Some of you question the validity of my match reports, question whether I am a tad biased in my comments, so before I start this week’s report I wish to quote from the previous week’s report as a reminder that I am even-handed in my comments and the application of the laws of the game: “Worthy champions the Whites have been in this series, dominate and powerful and brushing aside every challenge”.
And so to last week. I have thought long and hard about this, I have started and stopped, rewritten and reconsidered many times over. Would I quote Churchill, or Shakespeare, or Caesar, would that be too obvious, should I be more subtle, some Buddhist poetry perhaps, something heavy with introspection and meditation. Should it be full of analogy or full of fact….and I hear you shout “why facts, why now…the match reports have never contained facts before”: but wait, it is a new year and as with last week when I so obviously spoke both factually and truthfully about the Whites performance being so dominant, here comes the facts! (OK maybe the bit last week about Scouse Steve turning up in a cream Cup Final suit was slightly inaccurate, but Angry Mick did get a tan specifically for the final game and I do have a source that has reported it to be a fake one, paper pants and everything!)
Some might say it wasn’t pretty, some might say it wasn’t football at times, some might say we parked the bus, some might say we used up every trick in the book and then more; we slid, we blocked, we threw ourselves before the ball and challenges, we irritated, and annoyed, we pestered and provoked, but we took our chances, at times we played on the break, we also took the fight to the Whites, we stood toe to toe with our adversaries and took the blows, the slings, the arrows and we refused to yield, we were as one and did not falter: never…in the field, well you know the rest.
But then I thought, well that’s all somewhat verbose, just what you are expecting of me, clearly from the comments at the end of the game the Whites are anticipating a literary lashing of a certain magnitude. Was it sour grapes at having their immense unbeaten run ended…surely not: you are after all are you not better men than that? You knew that the run would come to an end at some stage and it would take something special to end it: we needed a performance like last night, we owed ourselves something like last night. It was going to be that, or a night when we scored off our shins and backsides all evening, and we haven’t had one of those for months, and so your reaction must have been just the pure unabashed and unveiled disappointment, which I understand entirely, I would have felt that also, I have in the past. The Darks have had unbeaten runs to rival, if not better, than the one you have just enjoyed. The Whites have been outstanding for weeks without a break now. When such a run is broken, it is devastating, and to have it broken against a team with a man short and then a man so obviously wounded so early on in the game as well. We all had to dig deep and then go deeper still.
And yet still I struggle to know what to write in this match report, after all the advanced jibes and critics on the night, and knowing what I will face when it is released to the world and what I will face this coming Thursday, and also with Mark’s poignant comments from when he left… “take your time, get it right” in my head…the pressure was on and it has weighed heavy. It had to be just right, I had to find the right tone, the right pitch, the words to capture the performance, the impact from the result, the devastation, the headlines around the world…stop the press, hold the back page, shout it from the roof tops, the Whites are no longer invincible; I had to portray in these paragraphs the energy and commitment right through even into the time added on at the end (Were we playing until the Whites drew level? It will be forever known as Jono time). How can this mean so much to us, we are not professionals, we are just a gathering, a strange and motley gathering to boot of mixed abilities and ages and backgrounds, drawn by our love of this beautiful game, do you not marvel at that and the strength of feeling…welcome by the way Ara to our foolishness, and a solid debut it was too. Bring a dark shirt next week, come join a winning team.
I had to get it right….rewrite after rewrite followed, it was after all just a game of football, it wasn’t a Nobel prize, it wasn’t a Mars landing, it wasn’t a series win, it was just one game, I had to get the balance between humility and pride in victory and respect for the defeated correct, I had read sufficient ancient philosophy to know that missed place hubris will be my downfall but I also knew that I had to honour my teammates and their performance: I was, as they say, in turmoil. We needed our victory parade after Thursday night but we needed our slave standing behind us on our chariot reminding us over every cobble of this symbolic via triumphalis, past every cheering citizen of Rome that we are just men and all glory is fleeting.
And then I struck me, I didn’t need any words. Tim said everything that had to be said with one picture he sent around the team on Friday morning, one picture that summed up the entire match, the best match report ever.
So if you want facts, the facts are simple:
Darks won. Whites lost.
But if you want the match report, then you just need this one picture (see the Gallery, see if you guess which one).