Portugal Narrowly Pip Czechs to Win Prized Petanque Trophy

Coveted hand crafted trophy goes to Portugal

The second annual Bridgwater International Petanque tournament took place on 8th July at a hot and tropical Victoria Park with teams representing Bridgwater and our 7 partner countries. The game of Petanque -basically you throw some balls at a smaller ball and the one who’s closer wins -was invented in Bridgwater’s original twin town La Ciotat in France. Organizer and Petanque fanatic Michael Wheatley says that as a result of the popularity of the two tournaments so far he would like to get  permanently piste … sorry to get a permanent Petanque Piste, and form a Bridgwater team to take on other Petanque giants around Somerset. Currently only Wellington has a team. But….back to the match report!!

Czech teams star player off to a dignified ‘no point’ start

The Czechs were the favourites. No doubt about that. Last years easy winners and represented by the flexibly wristed town council leader Brian Smedley and newly elected Westover councillor Tim ‘Mister Petanque’ Mander they were off to a flying start smashing the USA 11-4 and then Germany 9-3 and looked certs to trounce all comers.

Unstoppable Czechs

The USA team, led by hard working Victoria councillor Liz Marsh and including Meg and Renee from Westfield church fought valiantly but struggled against the unstoppable Czechs and then against  the almost professional French team who beat them 11-3.

A close game between the Germans and French ended 8-7 and Group one went to the Czechs with the Germans in second place.

Englands top petanquers take their positions

Meanwhile in Group 2 the Portugal team were off to a bad start. Represented by Town Clerk David Mears, initially nervous about upsetting his councillors, but later not giving a toss, and former Town Mayor (at the time of the Madeira twinning) Tony Heywood, they nevertheless lost to the England team represented by Deputy Town leader and Grimsby Town fan Kath Pearce and recently naturalised British citizen (that means she answered correctly questions that normal Brits wouldn;t have) , the Chilean born Viv Rybertt (chair of Bridgwater Together). The Portuguese lost 6-1 and looking for an early shower. Which would have been welcome in this weather….

Tension in the England v Italy game

Meanwhile it was a hand to hand no holds barred mass melee across the park as medeteranean rivals Malta and Italy scrapped it out. Malta, led by former British army and Maltese soldier Josef Arbela fought tooth and nail against the italian Di Campo brother and sister team. A bit like in the war when they gave them the George Cross Island award. And the Maltese tenacity won 9-8 with angry Italian curses ringing around the field.

Great Play by Czechs

But then things changed. The wounded Arbela (probably a sly gunshot or the threat of concrete overshoes) led to a rout and the Maltese found themselves 13-0 down to Portugal and meanwhile ‘somehow’ the Italians had narrowly beaten the  English (and Chilean English) 7-5.
It was a tough call but  Portugal had only just won Group 2 and England were second squeezing out the Italians on points. 2 of the Italian players came to blows and the 3rd disappeared mysteriously somewhere in the foundations of the Northgate development.
USA, not unhappy to leave with no points at all.

So the 3rd place match was to be England and France with the French narrowly gaining the edge in a thrilling 12-5 victory winning themselves the tournament bronze.

On the main court (dubbed the ‘Wembley Piste’ (as opposed to the Bronzified ‘Blundell Park piste’) it was skin on skin, cold steel on plate armour and hairnets vs handbags as the top teams bullied off for the trophy.

Czechs were ‘Brilliant’

The Portuguese took a surprise lead, but the Czechs weren’t daunted and slowly and surely crept back until they were almost level pegging’s. But it was agonizingly slow and the Portuguese kept pulling away a bit further so the uphill battle became a slog. A bit like Leeds United last season. It would take some skill dedication and teamwork to grab the points.
Sadly, they didn’t have that.
Czechs calmly discuss with the referee whether he is in fact blind.

So right at the end it was down to a referees ‘dubious’ decision. 10-6 to Portugal but the whistle blew as a ball was still rolling…..was the game over or still in play?? The Czechs calmly threw their toys out of their prams suggesting that the points didn’t count. The Portuguese sat back looking smug as one does when they know they’re in the right. The English referee ruled for the Portuguese despite the excellent case but by the Italian referee as more and more Czech banknotes padded out his back pocket. but to no avail, fair play , decency, honour and honesty -the English way -as we’ve seen in Parliament this week -won out, and the Portuguese were declared winners and the Italian referee was taken out and shot.

Czechs somehow lose

Organiser Michael Wheatley crosses his arms and refuses to listen as Italian referee Giuseppe di Maggio threatens him with a monkey wrench

All in all a hot afternoon in a park where the winning team won and the best team came second.” said Cllr Smedley as he heaped praise upon himself.

Organiser Michael Wheatley said after the game “Well done to the team representing Portugal on winning this years town twinning petanque competition. A big thank you to everybody who took part or came along to support the event. I hope you all had an enjoyable afternoon. If anyone would like to form a Petanque team to take on other opposition please let me know and I will arrange. Even if you don’t fancy it perhaps you know somebody else who might. We have the equipment so let’s make use of it and not just put it away until next year.”
Michael can be contacted on mlwdearham@hotmail.co.uk(01278) 429388 or 07776302412
Medal table
Gold: Portugal     Silver: Czech Rep    Bronze: France
Twinning Night
And don’t forget the Twinning evening at the Bridgwater Arts Centre Saturday 9th July starting 7.30..all free…live bands, a bar, and films from our twin towns
click here  for more information or go to the Bridgwater International YOUTUBE channel at 7.30 on the night here.

Some photos from the day