TON UP FOR BRITISH CLUB SOCCER TEAMS (from BC Magazine January 2008)
Saturday, 17 November marked a particularly momentous milestone for the British Club Soccer Section.
Few of the players lining up for the referee's now obligatory ring, bracelet and stud check before an Edmund Optics Equatorial Football League game against the bizarrely named Fighting Cocks would have realised, but this was the table-topping BC's 100th competitive fixture of 2007.
While international stars from Stevie Gerrard to Cristiano Ronaldo are "rested" now and again from their gruelling cup-run extended seasons of 50-60 games, the BC can boast the likes of Billy Morgan (56) and Jon Ray (57), who think nothing of turning out two, sometimes three times a week, week after week, to trudge a lonely midfield furrow while the ball is hoofed aimlessly backwards and forwards over their heads.
They are Steptoe & Son's Hercules to the pampered Premiership thoroughbreds.
Spare a thought, too, for barmy Ian Balmforth, who has returned to central defence action after a near-death experience from Deep-Vein Thrombosis caused by flying back from exotic auto parts locations just to be available for British Club games.
And Chris Askew, a frustrated Tottenham fan and long-time absentee after three bouts of surgery.
These, and the squad's other ageing stalwarts are the real stars of a club section that has grown in number, stature ... and silverware as the year has progressed from the crackers and Panadol of early January, through the hot and humid spring and hot and humid summer to the hot and humid autumn and now into the hot and humid winter.
No apology here for a retrospective look at a season that promised much and has delivered more.
January kicked off with a year's best 12-0 win over a hapless Northlanders in a friendly that saw Ian Balmforth red-carded. By the month-end, BC had rattled in 29 goals in just five games and were set fair for a storming EFL Cup run and well-placed in Div 5 of the popular local ESPZEN league.
Eight games in February produced another 31 goals for the BC, and a solitary EFL league defeat against the bruising Titans. The BC Security Guards were beaten 9-1, with club founder Andrew Marshall stroking home a penalty to trouble the scorers for the first time in a very long career.
A busy March marked the BC's return to its "home" ground at Bukit Timah Fields after the
golf course and lost a double-header at the swanky Canggu Club, but otherwise had a great time. And the BC Corinthians were born -- a new team to attract Members for friendly matches.
Unbeaten in April -- when the year's goal tally topped 100 -- the BC approached the summer blazing on all fronts, and reached the EFL Cup final after a tough two-leg tie with Titans, which included the BC's first goalless draw. The BC came third in the
9-a-side Windmill Tournament and, later in May, won a 3rd/4th place play-off in the hotly-contested Kowloon Tournament.
A tense end-June climax saw the BC edge the EFL league title despite going down 2-4 to Tembusu. A fortnight later, a stunning 4-1 win against Winning XI in the EFL Cup final clinched a memorable EFL league and cup double -- a fitting farewell for
several BC stalwarts who left
The feel-good factor continued into July with promotion, via the play-offs, from ESPZEN Div 5. August ended with 72 games played so far, including two precious victories for the Corinthians who battled adversity with an encouraging blend of
good humour and familial bonding.
September saw a bright and determined start to the EFL league title defence, but the ESPZEN side -- now with more non-BC members -- struggled for consistency in the higher division. BC failed badly at the annual St Andrews Society 7-a-side
tournament, with the champions of 2006 crashing out early after four straight defeats at a muddy
October was a month of consolidation as new players were bedded in, the squad had to cope with the excesses and distractions of Oktoberfest, and the section's AGM finally cut loose the ESPZEN side.
By November, the friendly-hardened Corinthians were champing at the bit for some competitive action and entered the local Veterans League, losing only one of their first four matches. The First XI were looking impressive in the EFL, but lost 2-0 in a
top-of-the-table clash with Titans, the BC's new nemesis.
Footballers turned models to strike various sporting poses for a charity calendar shoot and, at the time of writing, skipper Antony Litherland and hotshot Paul Richardson, both of whom also play on Sundays, were neck-and-neck for top scorer on 34.
