Canterbury Field, Wednesday 2 July 2014

A spectacular last-minute header by the talismanic defender Ball Trimetsoontorn secured the third consecutive Alumni Football Tournament trophy for Biggest Croc as the defending champions successfully completed their mission of title defence once again with a slender 1-0 victory over the Year 11 team.

This tournament also served as the testimonial competition of two legends in staff football, Kevin Hall and Richard Paez. The two players had contributed immensely to the success of staff football over all these years and they were fittingly chosen to captain Staff 1 and Staff 2 respectively.  After a highly consistent year of football in which the afternoon sessions went all the way until the last week of June, the staff teams certainly were amongst the favourites in the group stages, and there appeared to be high hopes of a staff team retaining the trophy for the first time since 2011. Moreover, following a narrow defeat in the final of Not the World Cup, the staff squad was filled with even more determination to win their first major accolade in about thirty-six months.

The tournament kicked off shortly after 3pm with two matches in Group A. Goalless draws between Staff 1 and Beer Bellyand Squad Rotation and the Year 11 team summed up the first pair of games. Staff 1 appeared to be the favourites on paper but a team boasting the likes of Will Jenkins, scorer of a hat-trick in last Thursday’s afternoon football with the Year 11 team, alongside fellow top-scorers at Not the World Cup Kevin Hall and Alex Richards, were held by the tight defending from Beer Belly.

Resolute and passionate, the Staff team met Squad Rotation in buoyant mood and took to the fields encouraged by the statistics that Squad Rotation (Class of 2013) had failed to score in the previous two editions of the tournament. However, the teachers on the sidelines were silenced as goals from the SHB’13 star striker Win Piyawat and Nic guided the young alumni team to a morale-boosting 2-1 victory and sent the Class of 2013 into raptures. Led by superstar Merck Paisalachpong and his influential displays, Squad Rotation put on confident attacking performances and displayed high self-efficacy to break their goalscoring drought and claim the vital four points.

The Year 11 team were the debutants in the tournament this year but last Thursday’s staff football session had proved already that they were ready for the “ultimate stage”.  Despite losing 16-6 to the Staff in regulation time, they persevered and delightfully forced the Staff team all the way in the First to Five before star striker Joe Cole scored the winner and his fifth of that matchwith a clinically taken one-on-one with the outstanding Year 11 goalkeeper, who pulled off several top-class saves in that encounter. Deeply encouraged by last week’s performance, the players pressured Beer Belly right from the start and eventually took the lead through a well-taken effort. Beer Belly responded with a series of swift attacks and their highly experienced players forced the Year 11 players onto the backfoot, but sturdy defence and organisation helped the Year 11 team survive one of their biggest challenges in the group stage with a hard-fought 1-0 victory.

The final round of matches in Group A were delayed due to horrific weather in which lightning, but not thunder, was heard and heavy showers poured onto the field. After the restart, Staff 1 and Year 11 met for the second time in a week and memories of the five goals from Zeeshan Ahmed along with the reflections that Joe Cole had scored five goals twice in a row meant that the Year 11 team should have another onerous task. However, the same stories would not repeat once again and this time round the Year 11 team put on a professional defensive display to hold the Staff to a goalless draw and claim top spot in their group. Celebrations had already begun as the fans embraced the progress of the forthcoming Sixth Formers into the semi-finals.

In the other match, Beer Belly held the upper hand against Squad Rotation for most of the game and restricted their opponents from having clear space to have shots on goal. Simon Woods pulled off a string of amazing saves from the Beer Belly forwards but was beaten by a stunning long range effort from Saab which was executed to perfection.  As the effects of the unpleasant weather started to kick in, Beer Belly capitalized on the defensive fragilities of the young alumni football team and eventually grabbed their second goal through their talisman Boy-Boy, who drilled the ball in from a corner.

Group B appeared to be a challenging group by all means and began with a mouth-watering clash between Big Croc and Staff 2. There was plenty of talk prior to the tournament about how the Staff teams and Big Croc were joint favourites. Big Croc players had big muscles, especially biceps, like Wai (Prof Image), and convincingly went ahead through “Eczema Boy” Direk, a champion of the Shrewsbury Fun Run 2010. Direk demonstrated plenty of muscular endurance and the way in which he ran energetically along the flanks left the Staff with a difficult time. The Crocodiles piled on the pressure and the handsome striker Wai showed his predatory instincts with a decent strike that Steve Allen consummately saved. Following sustained pressure, the Staff defenders failed to clear their lines on an occasion when Pipe sent in a teasing Inswinging corner, and Wai slammed home the rebound to double the team’s lead.Big Croc were not untroubled at all and the substitutes reprimanded the defenders for allowing the legendary staff players too much space in front of goal. Michael Tweddle struck the woodwork on two occasions and Zeeshan Ahmed had a shot narrowly wide of the target. Goalkeeper Frankie Armenio handled the situation expertly by directing his defenders to reshape, and the strategies paid off as Big Croc extended their record to twelve consecutive games without conceding.  In the other first round match, Class of ’14 AV Idols narrowly edged Lazy But Talented (which we will nickname the Three Lions as they wore the England shirt) through a goal by Zern.

