10. AEM – FCKP Reach The Quarter-Finals

6 September 2015


*** 10. AEM – FCKP Reach The Quarter-Finals! ***

The opening ceremony for the 10th Alternative European Championships took place on a scorching hot Friday afternoon in July. For FC Kickers Pufendorfer, however, the tournament really began months beforehand as long hours of preparation were being put in to bring the team up to the required standard. The AEM is a glamorous and prestigious event and FCKP were determined not to let their hard-fought qualification go lightly.

Chief coach, full-back and part-time mascot James Topping in particular had put in many dedicated hours on the training field to allow FCKP to take their rightful place at the top level of Alternative European Football. Preparation for the tournament was assisted also by the excellent technical staff at Pufendorfer: team doctor and nutritionist Amir Ouakour, for example, prepared a meticulous dietary strategy for the squad, consisting mainly of dates, bananas and a reduced beer intake.

A last-minute addition to the team’s preparation was also a large order of industrial-strength sunscreen to protect FCKP’s most sensitive (i.e: British) players as July announced its arrival with a searing heatwave. The 37-degree heat would ask serious questions of the athletes over the coming days but for the fans and supporters who flocked to the Stadion des Sportforums in East Berlin for the tournament’s opening day, it brought even more colour to the occasion. The famous old East Berlin stadium normally plays host to BFC Dynamo Berlin, Germany’s second most successful club after Bayern Munich with 10 national league titles to their name. For this weekend, however, the visitors were the cream of Alternative European football from all over the continent.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Spieler vom FC Kickers Pufendorfer sorgen für Stimmung
FC Kickers Pufendorfer players creating an atmosphere

Amongst the contenders were a strong contingent from Switzerland, including tournament favourites Rotor Zürich who have won the AEM on no less than 3 previous occasions. Another of the teams tipped for success were the BuliBären, a selection of the best players from the teams competing in the Bunte Liga in Berlin. FC Kickers Pufendorfer were drawn in Group C, a tough group containing BL Mitteldeutschland, MSV Schänzaschutt and a determined Galway City team all the way from the tropical West coast of Ireland.

Pufendorfer’s first match was against a strong MSV Schänzaschutt side who were in good form going into the tournament. FCKP had to cope with a number of injury concerns before the game, including influential midfielder Amir Ouakour who almost missed the game through illness. Perhaps he hadn’t been following the team’s dietary plan but thankfully, the FCKP team doctor was close at hand and Ouakour was passed fit to start the game. Despite the months of preparation, it was the tough Swiss team from Schänzaschutt who started the brightest. Playing with speed and power on the counter-attack, they caused lots of problems for the FCKP defensive set-up. They threatened repeatedly with a number of long balls over the top and deservedly took the lead after 26 minutes with a rasping left-footed shot into the top corner from the left corner of the penalty area. 5 minutes later they almost doubled their lead when yet another long ball over the static FCKP defence sent their number 7 racing through on goal. His fierce, low strike was spectacularly saved as ‘keeper Marian András got down to his right hand side smartly to keep FCKP in the game. This proved to be the turning point in the game and the wake-up call that FCKP needed. After some intelligent repositioning, defenders Nick Atkinson, Felipe Londño Grisales and Pablo Moura Letts were able to gain some dominance and provide a platform on which FCKP began to control the game. Strong running on the wings from Clement Adam and Jon Ruffer began to stretch the Schänzaschutt midfield and created space for Kickers’ forward line to exploit. Héctor Perdomo Nogales, playing in the number 10 role, benefited from this space when he equalised just before half time, dinking the ball beautifully over the ‘keeper after a mazy dribble in from the right.

