In October a scratch Bridgwater International squad took on a team of locally based Syrian refugees on the town’s new Northgate astroturf and won in a close 4.3 finish with world class team captain and man of the match, Cllr Smedley, scoring the winning goal. And writing this article. It was time for a re-match. So when better than during the weekend of Quayside Festival and Bridgwater Twinning Week. This time the game would be in Taunton but the competitiveness was in overdrive-despite the rather more ‘basic’ facilities on offer at the St Georges Catholic Primary School.
Bridgwater Town Council now have a new ‘all red’ football strip which community groups can borrow and which bears the logo of the ‘Bridgwater Together’ organisation aiming to unite the host and migrant communities in the town through music, culture, cuisine and now football. So the Syrians were the first to try it out…but….where actually were the Syrians??
At the appointed hour a full Bridgwater International team, resplendant in all white -like only the greatest footballing squads can carry off, were warming up on the pitch and getting to work out how to say ‘to me to you!’ , ‘foul ref!‘ and ‘for god sake don’t pass to him!‘ in Polish, French and Italian.
But not a full Syrian squad on the pitch….so we lent them our French players. That balanced it up. An Anglo-Polish-Italian team taking on a Syrian-Arab-French squad (who also borrowed a young Tauntonian called Archie).
11.00 the game kicked off and Bridgwater were swiftly 1 up with a well placed goal by Captain Smedley. Even if I say so himself. This was followed up by a skillfull dribble and a thundering volley from Italian forward, and lead singer guitarist with The Loreans, Andrea. At this point the rest of the Syrian team turned up and wanted to start again. But we didn’t.
On with the game and Polish attacker Michal sliced in a 3rd while from the other flank Italian keyboard winger Eugenio made it 4.0.
The Syrians were getting angry and rallied themselves with shouts and exclamations that didn’t sound too much like ‘remember it’s only a friendly lads’. Promptly and skilfully, forward Raed grabbed one back making it 4,1
But Bridgwater kept up the momentum and Polish utility player (well, he started in goal) Karel took a chance and lobbed in another to make it 5.1. Bridgwater were well and truly on top.
Palestinian midfielder Marwan burst through the centre and put away another Syrian goal making it 5.2 but Bridgwater responded with centre forward Smedley bundling the ball and himself into the imaginary net to make it 6.2
The lone Brit on the Syrian side , Archie, revived Tauntonian hopes by making it 6.3 but in a see-saw battle Italian lead guitarist Marco made it 7.3. But back again it came with Syrian Yousef making it 7.4. If we weren’t careful we’d lose this one by stealth.
Then it was the French to our rescue as goalkeeper Jean from Montpelier (not the Bristol one) saved from a Marco shot but then parried the rebound into his own goal making it 8.4.
With the Syrians coming apart at the seams and shouting even more loudly at one another Michal scored his second of the day to make it 9.4
But the Syrians were not taking this and Raed again led his comrades forward once more scoring and making it 9.5.
To make it worse, stolid Bridgwater centre back Basher Weston had left the field and gone AWOL. His presence, decisiveness and sheer violence was now missed.
Then disaster. A penalty. Not a real one but Referee Martin, whose knowledge of the rules were ‘slight’ to be honest, had initially declared ‘Leg Before Wicket’ . Tamam scores making it 9.6.
The Syrians thundered forward . As if they actually wanted to win. One had earlier gone off with a broken foot after a tackle with Basher and was now shouting (presumably) encouraging words about ‘calm down lads it’s only a game‘ (probably). But it wasn’t. There was a bit of pride going on now and on came Yousef netting (into the imaginary net) to make it 9.7
Jumpers for Goalposts
As the game headed to its closure things descended into high farce. Local celebrity, and newly elected councillor Martin ‘definitely not the footballer’ Peters had kindly volunteered to referee…without knowing the rules. Or in fact anyone taking any notice of him . First he got the score wrong and said it was 9.8 – but a simple look at his notes later showed he’d added up incorrectly. And there’s a warning already for any future suggestions of a Lib Dem coalition…..
So now the Syrians were claiming the Peters figures minus the 2.0 start meant they won 9.8. The stolid Brits,Poles and Italians said ‘no no no, games start on time and we had balanced teams’.
Peters tried to solve the matter by playing an extra 2 minutes…..but on his own as all the players instead simply walked off leaving him blowing the whistle to deaf ears. The Italians had a gig in Watchet so they weren’t hanging around. But it was all smiles at the end. 9.7 (the real result) or 7.7 (if you want to let the Syrians version stand) (that would be the kind , generous and comradely thing to do) .
So 9.7 it was then.