You have been waiting for it a real long time and it has finally come true. Another witty chapter from HK’s most notoroius academic….it’s “Terry Does Shekou”.
Saturday morning dawns, the day the Spartans have been waiting for has finally arrived, the Shekou footie tournament. Spartans in various states of mental undress roll out of bed, some with better internal alarm clocks than others (“Shit! It’s 8:30 a.m. I’m supposed to be somewhere, am I not?”), pull the curtains aside, and open windows all over HK, only to be greeted by gray, sleety skies, interminable rain. (“What’s new?”) Clad in bright yellow parkas and flip flops (got to let the big toe breathe) we navigate our way downstream, against the current, to the Hong Kong — Macau ferry terminal for a rendezvous with destiny on the edges of what was once a sleepy fishing village.
Assorted Spartans gather at the gate, slowly, surely, the team is starting to coalesce, to take shape, and what an impressive sight it is. There’s a sleepy Nick , a dewy-eyed Halsey, a sprightly Dev, a petulant Flabbo, a cooler-than-cat Paul Hoy, decked in tight black with the shades on firmly to conceal bloodshot eyes but a certain whiff of the Jamaican islands lingers on, a wobbly Marc, decked in pink flamingo polo, looking for his sea legs, a chilled Tim, an absorbed Jonathan, a slightly constipated Henry (ok, it’s the b.u.m. ankle, Unkle, not the lime green shots leftover from Kenny’s still rumbling in his stomach), a Crookie sighting, an unperturbed Terry (“I pity da fool,” I think I make a better Mr. T than Murdoch), Okey resplendent in a tropical print shirt (a brighter shade than bright) and who’s missing but one musketeer, the d’Artagnan of the Spartans, the one and only and all for one, Mr. B for Bollywood (not Ali A, not Ali B, not Ali C.), Sanj. But with seconds to spare before they close the gates, there he is, slightly out of breath but never disheveled, Sanj.
Yeah baby, it’s the motley crue! The Spartan buccaneers (oblique reference to the Glazer family, the scorn of Saikung), hide your daughters cuz we be stormin’ the white cliffs of Shekou!
On to the boat, the SS Lusitania, hopefully no Uboats lurking in the waters off Lantau, and we’re floating for a while before the captain gets the allclear, and we’re off, 2 rows of Spartans, with the grannies (Flabbo, Tim, and Paul ) in the back, working on their crocheting and macramé skills.
Chugging along, Dev’s got the iPod, trying to act all that, listening to old skool, I’m trying to do the crossword puzzle, Sanj is taking a few well-aimed potshots at the Australian cricket team, Henry’s puttering about, gnashing his teeth over the Solomon islands and how the Australian cricket selectors have been all wrong and how it’s just what Australia needed (“We’ve been winning for far too long” — hubris goeth before the fall, read up on your Milton, Henry). Halsey’s dazed and confused, Nick and Jonathan are debating the finer points of beer chugging, Crooke’s calm and serene, channeling the Buddha, Marc’s railing about Scotland and the many fine women who live there, Okey’s practicing his Chinese tones, Flabbo’s trying to figure out who exactly is this Inter Shenzhen (our first opponent) and haranguing Tim about what alignment we shall form, the intricacies of the 3-3-1 (it’s an 8-a-side tournament) versus the diamond and one (ok, that’s a basketball reference tossed in there), and Paul is floating, literally five feet above his seat, in another world. the shades glued on, the art of football tackling and zen, the man practically invented the Id.
Faster than you can say “Dang, John Terry’s out for a month or two, we’re going to have to play that 3rd rater Ricardo or something at centreback, how will we ever survive?” there we are, getting off the boat in Shekou.
To quote the great Buckaroo Banzai, “Remember; no matter where you go, there you are.”
Flabbo’s worried we’re going to miss kickoff, looking for the bus, Dev’s wielding his Sing apore passport (“It’s orange, not red”) but still gets held up in immigration, but somehow we make it through, get our stamps, and gather under a gray slate sky, right outside the ferry terminal, with hawkers and taxi drivers trying to steal some business.
A huge bus pulls up, and we’re off through the winding streets of Shekou to the brewery where the matches will be held (what a wonderful combination, beer and football, something Spartans are intimately acquainted with).
Traffic’s snarling, who would have thought?
In the back of the bus, that’s where it’s at. Someone’s getting mummified, FC Cairo, but I’ll let the picture do the talking. The merry band of travelers, pranksters, drunks, misfits, harlots, and heathen rolls on.
