.  The game was on and it was to be played at PSA Sports Club.

My former colleague, Vincent was the manager for his team while I acted for my team.  When our players were doing their warming up, I issued a warning to Vincent that we had Brazilian players in our team and asked whether he wanted to bet with me.  When he saw our Brazilian players who looked muscular and fit, he was awestruck.  Before we started play, he was already betting his team to lose.  On his side, his officers were from Italy and some of the younger officers were playing.  I even told him at least he had Italian players on his side but he was already "defeated" when he saw some of our fit and mean looking Brazilian players.

When the referee blew to start, it was actually his Italian players who were controlling the game.  As for our Brazilian players, actually our Myanmar players were a notch better than them.  I then turned to Vincent and told him our Brazilian crew do not play football as they were professional dancers only.  Our Brazilian players were all over the place, couldn't kick the ball properly and easily lost possession of the ball to the opponents.  It was quite comical watching our "prized" Brazilian players on the field.  Vincent's team played very well and his Italian players were fast, controlled the ball well.  Very soon, they were one goal up and leading.  I cannot remember the final score but we lost eventually.  I then turned to Vincent who was betting against his own team, gave him a good laugh and he was dumbfounded.

Another occasion when I arranged a friendly football match for our office team against a local team. Most of my younger colleagues were in their 20s and some had just ROD from the Commandos.  They were fit and in their prime.  Derrick was the team captain and I asked if his team had been training well.  He gave me the confident look and then told me not to worry.  The night before the game, some of them including team captain, Derrick were actually partying away onboard the vessel.

It was still the same ground at PSA Sports Club.  When I arrived, the other players from the other team were already warming up but our players were still not to be seen yet.  Then slowly but steadily, our players made their grand entrance to the field.  They looked "stoned" as they were drinking merrily onboard the day before.  Derrick even assured me that they will do well but deep inside me, I was not that hopeful.  

When the match was kicked off, it was lopsided all the way.  Our players cannot muster enough strength to chase, evidently their fitness was all gone and they were not chasing after the ball at all.  One goal up, two goals up, three goals up and counting.  I was unfit to play but some of our players were already burning out fast and reluctantly, I had to step in too.  The other side relented on their assault and finally, we managed to score a solitary goal through late Seow.  The score in the end read 12 to 1, I think or maybe more, I cannot remember the actual score.  We had a good thrashing and a wake up call.  From there on, I never organised another football game for the office team anymore to preserve our dignity.

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