Splash Damage XI vs SEGA XI
On Sunday, July 14th the eyes of the sporting world turned to London. While Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer slugged it out in an epic 5th set tie-break at Wimbledon, the England and New Zealand men contested the greatest cricket match of all time in the World Cup Final, and Lewis Hamilton strolled to another Grand Prix victory, there was another clash of sporting titans happening in South East London.
SEGA and Splash Damage, a rivalry old as time.
We’d met in Special Effect’s 5-a-side tournament earlier this year, but this was different. 11-aside, on the hallowed (astro) turf of Hayes Lane, the home of Bromley F.C.
This was about rivalry. About bragging rights. About proving ourselves on the biggest stage of them all.
(It was also about raising money for Special Effect – you can donate here.)
We arrived at the ground one by one (a star striker nursing a post-stag-do-hangover was a late fitness concern) and began the least vigorous warm-up of our footballing careers. A quick glance at SEGA’s professional preparation and the realisation quickly dawned on us; we should be taking this more seriously.
Once we were exhausted from a semi-vigorous workout, we went back into the dressing room for a team talk, some tactical analysis and to laugh at Bromley FC’s list of fines on the wall – “Missing a team night out” warranted a written apology…
We walked down the tunnel, the tactical briefing fresh in our minds, and the Champion’s League music played out around the stadium. Hairs were raised, stomachs were in turmoil and the magnitude of our task dawned on us; some of these SEGA players make football games for a living. We had to perform.
We knew the first half would be tight. Fitness levels were decent going into the game (until we realised we’d signed up to a full 90-minute match) so legs wouldn’t be an issue. However, as the temperature climbed the game would become stretched, defences would drop deeper and there’d be more opportunities.
The game started frantically; both teams pressing high, forcing mistakes and feeling the pressure of such a high-profile affair. A head injury early in the first half to one of our players (he’s fine!) forced both sides to slow down, and the extra time and space allowed the game to flow a little better.
SEGA, boasting the world’s fastest player, took an early lead as he broke through our high line before calmly slotting in at the near post. A sprint into the stands followed by self-applause was the celebration – drawing cheers from all on the pitch.
Despite losing the lead, we continued to hold the ball well in the final third, without carrying any serious threat to the SEGA goal. That all changed as the first half drew to a close, as Dani – our Spanish maestro – cut inside onto his left foot before placing the ball into the far corner past the despairing dive of SEGA’s number 1.
Riotous cheering erupted from the crowd. Our bench burst into applause. Our players piled on top of one another. SEGA stood dumbfounded, no doubt wondering why we celebrated so wildly for a first-half equaliser.
We still don’t know.
The half-time whistle went, and a sigh of relief swept across the ground. It took a great, last-ditch save from our goalkeeper to keep us level at the interval. We clearly needed a break, but we thought we’d played pretty well so far. The captain (pictured above, giving us an earful) disagreed.
We were ready; bolstered by his acute tactical insights like “Stay in formation” and “stop giving the ball away!” we took to the field once more.
The game was slower, and a little more controlled from both sides in the early stages of the second half. A few more passes were completed, but as the heat climbed the quality suffered. Legs were tired, defences stretched and offside lines a thing of the past.
It was one such lapse in concentration that cost us the second goal, a scattered defensive line cost us against SEGA’s pace. Even some post-match VAR analysis couldn’t save us.
Spurred on by this obvious injustice we surged forward, snapping into tackles and winning the ball high up the pitch. It was that tenacity that won us a free kick, 20 yards from goal, just off centre.
Our most sunburned player stepped up, rolled up his shorts like Cristiano Ronaldo, and we all held our breath…
“Score a free-kick on a professional football pitch” is on the bucket list for most wannabe footballers, and this was as good as it gets. This time the pile-on was warranted, bench and all. This goal still gets talked about at work, and the scorer must have watched it 100 times.
The goal and celebrations took too much out of us. Another counter-attack was our ultimate undoing as SEGA ran out 3-2 winners on the day.
We’re incredibly proud of what we achieved, though. Not just the match – which is something we’ll never forget – but the whole event raised a lot of money for Special Effect. Thanks go out to friends and partners who attended (and filmed and took photos!), thank you so much for your support.
But most of all, our heartfelt thanks go out to both SEGA and Bromley FC, for being a great sport and gracious host respectively. We really couldn’t have done any of this without you both.
We’ll see you all for the rematch.