Castaways gift early Christmas present to Old Boys

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By FRASER HOPE

DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR

Sunday morning’s bright sunshine brought this reporter full of hope for an exciting final game of a stretch of home games with Old Boys aiming to add to their record of two losses and a win.

I was so excited I arrived at Portlock Park hoping to see the opening kickoff, only to face a complete absence of home and visiting players! Quickly heading for the Hydro Field thinking that the commissioner had downgraded the Old Boys once again, I arrived to find no one there.

Thanks to Shaw Open WiFi, a more accurate reading of email indicated that game time was 12:30 p.m. at Portlock. Is receiving these humorous emails an indication of some minor sign of aging, perhaps?

Readers may be asking if I was suffering from a Black Friday “hangover” or the sudden arrival of several Santas that descended on the island on Saturday: one using the more traditional sleigh and reindeer to visit the soccer club’s House Program at Portlock and the other arriving by commercial seaplane to be escorted by a fire truck to the library to engage with youngsters in photo opportunities. Some kids will have experienced both Santas and wondered why Santa had changed his crocs for black boots and a bushier beard.

The Castaways kicked off with two volunteers — Kerry Walker and Wade ter Heide — donning the blue shirts of the visitors. Field conditions might have been the eventual winner of this event as the ground would pose problems for accuracy, skill and balance, not noticeably strong points of the Old Boys. The two conscripts, eager to show that they could make a difference, helped the visitors to keep the Old Boys hemmed in their own half with Walker leading the attack and ter Heide making his mark on the game, or should I say more pointedly on Donny Brown in goal? Free kick to Old Boys!

A series of four corner kicks was repulsed as the Old Boys sought to control the midfield. It does not take a Pochettino, Mourinho, Guardiola or Klopp to understand the importance of a strong midfield, but Tweddle has only cooler privileges to offer to attract world-class players to Salt Spring. David Toynbee, our last major signing, is still yet to receive any of the conditions of his signing contract! 

There was excitement as Mike McCormick on the breakaway was ably supported by speedy Ben Cooper, who was unceremoniously tripped from behind. The advantage was given by the referee but the opportunity fizzled out.

“Downtown” Donny Brown, realizing that all goalkeepers are a bit crazy in the head, began to inject a bit of interest by wandering “downfield” and causing conniptions amongst his teammates and supporters alike. Number 13 of the Castaways also played his part in livening up the proceedings as he seemed to think he was all alone on a desert island and sought to relieve bladder pressure by emulating the Arsenal, Stuttgart, German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann who famously did the same in front of 30,000 fans in a Champions League match in December 2009. 

The game for most of the first half revolved around a midfield battle that neither team was able to resolve. It was chess, no, checkers, no — more like a game of tiddlywinks.

Thankfully, both teams decided to have little or no intermission to allow the Castaways to catch an earlier ferry and the game proceeded under brightening skies with fans having to shade their eyes because of the low horizon sun making it difficult to admire the spectacle. Most positive comments from the stands were “21 days until the sun starts coming back after the winter solstice” and “at least the ground/running track was drying up and that spectators in the front rows would be less spattered by mud or goose pooh from errant passes.”  All dry cleaning claims must reach the team administrative office by noon yesterday.  

Spectators were looking for some spark of excitement on or off the field as underfoot conditions seemed to be defeating both teams. Tweddle tried to liven up the game by trying to incite the ref to yellow card him for taking off his shirt to celebrate (what he was “celebrating” the fans were not sure), but the ref was unmoved.

The Castaways goalkeeper made several good saves that just lacked the power to produce goals with Toynbee, Mike McCormick, Dave Eadie and Stefan Cermak all testing the keeper. 

As in the televised game earlier in the day, a last-minute shocker changed the dynamics of the game: Scouser Mark Aston pounced on a penalty hand ball advantage to give the Old Boys a 1-0 lead. The joy on Aston’s face as he wheeled away from the kop end of the stadium to be mobbed by his teammates brought joy to the Liverpool fans on the bench and stands.

Thankfully the score held up and Klopp’s doppelgänger, Tweddle, showed his class by not running onto the field like a maniac to embrace Donny Brown at the final whistle! Castaways could hurry off to leave the “island” for the “big island.”  

On that note the recent discovery of a manuscript by John Donne in a Suffolk stately home brought to mind “No Man is an Island . . . to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee!” , “Diversions on Emergent Occasions” 1624. Donne’s sense of the value of community and its continuance is exemplified by the fantastic turnout for Salt Spring United Youth Soccer program backed by enthusiastic women’s and men’s support teams. It is heartening for an old codger to see so many young families contributing to the community. Viva United! Thanks to all, whether they be the players, parents, grandparents, coaches, staff and sponsors who contribute and volunteer so much of their time. The bell tolls for us, the community. Here endeth the lesson!

Old Boys move off island this Sunday, Dec. 9 to renew their long-time rivalry with Cowichan at Francis Kelsey school field.

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