The Farewell Tour. The Farewell Tournament Report.

This was, without doubt, a Red Lions tour of global proportions. Players flew in from all over the place to gather in Bangkok for this annual pilgrimage to the Footballing Holy Grail. George the Hippy flew in from Santa Monica, taking time out from his dope smoking friends at the wife swapping commune to indulge in a trip down Memory Lane. Jan-Hendrik “Team Player” Meidinger flew in from Guam. Paddy the Monk, back to his glorious former self, ambled in from England, as did Hewitt, with Olaf flying in from Dresden. Olaf’s wife/gf/partenaire de vie took the shortest route over from Cebu Island, with all other Lions assembling at various times and dates flying in from Taiwan. Except Grimaud, of course, who already lives in Bangkok.

The pitches were not quite in the pristine condition that we are usually treated to, but given the state of Bai Ling pitches this last BML season, your humble chronicler is in no position to whinge. As the taxis arrived at the Patana School pitches, the tinge of excitement surged through the Lions collectively, everyone seemingly up and ready for the 2013 tournament.

For the record, the Lions squad consisted of:

Andy the Bear
Paddy the Monk
Jan-Hendrik “Team Player” Meidinger
Mirko the Carp
Tim “Brutus” Brown
George the Hippie
Chris Grimaud
Pablo the Confused
And your Humble Narrator

Traditionally, the Red Lions are slow starters, never scoring more than one goal in the opening match, usually shaking off hangovers and unwanted ladyboys instead of switching focus to the football. But not this time. The Red Lions – up against Schwerzenbach from Switzerland – raced out of the blocks, with French Chris putting the Lions in to a 1-0 lead by the end of the first half.

The second half was more one way traffic as Tim “Brutus” Brown rose like a Gordon Ramsay soufflé and scored with his head, taking out the goalkeeper in the process, and with the final touch of the game, Andy the Bear secured the bonus point. Bonus point? Oh yes, for the first time in Lions history, a bonus point was gained in Bangkok. Get in!

Shortly after came Hanoi Drink Team, and this was most definitely not a one way match. Thankfully though French Chris put the Lions in to the lead, scoring the only goal of the game. Mao in goal was finally brought in to action, making a decent save to his left from a free kick after the ref awarded a nothing free kick – must have been out of sympathy.

The third game of the day was against Wanchai from HK, and it was not the Red Lions finest performance of the day. And that is putting it mildly. The Lions were given no time to settle on the ball, and there was a distinct lack of movement from the players which – given the heat and the collective age of the Lions – was perhaps understandable, but being shut down at every opportunity meant that the ball was simply handed to the opposition and the Lions got stuffed 3-0, despite the best efforts of Mirko the Carp in midfield.

Still, the Lions were not too downhearted, and knew that a point against the Farangutans would secure 2nd place in the group, and a quarter final line up the following day.

Andy the Bear was having issues hydrating himself, despite a steady flow of Gatorade. Jan-Hendrik left his bandana out to dry, claiming it was from the sweat from running around in the Wanchai game, although the empty water bottle he tried to hide was a bit of a giveaway.

Given the amount of Germans in the squad, Paddy the Monk was in his element, regaling tales of Dresden and other such wartime ditties. George the Hippie was just relaxing, closing his eyes and thinking of Santa Monica. Tony Hewitt for once decided not to talk about his dog, but his investments in Cyprus were picked up as the topic for the afternoon.

In fine spirits then, the Lions headed on to the pitch for the final match of the day, with the Carnegies team watching from the sidelines. And within just a couple of minutes French Chris had scored one, and then two to give the Lions a seemingly unassailable lead at half time.

But the second half saw a resurgence from the Farangutans, and perhaps the Lions were tiring but all in all a stirring comeback was experienced, with 2 goals scored in the last 2 minutes. Still the Lions held out for the draw which secured a place in the cup competition on the Sunday.

Beers flowed.

In the evening, all the Red Lions with one exception (can you guess who it was?) assembled at the fine open air place that has become the tradition for Red Lions Saturday dinners over recent years. Even Mrs Mao and the Noodles joined in the evening feast.

Sunday morning came around, with whispers of interesting night time activities for various Red Lions, which of course will not be repeated here. For achieving 2nd place the Red Lions were rewarded with a 9 AM kick off, which may once more have affected some player’s thinking. TB, Pablo and Mirko the Carp for some reason all took separate taxis, with the drivers all getting lost on the way. This left the remaining squad a tad threadbare for the opener against Beijing Sexy.

But French Chris had had a good night of sleep, and was truly refreshed, ready to pounce. So he did. In the first minute. Scoring his 5th goal of the tournament, Beijing were shellshocked. But they steadily worked their way back in to the game, but found Paddy the Monk, George the Hippie and Tony the Cypriot Banker solid in defence. And on the most rare occasion that they got past this veritable Great Wall, your humble scribe was alert and in no mood to let in any goals. Not just yet anyway. Despite being outplayed, the first minute screamer from French Chris was enough to put the Lions in to the semi finals against FC Farang (not to be confused with the Farangutans).

With the taxis now having arrived, the Lions were up to full strength, and ready for the challenge of the semi final. Alas this did not go according to plan, and a combination of Mao and Volker led to the first goal, Mao also perhaps at fault for the second, although he was whining that he was taken from behind (oo-err missus). And by this time the damage was done. A third was to follow before half time, as the Lions failed to put in a performance that was worthy of a semi final.