Having made such a bad start to the first half, FCKP weren’t about to make the same mistake again and set about the second with renewed vigour and determination. With Ouakour and Bizzarro patrolling the centre of midfield, Schänzaschutt began to threaten less and it was FCKP who started to force the game in search of a winning goal. Just when it looked like the contest would finish as a hard-fought draw, Pufendorfer got the winner they sought with just 2 minutes remaining on the clock. It arrived when live-wire striker Steffen Häußler was fed with a low cross from the left wing after some fine play involving Nogales and Alejandro Marquez Cuerpo. Häußler’s first touch was sublime, his second touch was a low, drilled shot to the ‘keeper’s right which bulged the net and sent the FCKP fans into roars of delight. It was a tough result for Schänzaschutt who battled well, but a vital one for Pufendorfer as they began their campaign with a valuable 3 points.

After a successful opening day of the tournament, Saturday saw a full round of fixtures for FCKP, and yet more sweltering temperatures to deal with as the thermometers rose past 37 degrees by noon. Despite the heat, there were some very cool things for visitors to the tournament to see. Amongst all the colours, flags, vuvuzelas and excitement, there were some fine moments of generosity and fair play on display, most notably when Schänzaschutt convinced the referee to allow a goal from their opponents, Galway City, after it had initially been flagged wrongly for offside. Acts like this epitomise the atmosphere and attitude of the AEM and Bunte Liga tournaments.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Spieler vom FC Kickers Pufendorfer machen sich warm
FC Kickers Pufendorfer players warming up

Unfortunately for Pufendorfer, they were guilty of showing too much generosity in their opening fixture of the day against BL Mitteldeutschland. After starting sleepily, FCKP were 2-0 down by half time. The first goal came after a free-kick was swung in from the right wing and slow reactions allowed Mitteldeutschland’s number 9 to prod home with an outstretched boot at the near post. The same player then slotted in the second after a lofted ball through the centre led to confusion amongst the FCKP defence. Despite some rousing words and some tactical changes at half time, Pufendorfer’s revival in the second half was short-lived. Central midfielder Kyle Curtis was one of the few FCKP players to emerge with credit from this game and his calm and assured passing created a number of opportunities. He was unlucky to see a fine 30-yard shot crash off the crossbar too. This was as good as it got for Pufendorfer however and they were soon 3-0 down – this time after a calamitous collision between full-back Brian Leonard and out-rushing ‘keeper Marian András allowed the Mitteldeutschland number 11 to roll the ball home after running on to a through-ball. There was still time for a 4th and 5th goals after yet another defensive mix-up and a desperate penalty before the referee mercifully blew the final whistle. It was a game to forget for most Pufendorfer players and fans. If any positives were to be taken from the match, it would be the stylish and cultured performance of Curtis in midfield and the inspirational energy and drive on display from Alejandro “”El Torro” Marquez Cuerpo who never gave up trying to drag his team back into the match. Alejandro even came close to scoring a consolation goal on 57 minutes when he arrived at a low right-wing cross from Hector 0.016 metres from the goal but he was unlucky when the laws of physics let him down.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Gruppenspiel Gruppe C: FC Kickers Pufendorfer – BL Mitteldeutschland
Group C match: FC Kickers Pufendorfer – BL Mitteldeutschland

A combination of the other results in the group meant that this defeat put Pufendorfer in a very precarious position – anything other than a win in their final group game against Galway City would see them eliminated from the tournament. After such a brutal beating and under pressure from the flag-waving Pufendorfer fans around the stadium however, it seemed more likely for FCKP to wilt in the punishing 37-degree sunshine. As the battered, blistered, bruised and burnt players laid around the pitchside benches after the game, inspiration for a victory seemed to be very far away. Instead, it was actually all around. It came from the positivity of the supporters, the preparation and hard-work put in by the team during training, the tactical nous and insights offered by Daniel Klink and Stefan Godskesen on the sideline and the spirit and never-say-die attitude of the players. It was embodied, however, by Pablo Moura Letts.

