Thursday, 19 June 2008

PostHeaderIcon Fitbaw - May 30th to June 1st

The finest selection of players from the English speaking world.

A few weeks ago I went to the island of Awaji in Hyogo prefecture. The island is famous for a few things ranging from onions, whirlpools, suspension bridges, the epicentre of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and for being the base camp for England during the 2002 World Cup. Indeed, it is the latter that I will focus on because it is that very ground that witnessed the arrival of an army of bright yellow JETs from Kochi.

For the past few years there has been a football tournament arranged for all the nearby foreign Assistant Language Teachers. It turns out that Kochi is well known for failing miserably but always dominating the party on the Saturday night. With this in mind, about 20-30 people in our prefecture set off in search of a fun weekend, safe in the knowledge that nobody cared how good they were at playing.

We (Noah, Andrew, Joey and I) set off on the Friday evening in Noah's car. His car is actually the real deal and can survive the motorway unlike the rest of our tin foil mobiles. We had a bit of a road trip vibe going on that night and after a few hours we eventually reached our (surprisingly pleasant) hotel. We drank a few beers as the rest of the prefecture gradually arrived and occupied about two whole floors of the hotel. We then had a bit of a gathering in someone's room where we handed out the team shirts and sung our very own team song (KFC... we're on the lash again) We had about 20 guys in the men's team and about 10 for the women's team. It turned out that that I was the only British male out of the whole lot so I ended up being turned to for my... err vast football knowledge. I had really just turned up to party myself though so I probably wasn't much help. Our captains were a friendly/fun pair of Steveo (Aussie) and Rosa (English) who made sure that everyone continued the good spirit of years gone by and didn't take themselves too seriously.

After staying up and drinking more than I expected... it was time to get down to business. The weather was reminiscent of a drizzly weekend game down the local park back home. This was probably the best conditions in the end as the following day was roasting and everyone got sun burnt. Our first game was against Kyoto if I remember. We lost the game 2-0 which was pretty good considering we hadn't played together and the team was full of unfit and/or injured blokes. This proved to be our best result on paper but we played far better in the games that followed. We lost 3-0 against Fukuoka where we knocked the ball about fairly well but they were a much stronger team.

The third match was against Real Osaka and there was a bit of a build-up to it as some of the guys had played them the year before. They were an actual proper team with some semi-professionals playing for them. They had all the snazzy shirts, talked all the fancy tactics, hurling abuse at each other for simple mistakes... and then there was KFC... the exact opposite. However, we only lost the first half 1-0 and they looked a bit bewildered by our tactics which I have only seen previously in primary school playgrounds. They were a bunch of miserable, serious and hacking gits in all honestly. Even when I played seriously back in the day it never seemed that bad... and that was in proper tournaments rather than playing a bunch of happy, gibbering misfits from non-football playing countries:

Here's an idea of the amount of people we had at the side of the pitch. That's Noah throwing me the ball as well. The name on my shirt was embarrasing but you can't read it so ner ner.

Ironically... we got completely stuffed in the second half in terms of goals but probably played our best half of the tournament. We had some really fit guys running about in defence/midfield whilst Noah and I played upfront and chased down any chance. We had our best passing move of the match (stringing more than 2-3 together was good) and Noah found himself just outside the penalty box with the ball. It didn't look too promising at first as the pair of us had two lanky defenders towering over our tiny selves. However, Noah did a cheeky turn Jinky Jonhson style and smashed the ball towards the goal with his left foot. It took a slight deflection off the other defender and sailed past their keeper. It was excellent to see about thirty people in bright yellow jumping up and down despite being 6-1 down. Get it right up ye Real Osaka. We got hammered 8-0 in our last match but it was our second game in a row and most people were knackered. I gave away a penalty in the last minute out of frustration as they were actually dancing about outside our goal and nobody was "sticking the boot in". I felt a bit embarrassed after that but I apologised after the match and they were cool about it. They missed it as well so nae bother.

"We scored a goal. How embarrasing for you."

The real fun of the day was the partying we did later on. We took over the hallway of our floor in the hotel and had a lot of good banter going on. Awards were given out for best goal (I think the girls only scored one as well), man of the match, best save/tackle etc. Then the drinking fines were handed out for numerous frowned upon behaviour through the course of the day. We had more fun games like that and then a few of us attempted a beer bong. This is basically an American college thing where you pour a can of beer into a funnel and then down it in one go through a tube. After that we hit a club near the hotel which was fun for an hour or two before everyone got pretty exhausted and headed home. We tried to get some fried food on the way home but the bloody konbini (convenient store) didn't have any. Some of the other guys bought an onigiri (a filled rice ball wrapped in seaweed) which I thought was complete madness for post-drinking food. I thought I was a genius for buying an ice cream and a sponge cake and then mixing them together. I wanted chips though.

The next morning everyone slowly dragged themselves back to the pitches. We were now in the knockout competition and had to win to stay in it. It was pretty obvious we would be departing the tournament early but we still put in a good effort. We played another team from Osaka who were pretty serious and no fun to play against. We lost the game 4-1 in the end but it was by no means a walkover. I scored the goal for our team as well which was great. It came from a penalty after we had a really good move down the wing. I think Noah and a guy called Kalen managed to get the ball into the box. I saw this as my one real chance over the 2 days and legged it towards the ball. It bounced far too high to make easy contact with it so I actually launched myself to try and volley it in the air. Luckily for me the defender clattered into me whilst I was in the air and I went down pretty dramatically. It was certainly a penalty but I was lucky because I don't think I would have managed to kick the ball. Like most of the free kicks and corners that day, I tried to offer them around but nobody really wanted to take them. I did feel a bit of pressure when I stepped up to take it. I tried to remember when I last scored a penalty in an 11-a-side match and it was probably when I was 12 and played at Strathclyde park in the pouring rain. In the end I went for a safe kick and hit it towards the bottom right corner. It wasn't the fastest kick by any means but the keeper was pretty slow to get down. I wanted to do an elaborate celebration (ie a roly poly) but I forgot about it in all the... intensity.

Here's me scoring. I love the smell of narcissism in the morning.

I had to referee the next match which was a quarter final between two Osaka teams. Nobody else wanted to do it so I volunteered even I really didn't want to and my leg was starting to hurt near my break. It turned out to be an absolute nightmare. From the moment it started I was getting shouted at from players of both teams. It got to the point where I really wanted to pack it in and tell them to naff off. I don't know if it was just because I was the referee but I've never heard such continuous abuse hurled. I didn't really respond well to it and in the second half I kind of told them to go **** themselves and to focus more on playing. It was the least fun I've ever had in my entire life. In the afternoon we watched the girls playing who were doing much more better than ourselves. I shouldn't make fun but the amount of injuries that occurred from people getting hit in the face with the ball was unreal. I worked out that when two girls chased down a ball then one would just HUMPH it and more often that not it was directed at the opposition player's face.

I probably wrote a bit too much about the weekend but it was a belter. It was easily one of the best times I've had in the past year. Some people that read my blog are always making fun of me for handing out the nicey niceness but the KFC crowd of people are great. It's a shame that I don't see a lot of them that often because there is always good fun to be had. Yeah, my prefecture is the best.


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.