Big Croc came up against a revitalized Three Lions and were frustrated on numerous occasions as they blasted shots wide or over the bar as a consequence of being narrowed down by the opposition defenders. Teddy was on top form and his heroic saves, including a fantastic stop from a one-on-one with Ball (Dr. Pretender), thwarted Big Croc for long periods of the game. It was until the eleventh minute that Direk smashed a well-taken chance past Teddy, but unfortunately the Crocodiles fell asleep at the back and sloppy schoolboy style defending resulted in Anand equalising for the Three Lions. This made Anand the first player to score against Big Croc since 2011.

In the other match, the talented musician Joey scored a brace as his team AV Idols edged the staff 3-2. The Staff had a goal from Zeeshan Ahmed, and there were two own goals.

After a massive delay due to the depressing rainy weather, Big Croc contested AV Idols after enjoying some tasty beer during the rain delay. The beer clearly had beneficial effects as the legendary Pipe Patnasiri stormed into space and smashed a shot off target twelve seconds into the game. The scorer of the winning goal for UCL in the final of the Samaggi Games 2014 at Lilleshall Sports Centre continued his adrenaline rush as he forced the goalkeeper into a save and hit the left post. The striker was far from done, and the goal came for the team when Pipe’s shot was too hot to handle for the goalkeeper, who pushed the rebound into the path of Ball, who made no error from the rebound. Both teams progressed to the semi-finals and the 2-0 victory for Lazy but Talented over the Staff was just a consolation. Sching and Giles Holroyd were amongst the goalscorers, but the humorous moment was when the prolific Rob Groves, who scored regular hat-tricks in Staff football, commented that he would give extra maths homework to the Year 12 players he taught for engineering the defeat of the staff team.

As the sky cleared and the sun shone on the pitch, Big Croc were up against Beer Belly for a semi-final which was a repeat of the final of last year’s tournament, where two saves in the penalty from penalty shootout from Frankie and the winning spot-kick from Calvin helped Big Croc to their second title. This match was not as tight as the corresponding meeting between the two sides and although there were half chances and midfield tussles, a brace of goals from Pipe led to a comfortable 2-0 victory. Natachai Addison assisted Pipe with the second goal; the defender floated a long free-kick into the path of the striker who found the net with his left foot. Big Croc would meet Year 11 in the final as a quality goal from Pom-Pom separated the IGCSE graduates from AV Idols in a pulsating match.  The AV Idols had an excellent tournament as the graduating team and went on to clinch the bronze medals following an extra-time win over Beer Belly; they will continue their celebrations with the Leaver’s Ball on Friday.

Before the final took place the two staff teams contested for seventh and eighth place. In the corresponding fixture, Richard Paez scored the winning goal, but this time round Michael Tweddle scored a breathtaking goal to help Staff 2 to victory. In a sensational year of Staff football which had seen plenty of new talent and exceptional performances from the current members of staff, the narrow 1-0 scoreline was a happy conclusion for all the staff who will look forward to the next academic year, where they will welcome new teachers into their skill pool to bring Staff football to new heights. Meanwhile, Teddy scored as a striker for Lazy But Talented as they finished their adventure on a high with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Squad Rotation. Teddy received the ball in a delightful position in the attacking third and beat Simon with a sumptuous drive.

The final between Big Croc and Year 11 turned out to be so evenly matched that the thrills and spills were so intense to handle for both sets of players. Year 11 threatened the Big Croc goal with some well-worked opportunities and well taken set pieces and almost went ahead when a striker backheeled narrowly wide from close range. Big Croc could not break down Year 11 with their free flowing style of play as they saw their long balls and cutting passes regularly intercepted by the defenders. As time wore on, prospects of extra time and penalty shootouts loomed and it seemed like the routines and penalty practices which Big Croc undertook in training on Canterbury Field last Saturday would have to be applied today. Tension lasted all the way until the last minute when Ball Trimetsoontorn headed the ball into the goal following a well-delivered cross. The parade did not last long as Big Croc carefully gathered their defence together to endure the closing stages of the game, and it was only at the final whistle that the players started to parade and revel in their victory.

In the fifth edition of the Alumni Football tournament, history was written. Now Biggest Croc have established themselves in the history books of Shrewsbury International School football as a truly legendary team, unparalleled in terms of their three titles and unrivalled in terms of their impressive defensive record; statistics showed that Big Croc had been through twelve consecutive matches without conceding a single goal and have only conceded once in the fifteen matches which stretches through three tournaments.

As Ball lifted the trophy and the team huddled in front of the camera, roars of elation went through the players as they collected their medals and their vouchers for Flow House. A long journey full of sweet and sour moments alongside bitter and spicy episodes had concluded with glory for Big Croc at Canterbury Field, and they can now look forward to surfing at Flow House and more enthralling football adventures.

Word Count: 2044

Report by Jinji (House Sports Correspondent at school from 2010-2012)