The tall, Peruvian centre-back normally stalks the pitch with the quiet confidence and assuredness of a graceful, rugged Easter Island statue. As the FCKP players picked themselves up from the floor, however, he brought something new to the table: in a speech that came from deep within the Earth and that made the hairs prickle on the necks of everyone who heard, he transformed the team from a collection of ragged and frightened pandas into a roaring cage of grizzly bears, furiously straining to be unleashed back onto the pitch. The full text of the speech was too impressive to be put into mere words but as it was released into the stratosphere, flocks of birds and bats within a 20k radius of Berlin were startled into the air. Probably. There is little doubt either that FCKP players from past and present all around the world suddenly felt a shiver and an urge towards Berlin. The final words were still echoing as the players trooped out onto the pitch to face Galway City:

“We are a funky TEAMMM!!!!!”

(*note: I may have mis-heard the second-last word).

The final group game against Galway City turned out to be an explosive and vibrant encounter. The watching crowd was swelled with supporters of the other teams in the group, eagerly awaiting the outcome. The mathematics were simple: A win for Pufendorfer would see them qualify as group winners- anything less would see them eliminated. This made for a lively and open game as both teams knew that a draw would not be enough. Jon Ruffer and Clement Adam set the early pace as their tireless running down the flanks forced Galway back into their own half. The breakthrough came after 16 minutes when fine work down the left from Ruffer drew a foul just inside inside the corner of the penalty area. The referee pointed to the spot and Hector coolly stroked the penalty kick into the top right-hand corner. Rather than being demoralised, Galway City were spurred into immediate action by the goal and soon began threatening FCKP down both wings. One such foray down the right ended with a mazy dribble into the corner of the box and a delightful chipped finish to level the scores at 1:1 after 23 minutes. This time it was Pufendorfer who had to respond and after a series of lightning fast counter attacks, they regained the lead through pacy striker Steffen Häußler who clipped home a finish after more excellent build-up play from Ruffer.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Gruppenspiel Gruppe C: Galway City – FC Kickers Pufendorfer
Group C match: Galway City – FC Kickers Pufendorfer

The atmosphere for this game was incredible and the crowd were thrilled to see the tide turning yet again when Galway earned a penalty just before half time. It came after a period of good pressure from the Irish team so when the resulting kick was blasted home, it was a well-deserved equaliser.

With the scores level at 2:2, it placed extra importance on the half-time break. Both teams had given their all during the first half: which one of them could rally the troops for one final push to victory? Thankfully for Pufendorfer, Pablo was now in unstoppable oratory form and once again, the hoardes of yellow-clad warriors hit the field for the second half like demented bulls, baying for blood. Not that bulls eat meat of course.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Gruppenspiel Gruppe C: Galway City – FC Kickers Pufendorfer
Group C match: Galway City – FC Kickers Pufendorfer

Héctor Perdomo Nogales had been looking dangerous all through the tournament and it was he who put FCKP into the lead on 52 minutes with a towering back-post header from a right-wing corner. This put the presure back on Galway City and as they began to commit more players foward, FCKP were able to punish them with high-speed counter attacks. Steffen Häußler was the first to benefit from the extra space when he used his speed to outstrip the Galway defence and curl home a nice finish to make it 4-2 after 61 minutes. Adonis El Hajj then rounded off the scoring and the contest with a fine solo effort, intelligently timing his run to break the Galway offside trap after 82 minutes. A calmly stroked finish into the bottom left corner of the net sent the Pufendorfer fans into ecstacy and the Kickers into the quarter-finals as group-winners with a 5-2 scoreline.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
Jesus Rueda, ein Spieler vom FC Kickers Pufendorfer
Jesus Rueda, one of the FC Kickers Pufendorfer players

When the draw was made for the last 16 game, a wave of excited anticipation swept through the Pufendorfer camp. FCKP would have to face Rotor Zürich, the 3-times champions and tournament favourites. They looked in unstoppable form this year too, having scored 12 goals and only conceded only 2 in their three group games. The FCKP defence would have to put in a hard day’s work to be able to match the Swiss outfit. Thankfully, this team are used to producing their best when it really matters and what the crowd got to witness was one of the tournament’s most evenly-matched and epic battles.

