*** FCKP II – Division 3 Champions! ***
When sampling the atmosphere at the famous old Stadion Fritz Reuter on Saturday, there was a clear feeling that there was something special in the air, something great about to happen. That mood could be sensed in the terraces where the FCKP ultras had been gathering all morning – with some having been there and raising the temperature as early as 15 minutes before kick-off despite the S-Bahn strike.
The epicentre for this feeling of destiny and impending victory, however, was in the FC Kickers Pufendorfer dressing room as manager James Topping prepared his team for victory. Tactics were discussed, defensive strategies were put in place and, above all else, warriors were readied for battle. As the FCKP II team took to the pitch, it was clear they were ready for the day’s competition. But were they ready for overall victory and promotion to Division 2?
The answer to that question is, of course, an emphatic ‘yes’. In fact they were almost too ready as it turned out: As the klaxon sounded for the opening game against old rivals Ente Cross BK, FCKP II spent too much time being ready and not enough time concentrating on the opposition strikers. A couple of quick, high balls and a flicked-on header saw Ente Cross’ big number 9 race through on goal to coolly slot home past the exposed keeper Bart Pyszczek.
This could have been a disastrous start for FCKP II but instead it seemed to strengthen their resolve and it wasn’t long before an equaliser arrived. Ross Angus and Clément Adam had responded well to the Ente Cross goal and began to impose themselves upon the game, with both going close through dangerous, probing runs and crisp shots.
It was Adam who eventually created the equaliser with a superb 40-metre through ball which invited recent signing Jon Ruffer to show his pace. Ruffer, who cites Lionel Messi amongst his heroes, looked second favourite to reach the ball but with a burst of acceleration, he managed to get there before the onrushing ‘keeper. Just like his hero had done against Bayern the same week, Ruffer produced a devastating and delightful scooped finish to leave the score at 1:1 with 8 minutes remaining.
Ruffer’s superbly-taken goal seemed to inspire a belief in the FCKP II team and it wasn’t long before they took the lead. This time it was another impressive recent signing, Héctor Perdomo Nogales who got on the score-sheet. Héctor, who cites free-scoring defender James Topping Rodriguez amongst his heroes, managed to emulate his idol with a beautifully-placed curler from 20 yards which nestled in the top corner of the net. This gave FCKP II a 2:1 victory and a platform on which to make an assault on the day’s championship.
From then on, it was Pufendorfer’s strong defensive teamwork which came to the fore. The next game involved a stern test against Bunte Liga old boys Muchas Maracas. Despite being put under intense pressure for periods of the game, the black and yellow defensive unit held firm and a final score of 0:0 was earned. Indeed, Pufendorfer could have stolen a victory after a long, mazy dribble by Clement Adam saw him poke a shot agonisingly wide of the left-hand post in the closing stages of the game.
As it was, this was the first of seven games in which FCKP II failed to concede a goal. That’s right, SEVEN! This impressive defensive display was the result of every member of the Kickers’ squad working hard at both ends of the pitch and sharing responsibility for tracking runners and winning the ball back. Manager James Topping has been working hard on these aspects in training and was clearly delighted with his team’s efforts. He also coaxed a fine performance from tempestuous, firebrand striker Ezequiel Lauria who turned the first of this run of matches into a 1:0 victory over Emma 09. The Argentinian showed bullish determination and shrewd use of his head and shoulders to outsmart the Emma 09 defense, capitalising on a defensive mix-up to slot home under the keeper.
Following this match was yet another victory, this time impressively wrestled from Roter Stern Berlin. Topping opened the scoring here with one of his trademark slaloming runs from defense and a fine, curled finish from the edge of the box. Clément Adam then sealed the victory after he single-handedly closed down the entire Roter Stern defense, stole the ball from the keeper and rifled home a fine finish from 0.217 metres. Adam was happy to make up for his misses from similar distances earlier in the competition.
Two 0:0 draws then followed against Freitag 08 and Koni Berlin. While the FCKP II team’s defending was still of a high quality from front to back, a level of fatigue was beginning to show in terms of inventiveness and creativity. Despite some flashes of skill from Alejandro di Alexo and even a stylish Cruyff-like turn from Topping in the Koni game, Pufendorfer were unable to create enough chances to secure a victory. It was clear they needed an injection of energy and maybe even a small dash of heroism in the next game.
Canada-Pole goalkeeper Bart Pyszczek normally plays for Pufendorfer tethered to his goalposts, for his own safety and for the safety of those around him. Mostly this is a successful arrangement, save for the times he manages to chew through his restraints. On this occasion, however, it was clear that the FCKP II attack could use some of his raw energy and dynamism up front. It was decided to unleash his skills, honed through years of hunting down polar bears, chipmunks and defenders across the frozen soccer pitches of Canada, against the mighty Wartenberger Bad Boys. What a decision this turned out to be: A tense, rugged, battling game of football was settled when the escaped net-minder pounced on a pocket of space on the left side of the box and unleashed a gloriously accurate and powerful into the bottom right hand corner with 7 minutes to go. This silenced the Bad Boys fans behind the goal and secured a valuable win for the FCKP II good boys.
Pyszczek’s goal was so sharp and swift that it even managed to evade the eagle-eyes of online journalist, Nick Atkinson who managed to do a good Chris Kamara impression in reporting the match as a 0:0 draw at first. Unglaublich Nick!
This victory meant that in the final game, a win would secure not just promotion but also the league title for the Pufendorfer side. The opponents were the fearsome Halbe Lunge and they looked determined to spoil the FCKP party. In fact, Lunge started the better team and it took some fine defending in the early stages to keep them from scoring. Nick Atkinson, Jon Ruffer and Felipe Londoño Grisales all had hard work to do during this period. Most impressive though was stand-in goalkeeper Alejandro di Alexo who kept the opposition out through a combination of some fine saves and lots of shouting.
It was Héctor Perdomo Nogales though who proved to be the match winner. With just 3 minutes remaining on the clock, the languid midfielder showed fantastic poise and determination to dribble down the right wing and in along the goal line before slotting home at the near post. As he jinked in from the right hand side, Héctor’s ability to evade tackles was almost as impressive as his ability to ignore his team-mates who were screaming for a pass into the centre- a wise decision as his clever finish guaranteed a first place finish for the boys in yellow and sets up a tantalising rematch against fierce rivals “FCKP I” on the next Bunte Liga match day.
There were some fine goals scored today by the FCKP II team but, overall, it was the togetherness, teamwork and determination of their defensive display that secured their glorious championship winning performance. There’s a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as the King is preparing his army for a 5-aside tournament that goes along the lines of: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that scrapes his knee with me today, shall be my brother; Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more down the wing, football, bloody hell…”. These words were embodied by the Pufendorfer team today who, with 5 wins, 3 draws and no defeats emerged as worthy champions.
Bart, James (C), Felipe, Nick, Brian, Ross, Alex MC, Héctor, Clément, Jon, Ezequiel L
Jon, Héctor (2), Ezequiel L, James, Clément, Bart
Report by Brian Leonard