Friday evening was setting in as the Red Lions assembled at Taoyuan airport for the annual trip over to the City of Angels, to take part in the German All Stars Easter Tournament. A footballing feast was in store for what is undoubtedly the highlight tour of the year. With George having flown in from Los Angeles, the “other” city of angels, it was a shame that other members of the team were not able to join us, being the pussy-whipped husbands that they are. Yes, you know who you are.
Alongside George were Rooney, Paddy, Volker and Mao, the latter 2 having also signed up to play in goal for other teams in the open tournament. And, as fate would have it, also drawn in the same group. There could only be one winner of that match. But we will come to that a little later.
Checking in, we were informed the flight was full so we could not sit together. This is KLM’s way of making sure we don’t have too much of a party and drink all of their Heineken on board. It didn’t work. George managed to get himself upgraded to business class – the joys of having a diplomatic visa – whilst the rest of us got herded in to cattle class. A few drinks and a couple of hours later we were in Bangkok, through immigration faster than you can say “Taipei Red Lions” and off to collect the luggage, waiting for George who had decided to stray off in a different direction for some unknown reason.
SMS’s were sent out to other Lions we were meeting in the City of Angels – Chris Grimaud and Tony Hewitt – to arrange a meet at the hotel for a pre-tournament briefing session. Chris had decided not to attend, as he wanted to be fresh for the game. No such issue though for Tony, and as the taxi arrived at the hotel, Mao for once finding a decent one, close to the nightlife, there he was, beer in hand, watching the football on the outdoor TV.
We checked in, dumped the luggage upstairs, and then waited once more for Volker to join us as we headed out to the bars, just a couple of short minutes walk away. And who did we meet up with? None other than the Hibernians FC from Singapore, with Jim “Shambles” Campbell in tow.
The events of the evening will remain shrouded in secrecy. Want to know what happens, then sign up for the tournament next Easter.
Saturday morning came, and with the Masters Tournament starting at 11, this gave most Lions a good night of rest. However Volker and Mao had both signed up for Open Tournament teams, with the early kick off being their collective punishment. Volker had been picked to play for Olympique Saigon, Mao for a Chiang Mai team – Premiership Football Academy. So the 2 Lions keepers headed over to Patana School, arriving on time, finding their collective teams and getting ready for kick off.
Olympique were one of the tournament favourites, PFA one of the favourites to be whipping boys. However, this is not the place for your humble chronicler to bore the readers with details of the open tournament.
The Red Lions managed to turn up just about on time for the Veterans tournament, and with Ralf “General Mladic” Zielinski out injured, the Lions searched out a couple of other players to give us a full squad. Dave “Robots” Roberts from Shane FC was there, as well as a couple of very good other players that we managed to persuade with the promise of a beer waterfall later in the day.
So to the games. First up were the hosts – Bangkok German All Stars, and it was easy. Just like watching Brazil, in fact. Some great combinations in the midfield and attack between Volker, Robots, Grimaud and Rooney were just resplendent to watch, Paddy, Tony and George at the back always secure and not really under too much pressure. The Lions were awake, and playing some sweet football on the 1/2 pitch, and despite dominating the first 11 minutes, could not score, but the second half was more of the same, this time with a goal from Grimaud, and a great start for the Lions.
Next up, a half hour later, were the Phuket Lions, who alas outplayed the Red Lions all game, and could easily have won by more than the one goal that they ended up with, thanks to some good goalkeeping from Mao. Not too downhearted from the defeat, the Lions knew that they were still in with a good shout.
The schedule was done very well, with one game on, then a game break, then game on all day. This gave both Mao and Volker the opportunity to quickly go and play for their respective surrogate teams.
At this point, Mao and Volker headed off to play against each other in the open as Saigon met PFA. The outcome of that game was 1-0, with Mao coming off the pitch 5 minutes before the end to make it in time for the Lions game. Volker, however, showed that his set of priorities was completely screwed by remaining on the pitch for Saigon, turning up late for the Lions kick off. This treacherous act was immediately punished by the Politburo – fined a round of beers which was, it must be said, bought very quickly by Volks, whose team managed a lucky 1-0 victory over PFA (an own goal), Mao working some magical stuff in goal, frustrating the opponents on more than one occasion. If only he could bring that sort of form to the Lions in the BML/CPL seasons.
Singapore All Stars were next and once again, the Lions played some good football, winning 1-0, and having found Fred, one of the Saigon players, to fill in, whose quality was plain to see, it was a case of men against invalids as (I believe) Robots scored the winner with a headed goal.
Off went Mao once more to play for PFA, Volker’s schedule a little less demanding, as he made the second half against Shane FC. And then back immediately after as the Lions took on Kuala Lumpur, whipping boys of the group, in the Lions final match of the day. And what a game – 2-0 up at half time, with Shambles and Grimaud playing some excellent 1-2’s (Shambles too shit scared to take a shot, preferring instead to pass the ball to someone who can actually stick it in the net), and all outfield players supporting each other well. The 4-1 final score line was definitely not flattering to the Lions, who dominated all areas of the pitch. Grimaud got a second goal in the game, Rooney scored, and your humble scribe is not sure who got the other one. It must be said that having played almost 4 hours of football in scorching heat took its toll on this fat, old body of mine.