While Sanj is getting ready, wrapping up his knee, clapping his hands, singing us a song.
You’re gonna be the one who saves me?
And after all
You’re my Henry Vera
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do
About Paul Hoy now
Henry’s still moaning about the cricket. And now it’s Paul Hoy’s turn to practice his Chinese tones. Sanj gives the occupants of a bus next to ours a big cheeky grin and they look on rapturously, wondering who’s just fallen from the stars.
And before he can sing one about me, we’re at the pitch, lock and load, rock ‘n roll.
The 1st game is against the Inter Shenzhen, a team in blue stripes, we start out brightly, intricate passing and movement in front of the opponent’s goal, Tim receives the ball with his back to the goal, does a neat pirouette, shoots and scores à la J. Cole (a nice ricochet) in the top corner. 1-0. The other team starts resorting to the long ball and we seem to be in control. But with the Spartans appearances can be deceiving. They get a corner and work a few 1-2s to get a shot and slam the equalizer past Dev. 1-1, crestfallen. Flabbo is raging, yelling himself ragged, like a young Dylan Thomas (I shall not go easy into that night). The game ends a couple seconds later, with a dubious tie, a chance squandered.
Our next game is against Dynamo, a 4th division Yauyee team. Terry is up front, with Tim, and we start off aggressively, everyone’s putting in shots, testing the keeper, Crookie’s firing, when Jonathan goes up for a contested header, flicks the ball on, and Terry pounces and with the left foot (yes Alan Wong, it can be done, through the power of positive thinking, or by lighting lots of joss sticks to the footballers god) thumps the ball past the goalkeeper. 1-0! Spartans are pouring it on, a nice combination, and Sanj is there on the left with the keeper at his mercy, only to one time the ball, past the post, “inches, she screamed”. Nick is using that battling frame of his to win balls, turn defenders, and shoot, and he finally gets the 2nd goal for a well-deserved 2-0 win.
Our 3rd game and a crucial one is against the Swiss team. Right from the start we know it’s going to be physical. Flying down the right wing, Okey is getting steamrolled, legs taken out, our Cristian Ronaldo, what does a person have to do to win a free kick? Halfway through the game, Nick comes in late (by a split second) on a tackle on a Swiss ogre who decides to stomp on Nick . Big N keeps his cool while the Swiss go berserk, on the sidelines Sanj is ready to drop the gloves with some twerp, the momma jokes are flying fast and furious, when Jonathan steps in to prevent the fracas from really getting ugly. Was there even a ref for this game?
The opposition is bunkered down, as it’s one-way traffic, but Spartans can’t break down the back 4 or call it the back 8 the way they played. It ends up a 0-0 draw. One win, 2 ties, and the Spartans have the final game versus the HK Mobsters (or Squadron).
Squadron field a strong attacking 3, with Andy Mitchell, Peter Piper, and the Vinnie Jones lookalike. But it’s the righteous Spartans that bring the fire and Paul Hoy feints once, dekes twice, (was a stepover thrown in as well?), before shooting. The squadron keeper is left stonecold Steve Austin and can only helplessly watch the ball sail past him only to have it smack loudly off the post and fly by Sanj, lurking for the rebound. That seems to shake the Squadron a bit and they step up their game. An unfortunate clearance, an errant pass, and the ball finds the foot of Andy Mitchell who slots it into an empty net.
Spartans try to come back but Okey who’s played a spirited game keeps getting cynically brought down. Marc can’t get untracked and deliver one of his timely goals. And that Andy Mitchell fellow is an ever-present danger and makes one or two more dangerous, darting runs. For the life of me I can’t remember who was marking him 😉 It ends 1-0 for the Squadron and the Spartans are roped into one final match with the KCC.
All of a sudden, there’s a torrential downpour, we seek refuge under the big tent, it’s absolutely coming down, Flabbo doesn’t want to risk inflaming the passions any more and decides to keep dry underneath, Tim’s picked up a tweaked groin muscle, and Nick (who’s been tirelessly working all day) is just too beat to give a damn anymore.
It’s off for the rest of us to splish splash around the swamp, the ball gets stuck in puddles, KCC run circles, Paul gets hurt, Andy’s exhausted (maybe following the 3 a.m. Henry Vera aerobics course could do the trick?), Halsey’s running around, tracking everything down, Marc’s sipping tea on the sidelines, Henry’s holding up the smallest umbrella in the world, Dev keeps blaming the gloves, and it’s 3-0 for the bad guys, and we’re trudging off to the bus, in desperate need of a hot shower and some nourishment, for the body and soul.
