Games 5s Football Tournament – The Splash Damage Story
May 22, 2009
Like a scorching David Beckham free kick, the finals of the MCV & Xbox 360 Games 5s Football Tournament have flashed past our flailing arms and smacked into the back of the net of time before we had time to fully register it/them. Blink and you missed them/it. But fear not, if you didn’t happen to be on or adjacent to the pitch at the time, I am here to recount tales of foot-to-ball glory.
Our adventurers performed some truly heroic feats on the day of the tournament, arguably the greatest and most unusual of which was making it to Splash Damage HQ by 8.30am to catch our mini-bus. True to form, Ben ‘Randles’ Hopkinson, the man who lives closest to the office, was last to arrive. At no point did anyone comment upon this. Not once. Oh no. Soon we were roaring down the open road in our charabanc, carving a carefree path through the London traffic, at velocities that often approached walking speed. More than once we were not only outpaced but lapped by ambling pedestrians, but before more than a few days had passed, we arrived at the Powerleague Centre, a sports venue of some note. It was perched delicately above the North Circular, one of London’s most beautiful and pert commuter intersections, close enough for stray shots to pose a peril to passing traffic. Despite our driver apparently choosing his route by Ouija Board, we did eventually make it to the event in time for registration.
Enrobed in our tasteful and subtle bright orange kits (provided by Makron Sporting Goods Inc.) and crammed full of bananas for energy, we were finally ready for our first game. The group-admin gods had seen fit to draw us against a mixed bunch: SEGA’s Burning Rangers, Team Datascope, the memorably named Cock Pearl United (a mix of Indigo Pearl and GameCock staff), The Bastion Legends and Codemasters Reserves.
With the cold appraising eye of ruthless predators, we stared down our first opponents, SEGA’s hapless Burning Rangers. One brief glance and we knew they were rabbits, pigeons, lambs to the slaughter, sheep ready to be sheared and ours for the taking. However, brief glances are not always reliable judges of ability. The SEGA team were very fit indeed. They’d run and run and then run some more. This seemed ungentlemanly and unfair – we’d adopted a rather more sedate and sportsmanlike strolling pace in our weekly practices, and the short length of the games (just 9 minutes long) meant chances on goal were limited. In the end, SEGA edged the game out 2-1. Accustomed to what now stood revealed as a somewhat leisurely preparation regimen, we’d been taken by surprise and had to raise our game.
Next up were Team Datascope who we were reasonably wary of. They had looked strong and athletic in their first game and were certainly not averse to ‘putting the boot in’, as Arne ‘ao’ Hallingstad soon found out when he was kicked high into the air by their one consistently ‘dirty’ player. Outrageously, the ref did give the opposing player a yellow card, but didn’t send him off to the sin bin for two minutes (as mandated by the rules). Had natural justice been served, the result would have been very different. Despite the physical nature of the match, we started brightly with Jiri ‘JFK’ Kristek now playing outfield and Mark ‘static mover’ Lack replacing him in goal.
Our natural genius for the game asserted itself and we quickly established a 2-0 lead, with good use of the ball and a resolute defence. With the clock running down it seemed we would win our first game. Sadly the Gods were not smiling on us: reduced by our miserly defence to simply punting the ball from entire fields away from our goal, Datascope found not one but two lucky deflections off of our defenders to get themselves back into the game before sneaking a third goal in just before the end. This was universally acclaimed an outrage, a baffling anomaly, a freak occurrence casting doubt on Newtonian physics and the existence of a just God. A loss that we didn’t deserve.
Cock Pearl United
Our next opponents, Cock Pearl United, looked to be the best team in the group. This came as no surprise to us – our spies at the Develop Conference earlier that week had learned that they had an 11-a-side team that played regularly. With this in mind and with heads dropping after our first two defeats, we went into this match just aiming to do as well as we could. This we did: By the halfway point of the match, the score was 2-2 and Fire Team Alpha looked good for a draw at least.
However, as the match went on, our opponents again looked for any edge they could get and the level of physical contact went up. Arne was again on the end of a challenge that from my point of view looked a bit like those cartoon fights where all you can see is a cloud of smoke with assorted arms and legs poking out of it. In any other age, this would have resulted in something involving an axe, but in this tournament, justice had to be satisfied with just another telling off for the offending player. With fatigue turning our boots to lead, Cock Pearl managed to score two more goals to make it 4-2: our third defeat!