Volker then headed off to the Saigon game, whilst the remaining Lions headed over to get some beers, and as they did so, the heavens opened, torrential rain pouring down as the last few rounds of games got cancelled, leaving the organisers a headache for the Sunday schedule.
The Lions, being the Lions, decided not to head back to the pool at the hotel, opting instead for the drier alternative of staying at the pitch side and drinking as much beer as was humanly possible. Volker got in his round for Judas-esque behaviour, as the Lions waited for the rains to subside. We found out that the Phuket Lions drew 0-0 with KL (hahahahahaha) which handed top spot in the group to the Red Lions.
Several beers later, the rain slowed down enough for us to head back, evening setting in. The team assembled at a great little Thai market for dinner that evening, with one of the best value dinners you could find. Fried rice, squid, pad thai, curry, chicken with cashew nuts, and many, many beers were brought to the table, as the Lions feasted before heading to Soi Cowboy for some post-match, post-dinner light entertainment.
Sunday saw more of the same from Saturday, with early kick offs for Volker and Mao, the rest of the Lions turning up for their 11:30 kick offs. Alas neither Fred nor Shambles were available to play for the Lions, and with Paddy and Rooney injured, the Lions were down once more to a barebones squad. Volker managed to enrol the services of a couple of other players, one of whom was very good, the other even worse than the Cameroonian player Mao found for the Lions a couple of years ago (and he was shite).
The opening game against Beijing Sexy was a tired affair, and although the Lions were slightly the better team, that cutting edge was lacking, the performance of Grimaud perhaps being the most glaring difference from the day before. Mao made a couple of saves to keep the scores level, but the result was slightly disappointing against last year’s winners.
Mao then went off to play against Carnegies, as they were matched against PFA in the Saucer competition. Having been stuffed comprehensively in pretty much all their games the previous day, Carnegies were not having the best of competitions. Mao was in fine form again for PFA, as the teams drew 1-1, and the game went to penalties. However, as the final whistle blew, Mao reneged on his PFA duties in goal to head over to play for the Lions, showing Judas Volker how to do it, arriving in time for kick off.
Now we were up against the German Old Stars, and after conceding a fairly early goal, the first shot being blocked, the rebound being blasted in past Mao who had covered the blocked shot, the Lions responded well, with another headed goal from Robots to make the final score 1-1.
Carnegies lost 2-0 in penalties to PFA. Mao felt not one little bit of smugness.
So the Lions were now in to the semi finals of the Masters, and with the organisers in disarray over the schedule, we did not know when we were playing. Finally though we found out we were on, and up against Phuket Italians, who had been acting all pretentious all weekend, totally unlike any Italian known to your humble narrator.
We lost 3-0, were lucky to get 0, with some very tired legs on the field for the Lions, the Italians cheating with underage players in their squad, having cheated their way through against the Phuket Lions in their 2nd round group game. True we were outplayed, true the Red Lions did not play well, but our opponents in this instance were really a bunch of Kuntz.
Mao played his final game with PFA, Volker however managed to make it through to the final with Saigon, ending up as a runner up in the penalty shoot out. Mao, also made it to a penalty shoot out in the final game, saving 2 penalties. Mao – like Volker – still managed to lose the shoot out.
We were scheduled to play a 3rd-4th place play off, but decided against it to save time for the organisers, as the competition was running seriously late. Our opponents whined, like the bunch of girls they are, not accepting the Lions kind offer of a penalty shoot out. Tossers.
After several more ice cold frothy beers, waiting – you understand – for Volker, the remaining Lions sat and told stories, laughing, and proud of the way the team had played.
That evening we headed out for Indian, the restaurant chosen not bringing the best culinary delights known to man, before moving on to Cowboy once more to watch the football (what else is there to do in Soi Cowboy?).
Mao and Volker – tired having played around 14 hours of football between them during the weekend – headed off to get some more food, ending up at the Queen Vic pub for what was without doubt one of the best Thai curries of all time, before heading back to the Tai Pan Hotel where your humble chronicler, for one, crashed and fell immediately in to a deep, dream-filled sleep.
After some early morning shopping with Rooney the following day, we assembled at hotel reception, leaving Paddy behind for his family holiday, as the 4 of us jumped in to a taxi, arguing over the price of the fare to the airport, and headed back. One final awesome cup of coffee inside Suvarnabumi airport, and jumping on to the plane as final call was made.
Easter in Asia is all about the Bangkok tournament, and this year was as good as any your humble narrator has been on. The city, the tournament, the food, the entertainment… just does not get old.
The Lions thank all those who turned up to play for us, except that Saigon guy who was crap. Chris Grimaud had an exceptional day Saturday, Robots was solid and ended up with 2 excellent goals (both scored with his head!), Hewitt was strong at the back and George… well George was George.
And like all good Lions, we’re looking forward to the German All Stars Easter Tournament 2012.