The call at half time from Andy the Bear was that a Lions goal could change it around. But if we concede again, “we’re fucked”.

For the first few minutes of the second half it was the Lions who put in more fight, a good combination in the middle of the field looking strong and passing the ball nicely, Chris or TB up front, with the rolling subs, looking to shoot and put the Lions back in with a shout. But despite this pressure, Farang counter attacked and the Lions were fucked. 4-0 then.

Except the Lions had the last laugh – right on the final whistle Chris got his 6th of the tournament, unofficially golden boot winner, to provide some Red Lions pride.

With a wait now of several hours before the 3rd/4th play off, the Lions decided they wanted to drink beer, so offered Vietnam Reunited who similarly got stuffed in their semi final penalty shots to decide the game, thus leaving more drinking time. Mao’s cunning strategy worked as they accepted, and immediately both teams went to the organizers who said no problem, and there was a field free for an immediate penalty shoot out.

The Vietnamese were up first, your humble chronicler facing the first penalty. Mao dived a tad too early and went under the ball, but was actually watching, stuck out his hand and knocked it over the bar.

Tim “Brutus” Brown, the man who has missed more penalties for the Red Lions than the Red Lions have actually had penalties was first up. Trying to make up for his incredible, infamous penalty miss of 2006, he blasted the ball in to the net, 1-0 Lions.

Mao, incredibly, saved the next one too, with a low dive to his left.

Up next was George who scored with a mellow, very calm and collected penalty. 2-0.

The Vietnamese hit the bar with their 3rd, leaving Hewitt under pressure knowing that he could score the winning penalty.

Hewitt then went and missed.

Vietnam responded by scoring their 4th penalty, but had to hope that Mirko the Carp would miss, or that the keeper would be more Mao-esque. He didn’t, and he wasn’t.

Up stepped the Carp, boom shanka – in the back of the net, the Lions won 3-1, and immediately started drinking beers.

Well – what did you expect?

And with that, another fantastic Bangkok Tournament came to an end for most Lions, although some went on to play for Carnegies Ancient Team in the Masters Tournament.

On a personal note, I would like to thank every single player who was in the Lions squad for this epic tournament. I like to think that everyone got enough playing time, and everyone played their heart out. There was a fantastic team spirit all weekend, great weather, great food, great banter!

To those who came from so far away, thanks so much for supporting the Lions at all times. It’s people like that who make the Taipei Red Lions the best team in Taiwan.

And with that, your humble chronicler bows out.

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Taipei Red Lions – the Farewell Tour

It is probably no coincidence that one year after the GAS Easter Tournament was started, the Taipei Red Lions were formed. In a small pub, our founding fathers sat around a table, beers in hand, spouting the usual bollocks about how good they are at football, and thus began the oldest ex-pat team in Taipei. Thirty years later, the Lions are still going strong, testament to the fine spirit that has flowed through the veins of all Red Lions throughout the years. And still talking bollocks about their exceptional footballing skills.

Many Red Lions at this year’s Bangkok tournament are familiar faces, having played at this fine competition many times (many more times than they will admit to their wives). It is the one tournament away from Taiwan that has become deeply rooted in Red Lions history. Every year we make the pilgrimage to the holy land, superbly confident that this is the year we take the Masters trophy home. Although we are yet to achieve that goal, our confidence is still to be shaken. Perhaps it is the permanently high levels of alcohol in our blood stream which make our firmness of opinion unwavering, or perhaps it is the fact that this year we have simply slipped a nice amount of Baht to the referees committee. Should the whistle be blown for no apparent reason and a penalty awarded to the Lions, then you’ll know it was the latter.

In our thirtieth year so too comes transition. Veteran of the team’s finances, Paddy the Monk, has stepped down from his role within the Red Lions Politburo, and this tournament also sees the last action of Chairman Mao, before he steps down from the position he perceives as being just one level below that of God. Quite honestly most Red Lions will be pleased to see the back of him, having brought in a culture of fining a round of beer to anyone for no specific reason whatsoever, and the constant accusations of corruption within the Lions have been on a par with the talk about Lance Armstrong’s stash. We’re just hoping that there will not be another Oprah interview.

So, the Red Lions squad for the Red Lions 30th Anniversary Farewell Tour:

Chairman Mao: goalkeeper with Teflon gloves
Jan-Hendrik Meidinger: defender/attacker with a mean temper. Don’t make him angry
Andy “the Bear” Rooney: midfielder/attacker, who makes a dynamo look positively powerless
Paddy “the Monk” O’Sullivan: defender, always happiest playing beer in hand football
Mirko “the Carp” Messner: midfielder, the man who has never smiled. At least, there are no reliable witnesses
Volker Nagel: midfielder/goalkeeper, the only efficient Red Lion
Chris Grimaud: midfielder, locally imported to Thailand, but through and through Red Lion
Charles Watson: defender, assuming he remembers his passport this year
Tony Hewitt: defender, supporter of Man United and MK Dons. Although why he would admit to either is a mystery.

But don’t worry Bangkok. Just because this is the Farewell Tour doesn’t mean we’ve gone off the radar. We’ll be back next year to defend our title. No matter what title we win.

