"Orera ha mada genki de
wakaimono ni ha makezaize!!!"
sweeper of Kanasara FC
My first medal in futsal in my life!
So, the story started a fortnight ago. I got a Facebook message from Lai my junior, inviting me to join their futsal team in the annual MSAJ All-Japan Sports Tournament 2013, organised by the Malaysian Students' Association in Japan (MSAJ). As the organiser's name suggest, this tournament is mainly meant for students, but as the rules stated, it is open to all Malaysians.
It has been many moons since I last kicked a ball, yet alone play a proper futsal game. My stamina level is at its lowest point. Yet, I agreed to join team Kanasara FC for this tournament because I just cannot stop my urge to kick some balls haha. The team got its name from a combination of two words - KANAgawa (because almost all of us live and work in Kanagawa prefecture) and SARAriman (salaryman, a common term to refer to white-collared employees in Japan).
Team Kanasara FC. Front row: Lai, Boon, Mohan (GK), Chen Zhun; back row: Nizam, Nantha, Calvin, Nik.
We went into this tournament, not only without a single practice session, we did not even know who our teammates were until the very morning of the tournament lol! But like how Nizam put it, all we got was ossan (wife) power. Well, not all of us 'coz there are still some who are single and *ehem* available (
read: me) haha!
Anyway, we had nothing to lose and to be honest, the furthest I thought we would go is to play all three group games, and that's it. Lets face it, we are working salaryman who hardly work out, and would be up against our opponents who are all students and much younger than us. In terms of stamina and skills, we are not match to these kids who are fitter and faster than us. So, in this kind of situation, what would you do?
Mohan, probably the best keeper of the tournament. Playing handball during his student days certainly gave him an advantage.
We used our experience and played with our head, which worked to our advantage in the end. In the three group games, we won one (3-1) and drew the other two (3-3 and 1-1). In all three games, we conceded first and later played the catching up game. That lead to Nantha suggesting that perhaps we should concede first in our next game since we are that good in coming back in a game lol!
Our group games put us second in our group, and we got the champions two years ago - the Embassy of Malaysia team in the quarterfinals. Again, we were the underdogs and conceded the first goal in the first few minutes after the whistle was blown. However, it was team Kanasara FC who progressed to the semifinal match at the final whistle, winning the game 2-1.
One of our group matches.
At that point, we started to believe that perhaps, perhaps we could just go all the way to the final after all. However, we lost by a single goal, but that was not the end of the road. We still had the third-placing match, and it was against Tsukuba FC, the team we lost in the quarterfinals last year. Revenge was part of the theme in that match. It was a tight game and both teams went all out, wanting last medal on offer.
Miraculously, for the first time in the tournament, we scored first and led 1-0. We went into the second half trying to protect the slim but precious advantage and everything was looking like it was going according to our plan. But you know, it is always at these kind of situation that I tend to make things turn dramatic. With only thirty seconds to the final whistle, the winger of the opponent team crossed deep into the penalty box, which was missed by Mohan our keeper. I slid in, in a desperate attempt to clear the ball away from the danger zone, mistimes my slide and the ball ended up at the back of the net. Yes, I just scored a goal. An own goal. A goal that took away victory from my team with less than a minute to go.
When it comes down to penalty shootout, the goalkeepers will either be hero or zero.
I knew I would never be able to concentrate on the game and I substituted myself out off the game immediately. And about twenty seconds later, the final whistle was blown and we went into the penalty shootout. It was the best of three and the first takers scored from both teams scored from the spot. Chen Zhun was our second taker and he confidently put the back at the back of the net. The second kicker of our opponent then hit the bar, giving us a 2-1 lead. Nantha was our third and final taker and he knew he will be the hero if he could score from his kick. Unfortunately, his kick went straight to the middle of the goalmouth and the keeper pushed it away.
The scored remained 2-1 to our advantage and it was the third and final kick for our opponent. We will go into the sudden death if our opponent scored and make it 2-2. While some of us had started to whisper among ourselves, who to take the forth kick, I just told them confidently, "We don't need a forth taker. Lets believe in Mohan". And I think he heard us, and he saved the last kick! We were in jubilation! Our third place was confirmed and we celebrated as if we have won the tournament.
The knockout phase of the upper bracket. We never thought we would ended up in this half lol!
Indeed, it was a great experience with such a lovely team members. Everyone did their part. Boon the hardworking caption, Nik who scored in every single matches, Mohan with his incredible reflex saves, Nantha the controls the engine room (and who will forget his inch-perfect loop to Nik), Nizam who manages the dynamic of the team from inside and outside the field, Lai who made that brilliant assist for the winning goal in the quarterfinal, Chen Zhun with his tireless run along the wing, and finally, yours truly who scored the own goal in the final game to give some drama to the match lol!
Actually, I scored the equalising goal in the first game as well, and it was actually a great goal; a cannon to the top right corner from a corner kick. Haha, vain I know, praising myself here but really, it was a good goal lol! Lastly but not forgetting, special thanks to our beloved manager, who was our time-keeper, pom-pom girl, kit man, and make sure we get refreshments during the break.
I think our team was the most excited when we step to take our medals and hampers lol!
Terima kasih daun keladi,
Tahun depan kita menang lagi!