With UCL storming into a 15-8 Varsity lead on Monday afternoon, the football double-header on Monday evening was a crucial opportunity for our girls and boys in red to steal back some points. Both KCL teams had had successful seasons, both having already gotten at least one over their godless counterparts earlier in the year. Everyone knew how much was on the line with their game, a way of measuring success for the season as a whole. Needless to say, tensions ran high.
The evening’s score stood at 1-0 to UCL after the dust settled on the women’s football game, with the men ready to avenge their female counterparts by picking up where they had left off. Before the game had kicked off tensions began to flare, when opposing fans at the shared bar behind the main stand (a risky choice by the organisers) started pushing and shoving until being held apart before the situation escalated out of hand. Slowly people fanned into the stands and the drum (and UCL’s pathetic tambourine) started ringing to the tune of KCL classics. Without further ado, the boys in red stepped onto the field ready to salvage a much needed varsity point for Desmond Tutu’s red army.
The game kicked off at blistering pace, KCL channeling the ball through the middle as they switched from right to left with ease à la 1974 Netherlands, with our own Johan Cruyff in the middle embodied by captain Ed Latini. The boys in red dictated the tempo on the field as the reds dictated the tempo in the crowd, spurred on by multiple hearty renditions of “I asked my mother what will I be” dominating the airwaves. No breakthrough quite yet but it felt almost inevitable as UCL’s channelled their inner 2006 World Cup Portugal, their only contribution to the game being multiple badly timed tackles and aggressive final-third pressing, hoofing the ball haphazardly upfield at any given opportunity. Yet, just as god favoured Portugal in Nuremberg, the Lord favoured the godless scum in Tooting and Mitcham in the most controversial manner possible (God truly works in mysterious ways). After a blatant foul on a red-clad winger in the UCL half stopped the assistant referee and all the King’s players in their tracks, UCL and their referee continued play upfield, narrowly slotting a ball through the keeper to make it 1-0 in inexplicable fashion as the players and fans protested loudly (and rightfully so).
Yet, the goal stood and Gower’s proud tradition of blatantly cheating brought them into the half 1-0 up. With the players confined to the changing rooms, presumably being inspired by the words of Surrey’s own Manuel Pellegrini (there’s only one Allan Sellers), tensions flared once again in the stand as UCL fans filed through the red end to get to the bar (the only path for them to do so), inevitably leading to some avoidable confrontation. The stewards’ efforts kept the tensions quelled for the time being as the boys filed back out ready for the comeback, pushed on by sporadic cries of “we believe” from the Strand faithful. Everything was on the line now as the reds looked to replicate last year’s comeback and make a true statement for varsity.
Despite what were presumably Al Sellers’s best efforts, the lads came out of the half in dismal form. Passes were misplaced and the tempo was off-key in what seemed to be a hearty re-enactment of that Istanbul second half, leaving our own AC Milan lethargic and uninspired. Yet attention was slowly being turned away from the pitch to the stand, where the usual varsity animosity was turning into full-blown violence. Multiple fights broke out in the questionably unstewarded neutral seating area between the two set of fans as constant abuse and beer was hurled between the two sides over the tunnel separating them. Still, the game continued. After a short while, our poor form haunted us as UCL scored their second in what can only be described as a re-enactment of that Sergi Roberto goal against PSG. Two. Nil.
From here on out, nothing was left to salvage. The players rallied and put in a final effort but it was too little too late. The game had cruelly been taken from them on the night in a lopsided affair where the referee again must’ve lost their contacts. Yet, the players serenaded their fans for one last hurrah before heading inside and back home, leaving behind them another opportunity lost for the red army to take the initiative this Varsity week but ultimately an exciting night out for all involved.