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Lions end season on a high with victory over Mitsukoshi

The Taipei Red Lions saw out the Mao era with another victory to end the season in 2nd place after Taipei City forfeited their game in valiant pussy fashion against Hong Min. Unless Hong Min loses by 17 goals to Fritz in their final game, they are champions. Thanks to City for not even putting up a fight, giving the BML less than 24 hours notice before requesting a cancellation of the game. Classy. Fickle nobends.

As the Lions assembled at the Bai Ling A pitch for the last time this BML season, the pitch being rolled, for what it was worth, the dust being compacted, only to be rechurned in to dust as the match was played, the mood was a little sombre. Some news had already filtered through about City’s toothlessness, and there were also several last minute absentees, including Clovis and Ginger Elvis.

For the record, the starting lineup was:

Genghis, Christian, Bryan and Greig as the back four, with Mirko the Carp, Joliet James, Darren, Jimmy Glass and Fred in the middle with Panda up front. Your humble chronicler, making his last BML appearance for the Lions, was in goal.

On the bench were Tetsu, Thomas, Kim Sun Il and Francois.

The Lions were in no mood to give the opponents any time or space as they rushed in to the game with controlled aggression, making some fine tackles and passing movements. After just 2 minutes they thought that they had taken the lead but Joliet James was flagged offside by the linesman, so the goal did not count.

It did not seem to matter though as Mitsukoshi’s defence was hounded continually, and as such was bound to make mistakes. And this is exactly what happened after less than ten minutes, as Jimmy Glass chased down his defender, stole the ball and tonked in to the penalty area unopposed. As the Mitsukoshi keeper came to close the angle, he unleashed a power shot low in to the far corner of the goal to put the Lions in to a 1-0 lead.

And the Lions were not stopping there – the midfield worked hard to hassle the opponents, trying to build on this lead and put the game to bed. The Lions midfield was working hard, laying off passes and moving in to space for the return ball, tirelessly searching for a way through the Mitsukoshi defence.

The knowledge that another 15 goals could secure the title did not really help though, and slowly Mitsukoshi also worked their way in to the game, playing on the counter with the pretentious, precocious twat of a number 29 up front leading the way, still needing his gloves in the arctic temperatures of – errrr – 27 degrees.

The Lions passing did become a little more erratic, and the precision that the Lions had seen in the opening encounters seemed to go AWOL as the half wore on. Having said that, Christian was whipping in some superb crosses from corners and free kicks, the most tempting of which was headed over by Darren when you really would have expected him to score. Perhaps he was trying to be like Bryan from the previous week by missing the target from point blank range. This miss could also explain why he decided not to turn up at Frankies afterwards, the knowledge that a fine of a round would be coming his way was something he needed to escape from. Or perhaps he just wanted to go home to watch Scotland lose to Wales at Hampden.

At the back, Bryan and Greig seemed not to have the same sort of level of understanding and communication as perhaps any combination of Charles, Ant the Mamil, Jose and Kim Sun Il would have had, but they still managed to deal with anything that the Mitsukoshi attack threw their collective way, the Red Lions keeper not really brought in to action except for some very basic stuff (which many will agree is more than enough for the man with the Teflon gloves).

Genghis and Christian were also getting in to wide positions to make sure that there was always a passing option available to the defenders and midfielders as the Lions pushed for another goal which would put to an end – they hoped – any thoughts of a resurgence by Mitsukoshi. And despite having so much of the ball, the Red Lions just could not find a way past the opposition keeper, with many players guilty of missing chances, hitting the ball wide or high when perhaps there was more time to compose a shot than they had realised.

In the midfield, Fred was getting in some strong, fair tackles, winning the ball and laying it off for Panda or Joliet James to run on to, but there seemed a little misunderstanding here too from time to time, the passer not anticipating the run and passing to no-one in particular, or anticipating a run that did not come, and thus laying off the ball directly to Mitsukoshi’s most grateful defenders.

So as half time arrived, the Lions could not build on the lead, but were looking comfortable all the same.

There were no half time words of wisdom from anyone, so we’ll cut immediately to the second half.
Essentially it was more of the same as the Lions pushed forwards, but the referee seemed to be a little strange in the second half, giving fouls against the Red Lions for the most innocuous of challenges. It almost seemed like someone had had a word in the ref’s shell like at half time, and suggested that he blew his whistle a little more often against the Lions. And fouls which would normally be given to the Lions, such as a blatant push off the ball, were simply waved on.

With perhaps a quarter of an hour played in the second hald, Greig was penalised for a nothing challenge just outside the box. With the wall nicely in place, the free kick came in, Mao failing to deal with it despite having a clear view of the ball at all times. Despite getting a touch, the ball went in for an undeserved equaliser.

Mitsukoshi now seemed to be fully content with a point and sat back a little, allowing the Lions to push forwards, as they looked for a winner. Kim Sun Il, Francois, Thomas and Tetsu all came on, pushing Bryan forwards but still the lack of passing precision hindered the Lions. But as has been shown all throughout this season, the Lions just don’t stop fighting and they pushed and pushed, and just when you thought that perhaps this time the Lions had left it too late, that there were no scraps left for the Lions, up pops Panda who – and I am sure he will admit this himself – had not had the best of games until that moment, turning on a $1 coin to slide the ball home out of reach of the outstretched Mitsukoshi keeper to give the Lions a 2-1 lead with just seconds left to play.

