Discovery Bay Football Club Vets Tour to 2016 Andaman Soccer 7s in Phuket, Thailand.
As usual it all started at Hong Kong International Airport after checking in with Air Asia (the cheapest carrier to Phuket) for our 8th appearance in this competition and being past champions our expectations were high! Our usual rendezvous at the Heineken bar in terminal 2 didn’t materialise due to a lack of coordination and the fact that the Heineken bar was no longer there. Gaz and Pascal did meet at the replacement bar but were suckered into having to pay HKD138 each for a pint of Stella, easily the most expensive pint of beer either has ever paid in Hong Kong and probably the world. So the initial travelling 5 players (Gaz, Pascal, GaryL, Alessio and Peter) ended up meeting on the plane, where those in row 6 promptly cracked open the Grey Goose from a brown paper bag!
The flight was fairly tame by DBFC standards with Pascal keeping Gazza occupied with a Mensa test game using dice so that he couldn’t tackle much of the Grey Goose. Peter was watching a movie on his IPad, GaryL snoring in his executive leg room seat and Alessio quietly contemplating his football weekend.
We arrived at the new airport terminal in Phuket and were a little concerned that we didn’t know where the beer was sold. We eventually found the 7/11 to be told at the check-out that no alcohol after 11 pm — it was 11:02! Luckily our van driver knew where to go and so fuel (beer) for the 1 hour journey to the hotel was sorted. We checked in at the OK Corral (The Expat Hotel again for the umpteenth time) and got the usual warm welcome before throwing down the bags and dashing out for some late evening drinks as the bars closed.
Friday was a free day and in late afternoon we all attended the competition meeting before joining the tournament BBQ. As usual we waited patiently for the BBQ food to cook then joined the scrummage to get a plate full of some very mediocre sausage, pork and beef. Every year we say we’ll skip this poor feed and organise our own BBQ —- next year Coach Pete will be on the case.
Match day came around and Saturday morning our multi-cultural, multi-national ( French, German, English, Canadian, Italian and Geordie ) team loaded up onto the Hash Bus (an open ended, open sided, chitty-chitty-bang-bang like transportation, as old as the players riding in it) to travel to the Stadium. We arrived for our scheduled fixtures about midday and many other group games were in full-flight by then.
First Saturday group game was against a team from HK that seemed to be younger and had around 50 subs. We had a team of 9 players (2 subs) and given the heat we could have done with a few more (being allowed 5). Our team consisted of 3 well over 50 and the rest over 40 (it was an over 35 competition) and Coach Pete decided to start easy with a 3-2-1 formation that would change should we take control of the game. Martin, our resident German task-master, was given the honour of taking charge of the warm up sessions, which looked more like a Dad’s Army parade than preparation by HK past champions! The game kicked off and we took charge early on to fire in three goals. There was no reply from our opposition and we ran out comfortable winners of the first game.
Second Saturday group game was a little different, putting us up against a talented side from Malaysia with a least half their team border-line 35 year old (competition’s minimum age limit). It was a very tight game with us scoring early and hanging on for some time – I think our lads were somewhat put-off by the opposition’s player in the Aladdin fly-away knickerbockers. A break-away by DBFC in the last minute failed and a quick counter by the opposition saw them score an equaliser with only seconds left until final whistle. Given that this team went on to be Masters Cup champions it turned out to be a good effort on our part.
The third and final group game saw us run out easy winners, romping home to a 4-0 win with Thierry firing in a few and Gianluca wondering when he was going to get a touch. So that was the first day (Saturday) of football over and DB Vets were unbeaten finishing top of our group and making a place in the top competition of the Masters Cup (the Master’s Plate and Master’s Bowl being the lesser competitions); something we would have settled for on the plane heading down to Phuket 48 hours earlier.
So you may be thinking Coach Pete’s instructions would be for an early night for everyone to ensure we were up fresh and ready to rock on Sunday afternoon – not likely! We all headed for the hills to a nice local Thai restaurant for a joint Alessio and Martin birthday feast and then into town to some great live music venues.
Great fun and laughs and some great team bonding, even to the point of sharing buckets of team drink! The time flew by putting most players’ good intentions of a reasonably early night down the toilet.
So Sunday morning came and off we went with muted enthusiasm courtesy of some sore heads. We arrived again at the ground about midday having survived the journey in the hash bus when a more delicate mode of transport would have been welcome for some of the fragile constitutions. The younger open football competitions were coming to a close ready to see the conclusion of the Masters competition.
Everyone was raring to go; we were in the quarter finals of the major competition and this was no mean feat in itself. We’d noticed the past champions from Dubai demolishing the competition on the Saturday and thought that if we get through the quarters we’d meet them in the semi-finals. Martin took the lads for a warm up but soon realised he had to go easy on them if they were to survive 3 x 15 minute games in the searing heat :-).
First up in the quarters was the younger more energetic version of the HK team we played Saturday in our group game. Coach Pete, having watched the poor attempt at a warm up by most players and seeing that some still had green complexions, called for a repeat of our conservative 3-2-1 defensive strategy to see what they had to throw at us. Laurent was the lone soldier up front, instructed not to chase down the ball but let them come into our half before we took a man-to-man approach once they reached our final third of the pitch. It seemed to be working as they passed the ball around nicely but lacked fire power up front and were weak finishers! We soaked up their pressure and when they realised it wasn’t going their way they got a little frustrated and physical and lost focus. We took advantage of this and scored on the break then upped our tempo to close out the game as 1 – 0 winners, much to the disappointment of the defeated team.
We were surprised when informed we had drawn another HK team in the semi-final. A team we were familiar with having knocked them out in the semi’s last year! Boca Seniors, the very lads that take the same flight in and out to the tournament with us every year. So for sure they were out for revenge.
We took the lead early on and looked very much in control against a team that’s average age was well below ours (even given the fact that they rested a couple of junior members of their squad!). We controlled the game well and went 1-0 up after 5 minutes. This meant Boca need to press and leave spaces at the back. We defended well and had 3 or 4 great opportunities to score on the break and put the game to bed, one opportunity being harder to miss than to score. Boca continued to press and in the last 5 minutes DBFC started to tire and sit deeper. This sudden collapse of energy (lack of sleep and alcohol taking its toll) was to be punished when, with only 2 minutes left to play, a Boca player got the ball at the edge of the box without being closed down and had the time to place his shot into the top corner out of reach of Gianluca. A draw in any cup needs a winner and so we went to sudden death penalties – alas we failed to score the second spot kick and Boca went into the final to face the Malaysian team (same team we topped in our group on Saturday) who went onto win.
The frustrating thing was that the Cup, the plate and the bowl all went to teams we had beaten / drawn and we end up with nothing despite Gazza’s attempt to “borrow” the cup from the Malaysian team manager. Nevertheless, we did find a lookalike trophy that night. After a team last night seafood dinner and court session to finish the Grey Goose from the brown paper bag (Gianluca getting the only sensible / serious award of player of the tournament) we headed to our favourite music venue where Martin bought a large silver urn full of orange drink. We had no idea what made up this orange drink but the silver container definite fit a loose description of a trophy; so team picture called.
Report by Team Coach (driver) Pete.