Now on to the part of the match report that everybody’s been waiting for. if you’re under 18, time to avert your eyes.We resume with tonight’s entertainment.
As the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s “The Castle” went by the simple letter “K” so shall the protagonist of my tale of delight and debauchery be simply known as “F”.
The boys of Sparta make their way back to the hotel, lumbering in to the lobby to pick up our keys, and then tread back outside to the apartment block. The rooms turn out to be nice and spacious, with modern amenities. The TV’s got the BBC and ESPN is showing some dog show. Brilliant. I can hear F bouncing up and down on the bed in his room, testing the springs, who knows what for. Peels of glee.
We dump our stuff and take quick showers. Some of us are so domesticated that they wash their unis and hang them up to dry (bravo girlfriends, you’ve trained them well). Others are a bit more perplexed by the knobs and complex features on the bath and showers. It takes Dev half an eon and a gazillion phone calls to the help for clueless Sing aporeans desk to figure out how to operate the shower and drain, as the water rises precariously and is in danger of flooding all nine floors beneath his room.
We meet in the lobby bar and start on the Qingdaos. Sanj and T are engaged in a battle of half wits on Connect4 and I get whupped twice in a row.
It’s then off to explore downtown Shekou before dinner at some posh French bistro, the rampaging horde makes its way to the town central square and we are pleasantly surprised by how neat it is, palm tree lined, downright civilized, it even has an Irish pub (of course showing the F1 instead of the England game). Stomachs are rumbling and no one can wait. Dev sneaks off to the Golden Arches to gorge on hash browns while the rest of the krew is off to the Pizza Hut, even though dinner’s only half an hour away. At the swankiest Pizza Hut ever, we get a big table and order 3 pizzas, we’re right next to the salad bar, and the more observant ones of us start noticing a peculiar trend, these incredibly skinny Chinese girls head off to the salad bar and stack their plates with gravity defying bits of lettuce and fruit, leaning towers of salad, and head back to their table. It’s like everyone’s in the know, except for us.
Moving on, we cross the rococo square and head to the Bistro, where all the teams are happily ensconced at long tables. The waitresses are coming by with pitchers of the “Spanish juice” and Spartans are mixing sangria with beer with Coca-Cola (except for Dev who’s having his Coke straight up). A cacophony of sounds, even I can’t be heard across the din. A lively atmosphere, they bring out hors d’oeuvres and celery sticks and radishes. The main dishes are sea bass and coq au vin, both quite good, and we quaff a lot of wine (a cabernet sauvignon, which according to Nick , is the best he’s ever had). Then someone makes a funny hat, Okey’s going on about opening up a restaurant in Dongguan, Halsey’s smiling, high as a kite, Sanj is in one ear, out the other, golden arm, Henry tries to disappear behind a napkin, a raffle is held and the Spartans come up emptyhanded, no PS II for us, some Spartans have strange hobbies, including collecting disused raffle tickets and searching for greater meanings in random numbers, a beach ball gets bounced back and forth, a fat lady looks to dance with F, and we stagger out into the night. to wind our way past some dark, mildewy alleyways, with groping tentacles, until we reach the coast and the fresh breeze off the ocean, and there’s a sportsbar, a light at the end of the tunnel.
Halsey and Nick hit the pool tables, Paul Hoy is engaged in another one way conversation with a terribly drunk American about the N–F–L (that’s the real game of football), Marc’s resting the ankle and hording the Qingdaos, Tim’s perched on a stool next to him, Henry and T are beating people, beasts, and Dev and Okey left and right at the foosball table, Sanj is glued to the TV, hypnotic isn’t it?, Jonathan makes the occasional foray into the middle of nowhere, Crookie is the Cheshire Cat, but where’s F? There’s a nice girl in a blue halter top near the darts board, the band is kicking in. but still no sign of F.
A search party is sent out around the block to retrieve F who eventually is found (that pix is missing mysteriously from the Henry gallery) and he’s dragged back barely alive, or conscious, or dressed for that matter, to the sports bar for the game, which only makes matters worse. After another convincing display, England look like they’re well capable of beating themselves, and the brows are furrowed among the England fans that are Spartans. I can see it already, after losing to Northern Ireland on Wednesday, England and Australia square off in a playoff for the last spot in the 2006 World Cup. And then we all wake up the next day with dull throbbing heads and fond memories of goals galore and silly boasts and arched eyebrows and a large mug of coffee.
This has been a postcard from the Edge, you’ve been a great crowd.
USA 2 — Mexico 0
England 0 — Northern Ireland 1