Mitsukoshi had no answer, the Lions gained possession once more and played down the clock as the season came to an end. The final position of 2nd is the best that the Lions have had since we won the competition in 1997, many years before the vast majority of current Lions players joined the team. So some fantastic results and performances, victories over City and Fritz, and a “close but no cigar” moment with the title.

And with this BML match report, your humble chronicler bows out of Red Lions league football action, and my role as Chairman comes to an end. It has been an amazing 11 years as a Red Lion, and the last 4 and a half as chairman have been most rewarding. It has been a privilege to run this team, and I hope that I pass it on in a better condition than when I took over.

I would like to leave you with these words, paraphrasing the legendary Brian Clough:

I wouldn’t say I am the best chairman the Red Lions have ever had…but I am in the top one.

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Lions maul Rogue FC in the final round 1 encounter

If ever there was a time to get over a poor performance, this was it. The Lions came in to the match against Rogue FC after a miserable and abject performance against Fritz. Indeed that was such a poor collective showing that not even a match report could be written that would come close to describing the game without thoroughly demoralizing the team for all eternity.

The Pitch of Darkness at Bai Ling, where half the floodlights are broken, and the other half point anywhere but the goal areas, was the scene of the resurrection of the Red Lions, against the team led by former Red Lion, the Gay Judas Polack. With the game being played on a Thursday night, both teams seemed to be struggling slightly for numbers, but for the Lions it was a case of quality over quantity, with the starting line up consisting of:

Christian “Scrachi” Peluso, Kim Sun Il, Jose and Genghis “Edwin” Khan in defence, Irn Bru Daz, Mirko the Carp, Andy the Bear, Fred and Spike in midfield, with Joliet James up front on his own. Your humble chronicler once more was in goal. On the bench, Mora and TB were ready and raring to come on.

In an interesting turn of events, the Gay Judas Polack managed to play because the BML ref had taken the wrong number down in the previous game when handing out yellow cards. Ant, whose appeal by the Red Lions was – in typical local fashion – completely ignored by the BML, after being yellow carded against Fritz for a tackle that the referee later acknowledged to be perfectly legitimate, was still suspended. Oh those joys of irony from the BML.

Kick off then, and the Lions showed their hand, to change sporting metaphors for a moment, immediately, giving the Rogues no time whatsoever to settle on the ball. Fair, but firm challenges were raining in from all players, as the Lions pinned down the opposition in their own half. When the ball was cleared, the respite was merely temporary, with the Lions mopping up at the back like a man in a restaurant would mop up gravy with his last morsel of bread. Nothing was going to get through. Not tonight. The Lions were possessed, eager to atone for Sunday, the smell of revenge in their collective nostrils. And Rogue FC was the prey.

In the centre of midfield, Scottish Terrier Irn Bru Daz was staking his claim to be the first Red Lion to cover every single blade of grass and every single speck of dust on both Bai Ling pitches, never seeming to tire, and shutting down the entire Rogue midfield almost singlehandedly. In fact, some could be tempted to say that he is more TB-esque than TB himself.

On the right wing, Fred was having one of his finer games, always looking for the ball and laying off an intelligent, simple pass, to feet or in to space so that Joliet James or whoever could run on to it. He and Scrachi Peluso were working together very nicely along the right, any casual observer would be thinking this Italo-Swedish combination had come straight from the catwalks of Milan or Stockholm.

Up front, Joliet James responded to some post-Fritz match accusations that he had not run enough by working his socks off, running on to any ball played forwards on the flank, and putting the opposing defence under the sorts of pressure that had seen the Lions undefeated until the previous encounter.

Despite the dominance, the Lions could not find their way past an inspired Rogue goalkeeper who made a string of fine saves to thwart the Lions attack, palming a ball over for a corner, or making one superb outstretched save when it looked as if the ball had gone past him.

But for all his fine work, Rogues were always on the back foot in the first half, the only action of note at the other end being a blocked shot by Kim Sun Il which had been struck ferociously, the Red Lions defender’s positioning absolutely spot on.

Genghis was also having a good game at left back, getting in some excellent tackles, and not allowing the Rogue winger in to any dangerous positions. In fact, having seen his performance on Sunday, the Lions defence was exceptionally wary of letting the ball anywhere near their goalkeeper, your humble chronicler making only one relatively simple save during the course of the first half.

The Lions pushed though, wanting to make this dominance count, and with perhaps a quarter of an hour left in the first half, the breakthrough came. Having won another corner after some excellent all round attacking work, the ball was floated in to the 18 yard box with pinpoint precision by Andy the Bear, where Irn Bru Daz rose like a Scottish farmed salmon to power a header past the hapless keeper for a fully deserved 1-0 Lions lead.

After taking the lead, the Lions were on the back foot for a couple of minutes as Rogues tried desperately to get back in to the game, but the Lions defence held firm, the improvisational back four standing firm to deny any goal scoring opportunity for their opponents. And gradually the Lions gained possession, and momentum, and once more the pendulum swung in the Lions’ direction, the pressure once more being mounted on the Rogues’ goal.

Yet for all the pressure, the Lions were unable to build on the slender advantage, and half time arrived with a slender 1-0 lead for the Lions, and both teams knowing that this game was still far from over.