Frustration was growing among the team. Flavius ‘Flawe’ Alecu, one of our star strikers, was annoyed that we weren’t passing enough, I was angry that we weren’t running enough and Ben was concerned we weren’t cheering enough! Thankfully, we were saved by an hour-long break and three special letters: BBQ! Like Stroyent to an Oppressor, scorched flesh revived and refreshed us. The healing power of Meat was just what we needed: we emerged from our feeding pit primed and ready for our remaining games, and determined that things were about to change!
The Bastion Legends
Our next opponents were The Bastion Legends: a team without substitutes who were consequently struggling with tiredness. This was the wrong time for them to meet us! Fuelled by enormous quantities of Pork and Beef served with a large side order of Frustration, Flavius proceeded to nick the ball off them and score straight from the kick off. Only 30 seconds later, he had another one, and then Arne joined in and grabbed a goal as well. 90 seconds gone and we were 3-0 up! Bastion’s heads began to drop. In a flurry of action, we quickly established a five (5. FIVE. That’s FIVE) goal lead before Bastion started to sneak back into it grabbing a couple of goals. An astonishing game ended 7-3 to Fire Team Alpha and we were back in business!
Our final group game was against Codemasters Reserves who sat second in the group and could still win it. We were placed 5th in the group but could still finish third if we won this game and other results went our way. The game started with huge amounts of support for us from the sidelines. Alongside SD stalwarts Mirek ‘Draska’ Slowik, Terry ‘Salteh’ Seidler, Ben ‘Randles’ Hopkinson and Richard ‘Fluffy_gIMp’ Jolly, we also had support from the Cock Pearl and SEGA teams who would both benefit if Codemasters lost.
This great atmosphere really helped – we started to play at the right pace and tempo, working hard off the ball and passing well when we had it, quickly edging into a lead before grabbing a second (which I think involved a flying boot from Flavius). Codemasters seemed shocked by our sudden improvement, but they managed to sneak a goal back. However it wasn’t to be enough as we grabbed a third goal and ended the game 3-1. Sadly the final results in the group didn’t go our way and we ended up in 4th place, missing the play-off for the cup but still giving us a shot at the plate final.
Our next game turned out to be an epic. In the first knock-out round of the plate competition we faced Volatile Games. The game was an edgy affair to start with: Volatile limited us to very few shots on goal yet managed to sneak one in themselves. Despite the lack of shots on goal, luck did seem to be on our side as the referee somehow spotted one of Volatile’s defenders stepping into his own area and awarded us a penalty, which Flavius promptly converted. 1-1. With Volatile increasingly dominating possession, we substituted two of our players and pushed Arne upfront alongside Flavius.
This tactical masterstroke quickly resulted in a goal, only for Volatile to strike back almost instantly. Then, with the clock running down, one of the Volatile players managed to get a yard of space to grab a third – the pressure was on! With only 30 seconds remaining, Flavius got free with the ball and smashed it (along with another flying boot) towards the goal to score, 3-3! The final whistle was blown and we were left with the dreaded penalty shoot-out. After several good saves by Jiri and a few misses on our part the epic shoot-out stood at 8-7, only for yours truly to pull a Gareth Southgate and miss. We were out!
Thankfully, it wasn’t all bad. The guys from Volatile were a nice bunch and in the end they made it all the way to the Plate final. This made defeat easier to bear, knowing we’d gone out to such a good team, especially when the result had been so close. A few free beers later, we were all more than content with our day’s efforts and felt we had learnt a lot as well as having a lot of fun. We certainly understand the level of competition much better now, so next year we’ll be back and only victory will do!
Football fever is not over here at SD HQ, however. With the Premier League starting up again this weekend, several of us have decided to make Fantasy Football teams for the English Premier League’s Official Fantasy Football game. If any of you fancy joining our mini-league, then feel free to head over to the site, make a team and then join our league using the code 13788-167736.
Special thanks to Ed ‘BongoBoy’ Stern for an extra dose of word-smithing. More awesome photos of our tournament exploits are available in our Games 5s Flickr album!