For those who like their stats, the 100 games tally (combining First XI and Corinthians) reads: Won 50; Drawn 16; Lost 34; Goals For 319; Goals Against 215
And what lies ahead? More of the same, but less.
A spring tour to somewhere exotic. A new kit -- the same for both the First XI and Corinthians -- has had its first airing. The 2008 fixture list will drop the ESPZEN matches as non-members now form the majority of the side. But BC members will continue to turn out in this league and no doubt Billy Morgan and Jon Ray will be there more often than not.
If you're new to
(BC Magazine May 2007)
BUKIT TIMAH FIELD, Singapore (March 17) – The British Club’s genial General Manager Brian Toft stands rock steady, looks around him, takes in the scene and smiles. A smile of approving satisfaction at a life’s work almost complete. On one soccer pitch, the Club’s “regular” team stride purposefully to a 4-1 win in the EFL Cup against Credit Suisse, booking a berth in the semi-finals. Brian, whose son
On the adjacent pitch, the Club’s fledgling “Corinthian” side makes its debut against local opposition from PWC. They lose 4-1, but the result is not important. This is the start of a new venture.
Club Football Section Founding Father and Member Mentor Andrew Marshall patrols the sidelines, clipboard in hand, shuffling his team and issuing urgent edicts to his puffing, panting players. For some, it’s a chance to kickstart a stalled footballing career. For others, it’s a rare opportunity to exercise and tone up. The inaugural side included sextegenarians down to Members’ sons and daughters, sold a game of football as a way of parental bonding. The kids run, the older players trip and fall as gravity and ageing limbs rebel against directions from young-at-heart heads. For others still, it’s a useful run-out on the way back from injury. There’s room for improvement, but these are early days.
At the “pavilion” end of the field, white-clad members of the Club’s resurgent cricket team “warm down” after another convincing win. The curry can wait. They sense a deep camaraderie evolving, a rich brotherhood carved from sporting endeavour. Some meander over to cast a closer eye on the football – an alien game they quietly profess not to understand. Not a gentleman’s game. Tut-tuts and meaningful glances are shared around when the footballers angrily berate the referee for a missed offside call or a lunge from behind. They wander back to their warming beers, lost in reverie at what might have been … the boundaries that stopped just short and produced mere singles, the whiplash cutter that passed within a whisker of the batsman’s stumps, the skied catch lost to a blinding sun.
Between the soccer pitches, on the all-weather cricket strip, footballers’ wives and girlfriends congregate under the shield of sponsors’ umbrellas, discussing what only WAGs discuss, and occasionally looking up to check what’s happening on the pitch. They cheer the goals and share their partners’ pain at a thudding tackle. Here’s a Sudoku puzzle book, there’s a dropped stitch. Water bottles and sun cream tubes litter the ground. A tartan picnic rug dangerously hugs the touchline.
Soccer kit-clad boys whoop and holler, running between and around the pitches, giddy with the excitement of fresh air, exercise and blessed release from computer screens and PS3 consoles. Southampton,
Injured and “rotated” squad players drop by to idle away a Saturday afternoon, passing comment on team mates, exhorting and exalting in equal measure. Social engagements are cemented, business anecdotes swapped. It’s tough not to be playing, but they play their part merely through being present. It’s a duty, a calling. To stay home is remiss. This is bonding on a massive scale, on a Club-wide scale. A Sporting Cornucopia. Family Fiesta.
A welcome cooling breeze wafts across the field, the surrounding trees flicker momentarily. The Bukit Timah traffic rumbles by, oblivious to this corner of a foreign field that will be forever …
Brian smiles again and deftly uncaps a bottle of Premium Lager from the ice-box. British Club Members, one and all. His family … many of whom will pile back to the Club for post-match drinks and meals, to review the afternoon’s sporting events, and swell the Club’s F&B coffers.
(from BC Magazine, December 2007)
"A matter of life or death? No, it's far less serious than that"....