Jose needed to come off, and was replaced by TB which meant that Mirko needed to drop in to defence for the 2nd half. Kim Sun Il mentioned that the Rogues had also brought on a sub up front, a player whose talent was his speed. And this was plainly seen within seconds of the restart, as the ball made its way in to the Lions penalty area, only for the aforementioned Rogues player to zoom through all the defenders and find his way to the ball. Thankfully his way to goal was blocked, so he was pushed wide, the danger being cleared finally by the Lions defenders.

For the first ten minutes of the second half, it seemed like the Rogues were the hungrier team, perhaps buoyed by the fact that the Lions had only scored one when in truth they should have been out of sight by the break. Yet the Lions, now kicking against the wind, gradually fought their way back in to the game, winning possession by a truly possessed midfield that just would not lay down. Tirelessly the entire outfield team fought for the ball, hustling for everything, pressuring and making sure that the opponents made mistakes.

But once more there was a lack of harmony within the team. Perhaps this slender lead just edging the Lions tempers enough. Mao sliced a drop kick direct to the opposing attacker, Mirko the Carp shouting out “Concentrate”. Thankfully the ball made its way back to the Lions keeper, and the next drop kick went way over Mirko the Carp’s head.

Shortly afterwards, Joliet James made a comment in his famous Sicilian dialect to Christian “Scrachi” Peluso, and whereas it was obvious to most that he meant to say “don’t worry Christian – the next one will be fine”, he mis-spoke ever so slightly, the translation instead coming across as “You paesano son of an Albanian whore”.

Needless to say, Scrachi was slightly upset at this.

Immediately after this confrontation, the Lions had a goal kick. Mao asked Scrachi to take it. Scrachi, the paesano son of an Albanian whore, refused. Mao took the kick.

Miraculously, whereas the kick itself was nothing truly special, it did actually make its way to Irn Bru Daz, who in turn passed it out to the right wing, where the ball landed at Fred’s feet, he went past his defender, played the ball in to Joliet James who tonked the ball past the hapless keeper, giving the Lions a 2-0 lead, and a bit of a cushion.

And still Rogues did not capitulate like they did against Hong Min. Instead they came out fighting, and put the Lions under pressure once more. They forced a series of corners, the Gay Judas Polack deciding that the weakest link in the Lions defence was the goalkeeper (God knows who told him that State secret), so he put the ball on the Lions number 17. Three times he tried, three times the Lions keeper punched to safety or caught the ball. Yea, how do you fecking like that you Judas tosser?

Somewhere along the line, El Frijolero had come on, and I have no idea who he replaced, but anyway this is not relevant.

With just a few minutes left to play, the Lions played some more sweet possession football, and finally the ball made it through the middle to El Frijolero who scored an absolute stunner. If his winner against Peacock a few weeks previously had been a tad fortunate, then this was anything but. The shot was hit so beautifully, it curled, it dipped, it looped over the keeper and in to the net. 3-0 and a truly unassailable lead. Rogues resistance was now completely broken, and there was no more action of note at the Red Lions end. Actually, there was also no more action of note anywhere, with Rogues not offering anything, and the Lions now knowing the game was done and dusted.

It really was a team performance to rival the one which saw the Lions beat Peacock a few weeks earlier and one which would definitely have those watching (not that there was anyone) worrying about how to beat them. The ghost of Fritz games past had been put to rest, the Lions were back, and the rehashed joke about the Rogues (see post passim) could once more be circulated.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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Preliminary Rogue report

TAIPEI TIMES (AP) – A seven-year-old boy was at the centre of a Taipei courtroom drama yesterday when he challenged a court ruling over who should have custody of him. The boy has a history of being beaten by his parents and the judge initially awarded custody to his aunt, in keeping with child custody law and regulations requiring that family unity
be maintained to the degree possible.

The boy surprised the court when he proclaimed that his aunt beat him more than his parents and he adamantly refused to live with her. When the judge then suggested that he live with his grandparents, the boy cried out that they also beat him.

After considering the remainder of the immediate family and learning that domestic violence was apparently a way of life among them, the judge took the unprecedented step of allowing the boy to propose who should have custody of him. After two recesses to check legal references and confer with child welfare officials, the judge granted temporary custody to Rogue FC whom the boy firmly believes are incapable of beating anyone.

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Last minute Frijolero fluke secures vital victory

A last minute goal that bobbled over the goalkeeper capped off an excellent all-round team performance from the Red Lions against a cheating, diving Peacock team that lacked any kind of ideas when it came to not blatantly trying to cheat their way to a free kick around the Lions penalty area.

Despite the absence of many players including Fred, Panda, Ichi the North Korean Border Guard, Jimmy Glass, Andy the Bear, Ginger Elvis, Joliet James and the only gay in the village, 16 Red Lions still turned up, the majority of them on time, with the exception of Scrachi Peluso whose tardiness was rewarded with a place on the bench. Those who arrived on time and started were:

Ant the Mamil and Genghis “Edwin” Khan as full back, with Kim “Token Black” Sun Il and Jose Roberto in the centre. The midfield 4 comprised of Mirko the Carp and Godfather in the middle, with Salah and Darren on the wings, and Tim “Brutus” Brown and Alonso up front. Your humble chronicler was in his regular position, wedged in between the sticks. On the bench were Greig, ready for his BML debut (oh – you think?), Sergay, Spike, Mora, Charles and Scrachi.

