The red mouse roars
PFFC 3 Viacom Outdoor 2
Philosophy Football has one-and-a-half employees and shares an office in Shoreditch, though that is a marked improvement on the kitchen table in Stamford Hill which was its previous office. Viacom Outdoor is a multinational corporation specialising in selling advertising space on roadside billboards and rail signage. Their website doesn't say what the budget is for the football team, though presumably not as extensive as that for the posters on buses, as the team played in differently coloured shirts. (Is this what they mean by a 'variety of sides and rears'?)
Given Viacom's vast empire and experience of 'outdoor' events, it would be easy to think that this wouldn't be a very evenly matched contest. In fact it turned out to be a closely fought game and a good one for the neutral, of whom there were four: Frankie and Johnny, aged 9, who despite early restlessness – "What's the score, mister?" – settled down in prime location to watch the match from the touchline, and the two linesman who, despite their best attempts, were both either ignored or contradicted by the referee for virtually the entire game. Presumably they didn't position their messages strategically enough.
Despite somewhat uncharacteristically lackadaisical pre-match organisation, designed to get the Gaffer's back up, with players arriving, if at all, five minutes before kick-off and the original squad of 19 quickly reduced to 12, PFFC started the smartest with Ally and Al providing encouraging options down both flanks. The 4-3-1-2 formation, reminiscent of the Marco Uno era, was beginning to pay off, with Vito linking well with midfield and Mauro and Dennis up front. It was one of Ally's pacy breaks down the right that led to the opening goal. Having skinned his full-back, his low drive was only parried by the keeper, and Mauro's reflexes were quicker than those of Viacom's defenders; his volley gave the keeper no chance. One of the strongest defences we have ever fielded was looking firm, but it was clear the next goal would be crucial. It came, to great relief and celebration, from Mauro again, nonchalantly nudging the ball past the keeper after breaking through Viacom's defence. Wise words were said at half-time: Filippo, our only sub, who had spent the first half finalising the Paris tour with the Chairman, put it succinctly: 'We can only lose this from here'.
Despite periods in the second half when we looked as if we might indeed lose it – giving the ball away in dangerous areas and not clearing our lines decisively enough, for example – we just about had enough to see out the game. They pulled a goal back. We responded quickly and Ally again created the opening down the right and unselfishly released the ball for Dennis to finish well. We were now at 3-1, but they weren't finished and after we failed to clear they got another goal back. This ensured a tense finish; Filippo came on for Al to provide defensive cover and got past his full-back a couple of times and had a taste for goal, but we were forced into more rearguard action with Giacomo holding firm in front of the defence and Owen, now established as Philosophy Football's number 1 (in fact, '10'), produced a series of fine saves to deny their strikers. Dennis went off with a painful ankle injury ten minutes before the end and we were reduced to ten men, frankly a needless and ridiculous predicament, given the strength of our squad. In the end it was the 'powerful presence' of our back four - Steffen, Damian, Vipul and Ronan – which thwarted their attack from all corners of the globe.
Off the pitch this had been a sad time, following the death of Nicola Calipari, shot by US soldiers four days before, as he tried to protect Giuliana Sgrena, the kidnapped Manifesto journalist, whose release he had negotiated. The match followed his funeral and all the players wore black armbands to commemorate his sacrifice.
PFFC (4-3-1-3): Owen; Ronan, Damian, Steffen, Vipul; Ally, Giacomo, Cornish Al (Filippo 75); Vito; Mauro, Dennis
Mesón Bilbao: 4-4 Giacomo, Filippo, Ally, Owen; Gaffer, Vito, Steffen, Al