Written by and photo courtesy of Steven Greaves
There are few things that exist today that can truly bring two completely different communities together, however one thing that tends strike up a rapor is sport and most likely football, so when I found out that the local team on the neighbouring island to us (Kaledupa) wanted a game of football I was very quick to rally some volunteers for a good game.
Luckily finding players wasn’t to much of an issue, however the game came at an unfortunate time with over 100 people leaving the morning of match day, this meant myself and Hoga United’s fellow captain Tom Dallison had come up with some smart tactics in order to win with the few remaining players we had.
After some meetings a starting 11 was formed with a mix of guys and girls and a solid formation was agreed upon.
I had been informed by some of local staff who work on Hoga that the team we were up against were in fact one of the best on the island, they even requested that the match be delayed to 3pm, which we assumed was because they didn’t want to get up at 9am, we found out a few hours before kick off it was actually because they had a scheduled cup game in the morning!
Upon arriving on Kaledupa we soon realised this was serious, they had a team kit, proper boots etc, they were playing to win, who knows what they were thinking when a bunch of westerners turned up in board shorts and vests…..
After a quick warm up we were ready for kick off, the sun was beating down on us as Kaledupa kicked off. Immediately we realised that we were up against it in terms of pace, physical attributes and agility, however we had a good tactical know how, which we were using to keep ourselves in the game. After around 20 minutes the first break through came from Kaledupa as confusion in our defence caused a break and allowed them to score, however only 5 or so minutes later we were back in as through played to our front man Xev allowed us an equalising goal.
We stopped for half time and after a quick count to make sure no one was suffering from heat stroke we made a few changes to allow some new players in, our heads held high at 1-1, we had a quick team meeting and got under way for the second half.
The second got off to a bad start, within a few minutes Kaledupa took the lead after some shoddy defending, however our spirits wouldn’t be broken and 5 minutes or so later there was major improvement from Hoga United, people started pressing, closing down and I could see some determination. We then got a break, after getting taken down in the box, I was rewarded with a penalty, which was calmly slipped into the bottom left hand corner, giving us once again a chance. After kicking off, we gained control again and managed to push through the rock solid Kaledupa defence for Tom Dallison to get another goal putting us in the lead for the first time, however this was short lived as the pace and agility of Kaledupa once again prevailed and they managed to equalise but spurred on by our performance we regained control and once again pushed through for Tom to get another goal outing us 4-3 ahead, with only 10 minutes or so left, we defended deep in hope of holding out for the win, however the heat and fatigue got to us first and as we started losing our edge Kaledupa took advantage and equalised, they then went on to score a winner with just a couple minutes to go resulting in a 5-4 win for Kaledupa.
We weren’t to disheartened as we gave it our all, many of the other volunteers came along for the spectacle and had a great day as did the locals who turned out to watch.
Small things like this match can go a long way to improving relationships between local people and those that come and visit the area, whether the people on Kaledupa will talk about the westerners that came and gave them a good game of football or perhaps the westerners that came and embarrassed themselves has no distinction between them, all that matters is everyone enjoyed themselves, volunteers got to relax and get away from there dissertations and other responsibilities for a couple of hours and blow off some steam.
Its always worth that little extra bit of effort to arrange something like this that can ultimately improve yourself and those around you, even if you don’t speak the same language or believe in the same things, there always a common interest you can find.