The lack of original ideas from the Lions opposition was evident from kick off, as they attempted a very poor shot on goal which went very, very wide. From the resulting goal kick, expertly taken by Jose, it was clear that the Lions were the hungrier team for the win, with Darren on the left shutting down the opposition and getting in some hard yet fair and well timed tackles in. Mirko the Carp was given a surprising amount of time in the middle, which he took full advantage of with some excellent short passes to Godfather, Darren, TB and Alonso.

TB was making sure that the Peacock defence had no time to settle, as the Lions took advantage of the short pitch to pressure the opponents at all times. Alonso saw a lot of the ball as well, and attempted a couple of pile drivers to test the goalkeeper, alas not hitting the target with them. On the right wing, Salah was combining well with Ant the Mamil, calmly bringing the ball from a defensive position to a more attacking one smoothly, then laying off a series of nice passes and crosses.

Despite the pressure on the Peacock defence, they were still able to break quickly on occasions, playing a long ball out side where the attacker sneaked past Kim Sun Il with only the keeper to beat. Thankfully Mao had narrowed the angle and got a decent enough touch on the ball as the attacker tried to slot it under the Lions keeper, Ant launching the ball to safety on the rebound.

At the other end, the Lions got a corner from the left wing, against the wind, so it was slightly surprising to your humble narrator that all the Lions attackers lined up at the far post. It was considerably less surprising, however, when Darren’s corner kick did not make it to the far post thus allowing the Peacock defensive team to clear.

There was one moment of indecision from TB, as Godfather called for the ball in the middle of the Lions half, only for TB to play the ball directly to the Peacock attacker who gratefully accepted before once more the Lions defence could regain possession and clear their lines. Strangely enough, Godfather decided to punish this one error, taking TB off the pitch shortly afterwards, and replacing him with Scrachi.

Peacock were not without their danger though, and a series of corners were won, although Peacock tried the same tactic every time of an in-swinger straight to the keeper. Perhaps the Peacock team was trying to play on the fact that the Lions keeper is crap with crosses at the best of times, yet still the ball was punched to safety and even – on one occasion – caught cleanly.

At the other end, only some intense defending prevented the Lions from opening the scoring, with at least three attempts on goal being blocked by a resolute Peacock defence, the ball finally being launched in to the Keelung River by Alonso.

Towards the end of the half, Darren was harshly penalized for winning the ball in the fairest of ways with an excellent yet hard tackle. The cries of “Ai!” by the player and – your humble scribe may well be forgiven for accusing – the Peacock trainer were heeded by the referee who looked like he might well change his shirt to a blue one for the second half.

Despite having most of the play, the Lions were unable to make the breakthrough by half time, Godfather giving the instruction during the interval to keep going, stay as we are.

Yet this was not possible as immediately after the break the Peacock trainer decided he did not like Godfather’s stitch work on Salah’s shirt, the 34 looking a little like… well… a 34, but let’s be honest, when you’re clutching at straws, then any straw will do. The referee decided – not for the first, nor indeed last time – that he agreed with the Peacock trainer, and so sent Salah off to get the number fixed.

Upon his return, the linesman thought that the number was ok, but the referee was still a puppet of the Peacock management regime, and used his FBI-esque communications equipment to convey to the aforementioned linesman that Salah could have ironed on an impeccable silk-lined number 34 on the back of his shirt, but he was still not coming on. So a 2nd Lions substitution was needed, Mora coming on in what would turn out to be a truly inspired choice. Scrachi dropped to the wing, leaving El Frijolero and Alonso up front.

Still the Lions pushed forward, winning possession and given a huge amount of time in the centre of the park. This gave the combination of Godfather and Mirko the Carp plenty of time to pick out the pass, either to the attack or out to the wing. Scrachi Peluso was getting nicely involved, making runs down the wing and inter-linking nicely with Mora and Alonso. Darren on the left was showing his highland terrier pedigree by not allowing anything on the left hand side of the pitch to go unchased, all the pressure now being exerted on the Peacock team which looked like it was going to capitulate at any given moment.

In one Lions attack, there were several intricate passes, with the ball finally being played to Alonso’s feet, the Lions attacker almost cracking the crossbar with a ferocious drive which – had it been a couple of centimetres lower – would have given the Lions a fully deserved lead. As it was though, the ball bounced down back in to the six yard area, before being cleared by the defence.

Midway through the half, a blatant foul on Godfather was conveniently given TO Peacock, before the referee changed his mind, obviously so used to blowing everything for the team in blue. Shortly after this, Alonso seemed through on goal just outside the area but was pulled back, the referee having no option but to give the Lions a free kick in a very dangerous position. Godfather’s attempt at a shot on goal ended up with a ball being lost in the car park.

Peacock was now relying on their usual “let’s dive around the penalty area and see if we can get a free kick” tactics, the referee being sucked in on more than several occasions by the blatant – that is blatant if you’re anyone but a Taiwanese referee – cheating. The Lions though had finally, after several failed attempts, worked out how to form a wall, and keep the opposition from taking a quickie. And from each free kick, the danger was cleared easily.

However there was one moment of danger where an in-swinger against the wind was hoisted in to the air, the ball bringing out what some have described as a “world class” save from the Lions keeper, as he tipped it over the bar for a corner. Your humble chronicler is much too humble to call it world class, but is not so humble that he is going to argue with the description.