The British Club Corinthians soccer side was born of a dream from the hard thinking Football Committee to grow the section by establishing a "social" team that would focus on friendly matches, serve as a potential feeder side for the First Team and give an opportunity to the young and not-so-young to enjoy a regular game of football free from the competitive pressures of fighting for points in a league. And it would bring in extra money to pay for the post-match beer and curry at the Racquets Bar.
This dream pitched together an unlikely managerial duo of a visionary and energetic school teacher, Karen Niedermeyer, and a passionate ex-rugby playing bond trader, Grant Hall (aka The Dripping Beast). Their combination of guile and finely-tuned man management skills has helped mould an assortment of teenagers to sexagenarians into a well-oiled (well, Grant, usually) outfit that is improving with each game.
The Corinthians assembled for the first time in mid-March, a motley crew that thought warming up was applying Factor 4 oil on their fast receding hairlines and being able to bend forwards and touch their thighs. An early rule was for a player to raise a hand if he/she wanted to come off due to injury or exhaustion. Within five minutes of that first fixture, seven hands shot up around the pitch as bodies battled with the equatorial climate after years of idleness and/or abuse. It looked like it would be a long season …
The early form was mixed to disappointing – seven defeats in the first eight games -- but, creditably, heads did not drop and the squad grew both in stature and numbers as word spread.
A turning point came in July, when the Corinthians lined up against Singapore Newcastle Supporters Club. A classic attacking game developed and the 6-6 final score was a fair reflection of a tremendous battling team spirit that was rapidly evolving. That game seemed to trigger an "I want to be part of that" attitude, and the squad grew to more than 25, giving the management team a weekly selection headache that English Premier League managers can only dream about.
The Corinthians’ results have steadily improved as the team has gelled, newcomers have pitched in and a capable side has emerged, with a tropical blend of pace and youth and experience and maturity. The team can boast father-and-son, mother-and-son and dad-and-daughter combinations, fomenting filial bonding and highlighting the social soul of what the Corinthians is all about.
The Corinthians welcomes players from the age of 14, and feisty, play-anywhere Scot, Tom Rae, proves there is no upper age limit. His half-time pep talks may need some simultaneous translation, but there’s no doubting his commitment. Teenage talent Becky Pardey recently won a merited Man of the Match award for her tenacious performance in defence against Bulkhaul.
A victim of their own success, the Corinthians have recently ventured into competitive territory, debuting in a local Veterans League, with a requirement to field at least eight players aged over 35 -- not a problem for a squad with an average age of 40+. The fixture list is pretty full, with an occasional week’s break to let aching, ageing limbs recover. The first game, against Agilent Vets, ended 2-2 and it is a measure of how far the team has come when that was seen as a disappointing start.
Please come and support the Corinthians. We’re normally found at 5pm on a Saturday at the pitch on the corner of
The Beautiful Game has helped forge great friendships, raise players to a new level of fitness and brought entertainment to our intrepid spectators. Come along and see it for yourself.
Grant Hall/Ian Geoghegan
(from BC Magazine, March 2008)
In the Grip of the Beautiful Game
What is it exactly that makes a grown man -- usually aged two score and more and in gainful managerial employ -- start to tingle inside from around Wednesday morning, a frisson of excitement and anticipation that grows in intensity through the rest of the week reaching a thumping crescendo of pre-match butterflies on a Saturday morning?
Just what is it about the Beautiful Game that can reduce otherwise sane and normal middle-aged expatriate executives to a throbbing and quivering bundle of nerves? The so-called Andrew Marshall Syndrome can also leave erstwhile businessmen inconsolable at the harsh reality of a postponed weekend game, the mere thought of a football-free Saturday afternoon enough to
bring on a trough of black despair.
Scientists and sociologists have, at this magazine's request, put there heads together and come up with the following five causes.
Football: There is a deep-rooted passion for the game, born in the nostalgia and naivety of the halcyon 1970s -- pre-PC and pre-PlayStation/Wii and even, for some, pre-TV. The days of midweek European matches at an impossibly muddy Baseball Ground, a combative Billy Bremner, sublime Colin Bell and sideburned Ian Hutchison's long throw-ins.
