“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing” (Henry Russell ‘Red’ Sanders)
“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well” (Baron Pierre de Coubertin)
Well, on this occasion, we’ll plump for the words of the founder of the Modern Olympics, rather than those of the old UCLA American Football coach. After all, it’s the year of the London Olympics (although that’s another issue altogether….), and we’re not American.
From which you might surmise that the Doorway football team did not win the annual WASP 6-a-side tournament, held on Saturday May 26th at Stanley Park, Chippenham. You’d be correct. In fact, after the first game, a win which for reasons of confusion, counted, then didn’t, then did again, we didn’t win another game, and failed to qualify from our pool.
We started with a mixture of confidence (having acquitted ourselves so well at previous tournaments) and concern over the late injury to key player, coach and general team talisman Chris. Also, in the back of my mind at least, was worry about the fact that one of our main goalscorers in previous outings was no longer playing for the Doorway team, for complicated reasons. On the plus side, as well as our ‘battle-hardened loyalists’, we had two new recruits full of youth and enthusiasm, and our ladies (well, only one was available) would be able to play, as this was not an FA-sanctioned tournament, so mixed teams would be allowed. And we were looking forward to playing on another 3G surface, and to sampling the facilities at Stanley Park.
Not only that, but the weather forecast, in this rather wet and cold ‘summer’ was excellent. In fact, we were a little concerned about it being too hot, and went armed with vast supplies of water, bananas and oranges (the last two replace the Potassium lost from sweating, or in the case of ladies, glowing, don’t you know).
We had entered two teams, but as the tournament loomed, we realised that we would struggle to achieve this, particularly on a hot day. Norman from New Highway was keen to enter a team, but had found no places available. They therefore took one of our places. It was subsequently claimed by some people that we had merely withdrawn a team and left a gap, but we know what was agreed, and Norman can (and has) confirmed this….
As it happened, three other teams dropped out, so the 18-team tournament was reduced to 14. As some withdrawals had been late, the planned fixtures were thrown into chaos, and although the organisers tried their hardest, it was always an uphill battle, so teams spent a lot of time trying to work out who, where, and when they were playing next. There was also an unfortunate misunderstanding early on when one of the teams thought they had conceded the game’s first goal just before halftime, only to find that there was no second half, and they had just lost. However, everything got sorted out, and all groups completed, in the end and on time.
In Doorway’s first game, we dominated completely, but missed chance after chance, but then scored one very late – but not too late to give the opposition a rare chance at the other end, where they scooped over the bar when it looked easier to equalise. And after that game, it was a tale initially of early chances being spurned again, but then the opposition scoring, and this would then either be the only goal, or change the whole game. Possibly heads went collectively down a bit part way through the group stage, but towards the end, when it was clear that qualification was not possible, there were some determined and spirited performances for pride.
Reasons for struggling? As said earlier, the loss of Chris was a major blow, not least psychologically – and we missed his marshalling of the team. Maybe just having him on the sidelines might have helped. We also picked up another injury part way through, with Steve having to stop playing after a nasty muscle strain and ‘pitch burn’. We certainly failed to put away our chances – again, as already mentioned, one of our previous strike force was no longer in the team, and indeed turned out for one of the teams we played. We had a major commitment to squad rotation, including major use of the rolling substitutions during the games, and possibly this ended up disrupting attempts to maintain structure and cohesion. This of course was a particular problem in organising a defence. And the combination of those two was fatal, as in a 10-minute game, the first goal so often decides the outcome, there being so little time to come back.
The main reasons for using squad rotation during games were firstly the hot weather – but in fact there was a strong cooling wind (this combination was quite potent for sunburn, by the way, for those stupid enough not to use the sunblock, i.e. me); and secondly the reluctance to pick a whole different team for an entire match without having a clear (or any, sometimes) idea as to who the next fixture or fixtures would be against. Changing players during a game sometimes caused confusion, so on one occasion, we accidentally had 7 players on the pitch for a minute or so before the opposition pointed this out. So then, of course, somebody had to volunteer themselves to go off, although they had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes. At least the opposition were also confused by it at times, on one occasion saying to one of our players ‘why are you being taken off? – you’ve only just come on!’.
As for that wind, given that we played 8 games (it should have been 7, but we played one that we weren’t supposed to, for reasons surrounded by mystery…..), we never did work out why we played into the wind, ie from the same end, in EVERY game we played…..
But let’s focus on the plus points.
– We enjoyed, despite losing, another tournament, wearing the Doorway name with pride, and now really quite proud of the pinkness of our kit also
– We treated other teams with respect, friendliness, and sportsmanship. And indeed received that in return. And there were lots of laughs during the day.
– Each tournament we take part in gives us learning points and makes us stronger for the next one.
And more tenuously…..
– Kev and myself managed to sort out all our equipment and return to fly the Doorway flag at the knock-out stages, including reffing some games, as not only had all of the other teams eliminated gone home, but the Salisbury WASP lot had taken the refs with them………..
– The tournament was won by New Highway, to whom we had given one of our places.
– And the runners-up were 5 Alive from Weston-super-Mare, to whom we had lent our old blue kit!
– And of course, we looked resplendent in our pink kit:
Unlike previous tournament write-ups, I’m not listing all of our results. They’re my stats, and I’ll cry if I want to…… I’ll just say – Kev scored.
The other pool of 6:
(Two qualifying for quarter-finals)
Salisbury Mighty WASP A
Salisbury Mighty WASP B
Streets Revolution Oxford
Unity FC 0 WASP B 1
Start A 0 New Highway 4
Wiltshire CID 0 5 Alive 2
WASP A 0 Trowbridge Neighbourhood Police 2
New Highway 1 Trowbridge Neighbourhood Police 0
5 Alive 1 WASP B 1 (5 Alive won on penalties)
Third place game:
Trowbridge Neighbourhood Police 2 WASP B 0
New Highway 4 5 Alive 0
The write-up from the Gazette and Herald
Lisa’s videoing of our first game (the latest Doorway videos are always here)
My Flickr photostream slideshow of the day (don’t forget to click on ‘show info’)