By FRASER HOPE
A last-minute search by the Old Boys medical team for surgical masks in local pharmacies on Sunday before kickoff was unsuccessful, with not one to be found — all sold out!
Only an experimental vaccine based on rushed laboratory work of volunteer Old Boys’ bloodwork was available just before kick-off. Not all players submitted to the needle but those that did knew they were forging new sporting medical frontiers.
The only concern was how the World Anti-Doping Agency and FIFA would react. Could the vaccine give an unnatural advantage to the Old Boys over their opponents Vantreight 48s? It was noticeable that the visitors set up their team bench some distance from the home team bleachers.
Under welcome, sunny skies, a verdant pitch — thanks Mike Brown and school grounds staff — Old Boys kicked off, bolstered by Homecoming Weekend returnees Dave McColl, Stefan Cermak and VIP (Vociferous Inspiring Personality) Jim Witherspoon straight from Hollywood. The team was determined to rebound after a series of setbacks.
With the resounding rallying cry of “We are more photogenic than the other teams but we always play ugly,” Old Boys stormed down the field, making several forays into the visitors’ half, spurred on by the considerable home support.
Goalkeeper Richard Steel soon made the game interesting with a rather careless clearance straight at an opponent, who fortunately was so surprised at this early opportunity he froze in the moment and the Old Boys cleared the ball.
Languid as ever, McColl flighted a delicate through-ball for Mike McCormick, who showed considerable ball control to outflank the defencemen and notch a low shot with enough power after a lung-bursting run to open the scoring. Scott Howe, ever up for a marauding full-back overlap à la Robertson of Liverpool FC, cut back a cross for McCormick to score the team’s second goal.
The goals just kept coming, with Rainer Funk latching onto a combined slip by Matt Johnson and McCormick to take the goal tally to 3-0.
Mike Davis (Betty’s boy) made a shot-come-cross bamboozle the defence, attackers and officials alike to score a goal off the back post, which clearly found the inside of the net before rebounding. The referee signalled to the centre circle for a goal, but after protestations to the assistant referee and a VAR official in the South Vancouver Island Classics Soccer Association Victoria studio, the decision was overturned: No goal for Big Mike!
Dave Eadie chipped in for the fourth goal aided by McCormick.
Howe, in the thick of things, drew a penalty inside the box. The crowd shouted “Give it to Scott!” who was seeking his first-ever goal (own goals not counting) in his long Old Boys career. The hush could be heard all around the stadium as Howe stepped up and hit the ball firmly . . . over the bar. No need for VAR — no goal!
The anguish continues for Howe, who greatly appreciated the supportive comments from Witherspoon in the stands.
Half-time came and went so quickly. Maybe not so quickly for Howe, who was constantly consoled by teammates and fans.
Would the second half continue the goal fest? Old Boys, respectful of the opposition, changed the line-up slightly, but left McCormick up front still hunting for his hat-trick. Another Howe cross from the right saw McCormick “swing and miss” when it would have been easier to score.
Ben Cooper, who had been keeping a low profile, which meant he was still upright, combined with Johnson to keep the scoreboard ticking over at 5-0. Safe to say that Vantreights began to lose some of their earlier energy.
McColl was felled by a defender. “Karma,” muttered the coach, but the ref played the advantage with Funk combining with Johnson to give McCormick his hat-trick.
Despite spurning golden opportunities to score, Donny Brown and Davis coyly managing to “miss” and not run up the score, but “Karma” McColl had no compunction in arriving perfectly at the back post, meeting a Brown cross to score number seven, when it could easily have been number 11! The referee finally drew the game to a close with the final score of 7-0.
The Old Boys turned to recognize the support of the large number of fans by giving Winston Churchill’s famous two-finger salute of Victory. “Vaccines! Virus free! Victory over Vantreights!” Readers will recognize that is a four-fingered salute, but poetic licence aside, the Old Boys deserved their Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the Finlayson turf, the graveyard of many Old Boys dreams.
Kudos to Witherspoon, McColl and Cermak, our home boys, and of course our commiserations to Howe, who will obviously learn from the experience and prepare for the future.
Old Boys will return to the graveyard that is Finlayson turf to face Vic West 48s at noon on Sunday, Feb. 16, WADA and FIFA willing.