Charles replaced the injured Jose at the back, heading to the right back position with Ant the Mamil being drafted in to the centre of defence with Kim Sun Il. Immediately Charles was penalised for a tackle which looked harmless enough, and shortly afterwards both he and Ant the Mamil were incensed by the referee’s decision to give a free kick just outside the area for the most innocuous of challenges.

Ant suggested to the player on the floor that he was a cheating, diving tosser, which somehow aggravated one of the Peacock’s midfielders, the referee jumping in between them before a fight ensued. The resulting free kick went straight in to the well-placed Lions wall, and – after a little scrappy defending – was cleared to safety.

Time was now running out, and the game looked like it could be heading for a goalless encounter, but there would be a twist in the tale. A Peacock attack through the middle was snuffed out by a strong Kim Sun Il tackle who then calmly played the ball up to Godfather who in turn laid a pass in to the path of El Frijolero’s run. As Mora ran inside his defender, Ant the Mamil was heard – with the most precise of calls – to shout “come on Mora, do some something special… one last time!”, a cryptic message if ever there was one, a distinct lack of clarity as to what “one last time” meant, yet it somehow seemed to work its magic.

El Frijolero cut inside his player then took what appeared from the location of your humble chronicler to be an extremely tame and most saveable shot, low to the near post of the diving goalkeeper who seemed to have had more than enough time to have it covered. But right at the last second, the ball hit a bobble which took El Frijolero’s shot over the keeper and it trickled in to the net to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. No one will argue that the goal was a touch fortunate, but then again there will be few who could justifiably argue that this goal was in any way undeserved.

Two minutes were all the remained between the Lions and 3 vital points to keep in touch with the league leaders Fritz, yet despite Peacock’s best efforts for diving some more, the referee seemed disinterested, and the Lions were able to play out the final few seconds of the game without any additional drama. Despite the lack of so many regular players, the Lions gave arguably the team performance of the season so far, and this must be a boost to the confidence for the show-down with Fritz.

Greig, who must have been relishing his opportunity to make a first Red Lions BML appearance before kick off, alas was not handed his opportunity, Godfather deciding that the sterling performance shown by himself and Mirko the Carp were just too much. Either that or he could not face the fact that 2 Scots would have been played in one single game.

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On a Mission from God – Red Lions end the run of poor results vs City

“If you say no, then Jake and I will come here for breakfast lunch and dinner, every day of the week.”

Recent history has shown that despite out-playing the opposition, the Red Lions just can’t seem to get a result against the team previously run by the Pikey. Even being 3-0 up a couple of seasons back, we still managed to lose 4-3, the memory of JH’s red card and a spectacular howler by a certain, un-named player still fresh and vivid in the memory. The Lions though, with Joliet James up front, are on a mission from God, and were desperate to stop the rot of successive defeats.

Yet despite being on their home pitch, Bai Ling’s B cow field, without puddles, without rain, without Tim “Brutus” Brown and “the only gay in the Village” Clovis, the Lions would still struggle to contain their opponents, who this season are looking a lot weaker than we have ever seen in the past.

The Lions had been talking this game up all week, and when it looked like City were struggling to even field 11, confidence was high that this was the time when the Lions would roar, and take all the points.

Mr Liu blew the whistle for kick off.

And the Lions, it seemed, fell to sleep.

For the record, the starting eleven were:

Christian “Scrachi” Peluso, Charles, Jose and Genghis. In the middle, Mirko the Carp and Godfather in the centre, with Ichi on the right wing and Jimmy Glass on the left. Up front, Panda paired up with Joliet James. Your humble chronicler, unsurprisingly, was in goal.

“No Sir. Mayor Daley no longer diners here. He’s dead Sir.”

Right from the off, the Lions looked lethargic, disinterested. Dead. Despite all the good intentions of a motivational speech by Godfather and Joliet James before the match, the Lions seemed almost not to have turned up. Not only did the Lions find it difficult to get the ball, when they finally had it, they had absolutely no idea what to do with it, much like Clovis when handed a naked boob.

And so, having celebrated their fill of Christmas spirit at the Fu Bar last weekend, they handed it back, straight to City’s most grateful midfielders.

Within minutes, City had almost opened the scoring, having had the ball gifted to them not for the first, nor indeed the last time today. The Lions midfield and defence seemed to be in disarray, with no organization there, and gave City all the time they needed to rifle in a shot past the statuesque Mao. Thankfully the ball hit the post and rebounded out. Alas it was only as far as Dan. The good news though was that as the shot was a fecking thunderbolt, Dan had no time to react accordingly, and the ball ricocheted off him for a goal kick.

Twenty minutes in to the game, and that was really all that either team had in the way of chances. The Lions defensive line had worked out after the early scare that they needed to close down City’s attack, but the midfield just wasn’t given the opportunity to service and support the attack. Indeed, so many passes were still going astray, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that the ball was a hot stone, which the Lions deemed necessary to hand straight over to City.

As the half wore on though the Lions found some rhythm, Ichi and Scrachi on the right actually stringing passes together, a true source of inspiration in our hour of need.

Joliet James and Panda were now seeing some of the ball, although they still had no clue what to do with it, Dale in the City goal not troubled for the moment.

On the left, Genghis was getting in some crunching tackles, which made him lose his elastoplast. But despite this huge personal loss, valiantly he fought on.

