Chenois SC 1
In Voltaire’s celebrated satirical novella Candide, or Optimism, the eponymous protagonist sees his life begin to unravel when he is kicked out of his grandiose Westphalian castle-home. Candide proceeds to meander all over the world, in search of his lover, and winds up being flogged by an entire Prussian cavalry company, nearly executed, almost killed in action, escapes to the Netherlands, sails to Lisbon, almost dies in a shipwreck, survives the Lisbon earthquake, is almost killed by the inquisition, kills a priest and a jeweler, escapes to South America, is almost eaten by an amazonian tribe, stabs his long-lost best friend, finds El Dorado, becomes the richest man in the world, immediately loses all his money, sails back to Europe, finds his lover and settles down as a farmer in Constantinople.
Candide’s moral guide throughout the novella is a third-rate, washed up, syphilis infested philosopher known as Pangloss. Pangloss teaches Candide that “this is the best of all worlds” and that therefore “all is well”.
And so it was with FC Irlande 2 last Saturday, when after an eleven month hiatus, we finally reclaimed our Abssa weekends. We men are a simple folk. We are creatures of habit who need the comfort of a routine to guide us through life. Much like Candide’s journey, the past eleven months of no football therefore felt like a purposeless, meandering odyssey, like a ship (full of Sea Men) sailing aimlessly without a destination.
But now, all is truly well for the routine has returned: wake up, discharge faeces from the body, drink coffee, eat oatmeal, drive to Nossegem, get dressed, discharge faeces from the body, warm up, play football, team shower, drink beer, go to the Funky, drink beer, play games, drink more beer, also drink beer, go home too late, sleep, wake up and despair as you look at your bank account, repeat.
But before we begin to unfurl the events of Saturday’s game against Chenois, it is necessary to cast a glance further back and to recount some of the highlights of the preseason, for they provide essential context to the game (not really).
The summer began in earnest when an inspired Denmark team won the hearts of a continent by playing some scintillating football, united by tragedy in the camp. In the end, a group of handsome Italians gesticulated their way into victory by defeating FC Priti Patel in the final. Denmark was, however, unquestionably and empirically the best team in the tournament and should have won. Everyone definitely agrees with this, and not just the author of this match report. These words were also echoed by FC Irlande 2’s English captain as he did the rounds on Belgian television.
It was not a summer without change, as the Men’s section said goodbye, or au revoir, to Auderghem and said hello, or begroeting, to our new grounds at KV Woluwe in Zaventem. Coach John-Simon was busy all summer teaching his team crash course Dutch as we were told that no French was allowed to be spoken on Flemish soil. Bedankt, Jan-Simon van der Sparks.
As July turned into August, FC Irlande 2 embarked on their fourth and final instalment of the (in)famous preseason tour to Kalterherberg, Germany. The weekend started off well with The Gars sampling the finest delicacies that our Teutonic hosts had to offer: Beer and Jägermeister. As the evening unfolded, darts and fussball served as an opening course to the main event, which was described by Ryan, in all sincerity, as “genuinely the most riveting sporting event of all time”. The game is known as “pick up pieces of a cardboard box with your mouth without your hands or knees touching the floor” and was introduced in this part of the world by the Romans who learned it from the ancient Greeks. The early rounds saw Gineste, Dastan, Hadri and John-Simon quickly discarded due to the absence of any elasticity in their bodies. Julian, Lorenz, Nate, Ryan and Clement faired much better and made it pretty far into the game. In the end, however, it became a three horse race between Neil, Amadou and Gabi who all seemed to defy the laws of human flexibility. In the end, Gabi stole the honors in a truly breathtaking display of anatomical pliability.
Hadri, however, was not to be outdone. Despite the fact that at this point in the evening 80% of his blood content consisted of alcohol and he was nearly incapable of bipedal forward motion, he wanted to demonstrate that he was capable of carrying a tray of 40 shots of jägermeister. It did not end well.
The weekend also saw Clem, John-Simon and Ryan gate crash a random birthday party and the lads sitting peacefully by the beautiful lake Bütgenbach before being accosted by 12 police officers and three police attack dogs for committing the crime of playing Petanque without drinking Richard. Belgian surrealism, hey?
The preseason preparations also consisted of an exclusive invitation to the prestigious ITT Gecko Open Tournament. This tournament was a marvel of magnificent logistical preparation and a case study in superb organization and management. The tournament also allowed the team to engage in many deep and profound philosophical inquiries on the epidermal layer of the male reproductive organ.
But enough. Now onto the game against Chenois on Saturday.
The morning began precipitously with two last minute drop out and Dastan, Ryan and John-Simon having to pick up the kit on the way to the game. After a good warm up and prematch speech, the lads, however, were ready to get on the pitch.
Josh started in goal with Ryan and Ale marshalling the back four centrally and Clem and Hadri making up the flanks. Thomas Earl masterfully took up that unfamiliar number 6 role with Ionut and Neil just ahead of him. Amadou led the line up front, flanked by Benji and Lolo on the wings. On the bench, after he had removed his pornstar jeans, sat Dastan.
Chenois made their intent known straight away. An aggressive high press with direct balls from the back four into their three strikers. FC Irlande 2 struggled to break free of their strangling press in the early minutes, but fortunately, when we did, they left a lot of space in behind. Amadou broke clean through and they could not match his pace, just as he was about to strike at goal he was unceremoniously brought down. Penalty FC Irlande 2. With no Kevin “Booba” Beziau on the pitch, the penalty burden fell to Lolo who masterfully slipped it into the net. 1-0 FC Irlande. Not long after, we unfortunately held on to the ball a bit too long in the back, allowing the opposition striker to intercept a pass and run clean through to our goal. 1-1. However, as the half progressed, we grew in confidence and Benji was rip-roaring through the left hand side of the pitch. In one of his balletic runs, he left the opposition right back for dead and lifted a deft pass on to Amadou who calmly headed it into the net. 2-1 FC Irlande 2.
After half time, Chenois piled on the pressure in search of the equalizer. Eventually, they broke through our right hand side and managed to even the scores at 2-2. We held on and continued to create chances ourselves. Good opportunities came to Lolo, Amadou and Benji. Unfortunately, it was Chenois who succeeded in taking the lead when a shot from outside the box stung the paws of Josh and looped over into the back of our net. 2-3 to Chenois. Not long after, the Chenois full back scored a beautiful, unstoppable free kick from 25 yards out. Nothing to do. 4-2 Chenois. But the lads never gave up and continued in the belief that we could salvage something from this game. We continued to press and eventually Lolo played a beautiful pass to Amadou who ran through, rounded the keeper masterfully and slotted it into an empty net. 3-4 to Chenois. In a frantic end to the match, we pressed and harried and in the dying moments Lolo went through on goal but was stopped by a phenomenal tackle by Chenois’ left back. It wasn’t to be today and despite the fantastic attitude and never-say-die spirit the points go to our visitors.
Two difficult opening games for FC Irlande 2 this season but the performances have been promising and have merited more. We are convinced that we will soon get our just rewards and know that the points will soon come.
In the end, to be back among this amazing group of players is what matters most. To achieve, to win, to suffer together. To have our routine back. “All is well” because to play football for FC Irlande 2, as Candide’s syphilis ravaged philosopher would say, truly is “the best of all worlds”.