Whole days, no, whole summers, spent at the local Rec in your favourite club's strip -- bought then at some expense, not at knock-off prices from Bangkok street vendors, and often involving a long wait until opening the Christmas stocking, along with a new Subbuteo side -- teaming up with other aimless souls just to kick about for the love of the game.
It was more innocent then, perhaps more wholesome, too, before the vulgar excesses and ugly cynicism of today's multi-billion dollar EPL sportsbusiness. You never entertained the notion that the dodgy bloke in the grubby Mac who "organised" the team may have ulterior motives for spending long, lazy hours with dozens of under-age boys.
It was a time of The Big Match, with Brian Moore, and the weekly vigil for Match of the Day. Schoolboy football followed as a given, moving up to college level, then works teams or occasional, informal kick-abouts.
Careers blossomed, horizons and family units grew, but still the draw of soccer on a Saturday afternoon proved irresistible. New foreign assignments meant a new job, a fresh start ... and a new set of team mates in some far-flung corner of the world, where soccer is the main reserve currency.
The British Club's Soccer Section now boasts several dozen ageing footballers, most of whom fall asleep from midweek through to Friday night dreaming of scoring the winning goal, pulling off the crucial, last-ditch tackle or making a girth-defying flying save that earns the side maximum points at the top of the table.
Saturday night's dreams are more about what might have been.
Camaraderie: Big boys bonding; you can't beat it. Pre-match banter, onfield cussing, post-match, warmdown review, e-mail humour, on-tour "smack talk" ... (Ask Chris Askew. I figured he wanted to deal heroin).
While the Club's two sides rightly are inclusive of the gentler sex, there is something about being part of a team that gets together regularly to play a sport for the love of the game. Add in the annual tour (Bangkok, Phuket, Bali so far), nights at the races, golf days, the annual dinner dance and occasional
drinking evenings, and it is a hotbed for friendships and ties that cross geography, profession and nationality. These are honest ties that stand the test of time. Crossed paths years later will recall, over a refreshing beer or two, goals scored, sitters skied, cards awarded ... all with a tear in the eye, but a smile on the face.
Fitness/Exercise: Our sedentary, air-conditioned lives cry out for a weekly jolt of fresh air to fill polluted lungs and healthy exercise to reinvigorate atrophying muscles. Lives, once threatened by a cramped daily commute, are reborn on this city-state's pleasant pastures green. A good run-out on a
Saturday afternoon is supplemented by a midweek 5-a-side session. Gym memberships flourish, bicycles are bought and bodies, not so long ago destined for the sporting scrapheap, are honed and tanned. A six-pack is no longer just on a shelf at Cold Storage.
BC Soccer Section Members swap fitness tips, gossip about the latest in MetroMan's healthcare products and admire, discreetly of course, fellow players' physiques in the changing rooms.
The defibrilator remains, unpacked, pitch-side during games.
Time Away From Loved Ones: It can be tough for the trailing spouse to traipse around the world for the sake of a partner's career. Expat footballers spend days on the road checking up on divisional performance and local managers in distant jungle zones and drumming up new business from
But it can be argued that this is good for marital harmony and paternal rectitude. For, during Saturday's game, in a hiatus in play, waiting for a corner, or for the ball to be retrieved from a ditch, or for an injured player to recover or ambulance to arrive, individual players spend time alone acknowledging the debt they owe to their nearest and dearest for allowing them this time to play, to bond ... to appreciate just how fortunate they are.
Cultural exchanges: An expat's life is rich and rewarding and, high on the list of those rewards is the opportunity to experience new cultures. While the British Club can be an oasis of Little England in
Backs are slapped, hands are shaken and, on a weekly basis, world peace is brought one tiny step nearer. Where else could ageing Europeans pick up the Korean for someone born out of wedlock, or the Malay for one who indulges in sexual self-gratification.
If you share a passion for the Beautiful Game, want to test yourself in a competitive yet friendly arena, get/keep fit, make friends and enjoy cross-cultural exchanges, contact the Club committee officials. If a full game on a big pitch is too daunting, the BC also meets on Tuesday evenings at the Swiss Club for a lively 5-a-side session.