Midfielders Gianluca Bizzarro, Kyle Curtis and Amir Ouakour put in an excellent display of tracking and covering to ensure Rotor had little joy playing through the middle. James Topping and Jesus Rueda protected the flanks well too, allowing FCKP to build some some threatening attacks of their own in the first half. They were unlucky not to score on a number of occasions, but most spectacurlary when a long, intricate passing move from the right hand side ended with Hector curling a beautiful shot with the outside of his right foot towards the far corner of the net only to see it finger-tipped around the post by the ‘keeper. The scores remained level until half time but up until then, Pufendorfer had been the better side. The second half gradually became a more open and even affair as space became stretched and more players were committed forward in search of a breakthrough. FCKP remained dangerous with their speed up front but Rotor Zürich began to carve out chances of their own with some physical forward play. They almost opened the scoring on 62 minutes when an overhead kick from a right wing corner had to be deftly palmed over the bar by Marian András. When the opening goal finally came, it was a crushing stroke of opportunity and misfortune. Rotor Zürich’s midfield playmaker showed good enterprise in taking a surprise shot from 25 metres when the ball broke to him after a blocked tackle. The shot was low yet dipping and as it skidded off the turf it span agonising wide of the despairing dive of András and inside the left hand post. Despite this set-back, FCKP rallied well and summoned every ounce of strength they had to find an equaliser. Sadly, despite their gargantuan efforts, the Rotor defence held firm and the scoreline ended 1:0 with the Swiss team progressing to the semi finals.

10. Alternative Europameisterschaft Fussball 2015
Berlin, Deutschland, 04.07.2015
FC Kickers Pufendorfer Spieler beraten sich zwischen zwei Spielen
FC Kickers Pufendorfer team talk between two matches

Battered, broken, beaten but unbowed, the FCKP players left the field to proud applause from their supporters and to the respect of their opponents who knew they had just been in a battle. Rotor Zürich ended up marching through to the final where they defeated the much-fancied BuliBären with a 4:1 rout- but it was the quarter final that they will remember as their toughest game of this year’s victory. The Swiss team were worthy champions as they played with skill, determination, poise and a fairness that represented the ethos of the AEM throughout the weekend. Their trophy celebrations at Schönefeld airport were well-deserved, as was the open-top bus tour that no doubt awaited them when they touched down in Zürich.

For Pufendorfer, however, a triumph of a different kind had been achieved. As the first ‘pfssst!’ and ‘clink!’s could be heard as the team lounged in the evening sunshine at Weissensee and began to discuss the weekends one million moments in fine detail over ice-cold beers, an atmosphere of hard-earned satisfaction pervaded. Thanks to preparation, hard-work, plenty of skill but above-all, team spirit, FCKP had achieved a mightility impressive showing on their first ever Alternative European Championships qualification. This all bodes well for 2016 and the AEM in Galway, Ireland. Bring it on!


Marian (C), Felipe, Pablo, Nick, James, Jesus, Brian, Amir, Kyle, Gianluca, Steffen, Héctor, Stefan, Adonis, Jon, Clément, Alejandro, Bart, Ezequiel L


Héctor (3), Steffen (3), Adonis


All photography by Sebastian Wells © 2015


Report by Brian Leonard


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FC Kickers Pufendorfer Berlin e.V. is an amateur football team with its base in Berlin, Germany.

Founded by CouchSurfers over ten years ago, the core values of the team have been inclusion and fair play from the very beginning. We started organising regular football meet-ups, where anyone could join and recruited new players for the team from these games.

We have been meeting up since summer 2008 to have regular games of football at the “Boltzplatz” in the Pufendorfstraße, which is also where the team name comes from.

On 21st January 2017 we founded the club “FC Kickers Pufendorfer Berlin e.V.” and on 18th April 2017 we were officially entitled by the German law to carry the name.

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