In midfield, Jimmy Glass wasn’t given the space to work his magic, and Mirko the Carp seemed to also be having an off day, his passing not quite the precision one would expect from the German. Probably made in East Germany. It seemed that we missed the magic of Salah in the middle of the park, but as he had turned up (a) late and (b) without boots, he was deemed surplus to requirements, and thus spent the opening period on the bench.

Both Panda and Joliet James spurned gilt edged chances in the latter minutes, Joliet James taking too many chances when he should have just shot the fecking ball, and Panda stretching the City defence but also unable to get the shot away. Dale was becoming the busier of the two goalkeepers, although the Lions were still not firing on all cylinders.

Still the Lions fought on, and by the end of the half had found a certain amount of rhythm that gave them hope for the second half.

“Do you guys know Minnie the Moocher? No, but I once knew a hooker named Minnie Mazola.”

The second half saw more fight from the Lions, with Fred and Mora slowly introduced to the fold, trying to bring a little more to the middle and forward lines. But the Lions were dealt a blow early on as Ichi had to go off injured, the Korean border guard being replaced by Salah.

By now, Dale was being forced in to some saves, and made himself big on a couple of occasions as the Lions once more failed to put the chances away. Joliet James was perhaps the most guilty of all. Not perhaps. Was. Definitely.

“If the shit fits, wear it.”

Although the Lions were still in the driving seat in the second half, Salah was not bringing the sort of width that Ichi had done in the first half, and so many of the plays on the Lions right wing just fizzled out. Fred was fighting hard, chasing down the opponents, winning the ball on more than one occasion, the Swede in a mean festive mood.

Despite all this possession though, it was City who took the lead when they broke quickly and launched a counter attack. With the Lions defence split with a delightful through ball, Alex the Mayan Midget lobbed the Lions keeper who had come out to narrow the angle.

1-0 City, but the Lions were not done.

From what looked like the best move of the game so far by the Lions, some sweet passing along the left wing brought out a fine low save from Dale who put the ball off for a corner when the ball looked destined to go in to the net.

“At least we got a change of clothes sucker – you’re still wearing the same shit you had on three years ago”

City too were still dangerous, and were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Lions penalty area. With the Lions ambling back, and Jimmy Glass not exactly being quick to react to the pretty clear instructions from the Lions keeper (which bit of “left” or “tight together” don’t you understand?), there was one player who did pay attention. Problem was, that player was in a City shirt. In came the quick shot, heading for the far post, the Lions defence not even ready yet.

Thankfully though, despite being described as an “old man on holiday”, it was your humble narrator who pulled off a decent save of his own to keep the score respectable.

“You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so much for you. It saddens and hurts me that two young men whom I raised to believe in The Ten Commandments should return to me as two thieves with filthy mouths and bad attitudes. Get, out and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”

And Mao wasn’t finished there.

“New Oldsmobiles are in early this year”

What the Lions needed from this game was a Christmas miracle. And they got it in the most unexpected fashion. Totally against everything you would expect from the Lions keeper, when City broke and crossed the ball in, Mao actually took the cross. And HELD it. I’ll repeat it for those who can’t quite believe their eyes here. HELD THE FECKING CROSS.

Not only that, he then launched the ball upfield, which was nodded on by Fred to the left wing where Jimmy Glass was in enough space for once, the City defence disorganized completely, which is of course what you would expect with Chappy in the team, and with Dale going walkabout, Jimmy Glass delivered a cross that could tempt the devil himself, and not even Joliet James could miss this open goal. But he tried. The ball hit the back of the net, and the Lions were back in it. Redemption was found.

“What kind of music do you usually have here? We got both kinds – country AND western”

With the game evenly balanced, and both teams going for the win, the final 15 minutes saw the Lions push forwards, City countering but not really endangering the Lions goal. Darren was brought on for his debut in a Lions shirt, and found the game to be a lot different to the one you would play on the rain sodden, windswept fields of Glasgow.

City broke down their left wing, Dan cutting in from the corner flag and looked up for someone to pass to. Unfortunately for him, there was only one player available, and by this time the Lions defence had put him under enough pressure for him to try a speculative cross in to the middle, which was easily lapped up by the Lions and cleared.

Mora, Joliet James, Fred, Jimmy Glass, Salah, all got involved, trying to carve a way through the City defenders to get that winning goal, but were unable to do so.

And back in the Lions half, another dangerous cross was whipped in but another Christmas miracle was happening, as Mao not only called to take the cross, but actually jumped – according to Kim Sun Il who was still observing from the sidelines – 6 inches higher than usual. Which must mean he got 6 inches off the ground. The Lions keeper plucked the ball out of the air, off the head of Calvert who was waiting for the ball to come down to a suitable height for him to nod in for the City winner.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses”

And that was essentially the end of the action. Despite having the Lions share of the ball, and the territorial advantage that goes with it, the Lions could not find that final winning goal, and with just 15 seconds to play, made their final substitution, Kim Sun Il coming on to the pitch as Mr Liu blew for full time. It should be said that not one pass did Kim Sun Il play astray, not one tackle did he miss. A truly awesome, inspirational performance from him.

The Christmas break now kicks in for the Lions, the Fritz game in January being the next fixture, and the Lions can take heart from the performances over the last few weeks. This was the first time the team had been behind, and it took a concerted effort, and a lot of fight to secure the point against the current champions. Despite not being at their best, the Lions showed the spirit that can only come from one place.

We’re on a Mission from God.

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