Ahh Sunday, the day of rest. Not in our case and fresh off the back of yesterday's sterling effort of back-to-back CONIFA World Cup Group Stage matches we were up and at em again, ready to get our groove on at Larges Lane in Bracknell- a modest 60 miles away from where we started our four game weekend at Enfield Town's Queen Elizabeth II Stadium just 24 hours prior. In my first of three trips to the stadium hosting the Final, Tom and I were lucky enough to see the crazy Abkhazia fans cheer on their side to a poor 0-2 defeat at the hands of Kárpátalya and it would be the Zakarpattia Oblast Hungarian folk of south-western Ukraine that we'd be kicking our day off again with. Bearing in mind we'd ended yesterday by seeing an eight goal Tuvalu slaughtering at the hands of Padania in Haringey, we sat in a greasy spoon on the outskirts of Enfield discussing another potential drubbing. With this being the final group game Kárpátalya already had four points and knowing that the other two who could go through were playing each other, it meant that there wasn't a monumental amount of pressure on the Europeans. Their opponents, Tibet, are another one of the fairytale stories of the competition and their national outfit was very well represented by passionate and kindly fans, who apparently were hysterical when they scored their first goal in the Northern Cyprus defeat at Enfield.
As Tom was heading back to Bristol following our 6pm match in Slough, we travelled in our separate cars and despite a fairly traffic-heavy drive we eventually made it out of London and into Bracknell, one of the two Berkshire based stadiums for the tournament. One of Tom's fellow Rovers pals Terry was also at the game and I briefly had another catch-up with Terrace Traveller Nathaniel as we all entered the ground. Terry, Tom and I headed into the bar in search of the Bracknell Pilsner as an afternoon that was arguably hotter than the previous descended upon us at Larges Lane. Bracknell Town's ground is another well developed, recently refurbished, artificially turfed ground and the clubhouse compliments a very smart outfit. Sure, it doesn't have the quirky characteristics of the two grounds we'd seen yesterday, but with the Tibet fans in attendance we soon forgot about everything else surrounding.
The sides came out to a rapturous applause and along with an amplified Tibetan, there was also a high vocal support coming from every corner of the ground as pockets of natives of the Himalayan nation spoke up during a moving rendition of their national anthem. At this point Tom and I continued our tradition of a pre-match prediction. Mr. Romance went for a 1-0 Tibet victory, whereas I predicted a 4-0 Kárpátalya win. For the second game in a row, I guessed the result and margin of win, but not the exact score! We'd seen the European side play in yellow and blue on the Saturday, but their Sunday look was very much what you'd expect from their home strip. A red shirt, white shorts and green socks gave them a very Hungarian look, whilst Tibet lined-up in a strip reflective of their badge, a sunshine style circular shirt pattern of blue and red coming from the left breast where the badge is. Both very nice kits, as most have been that I've seen throughout the tournament- although I am yet to see the legendary Matebeleland outfit in all of its glory. Roll on Tuesday afternoon!
Huddled up in the one cool corner of the ground, we observed the first goal of the game in the 2nd minute and it was Zsolt Gajdos, scorer of the opener in the game we'd seen the day before, who pounced on a well-placed cross from out on the right. Kárpátalya 1-0 Tibet. Whereas Tuvalu struggled from the offset due to their lack of ability against a very good Padania team, Tibet were at least a skilful and decent side going forward and they put in some very good moves throughout the 90 minutes in this fixture. Of course they had one notable disadvantage and that was their physical presence. The Forbiddens won a couple of set-pieces in fairly threatening positions, but with no player looking over six foot they weren't really likely to make much from the very well placed crosses coming in. At the other end, Bulnar Tibor fed one of his team-mates from the right again but this time the shot only led to a corner. In a moment of somewhat end-to-end action things got a bit too much for Tom. Some may call it a hangover, others could cite sun-stroke, but for my good pal I think it was just a genuine piece of madness. As the ball was floated into the box the lino called for the Ref to give an offside, which he did, and upon the blowing of the whistle Tom jumped up and shouted out in ecstasy as though Bristol Rovers had just won the Champions League, or whatever the League One equivalent is.
There were to be two more goals before the break and after Tibet conceded a penalty György Sándor bobbled the spot-kick home. Kárpátalya 2-0 Tibet. We would then see a third go in, which came during a spell in which the amplified Tibet fan with the microphone was shouting "spiderman" repeatedly in reference to a great save that Tenzin Samdup made just moment prior. The insect based superhero couldn't do anything though to stop Ronald Takács getting the goal and at half-time it would be over as a contest. Kárpátalya 3-0 Tibet. During the break we treated ourselves to a walk around to a half-time traditional Tibetan sing and dance show, which was so good that we didn't even notice the second-half had kicked-off.
|I imagine it would be some atmosphere if they won one|
|You could already feel the heat rebounding off the pitch|
|We found the shady looking corner, perfect for us shady looking gents|
|He's a special case, but then he'd probably say the same about me|
|I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Queen's "I Want To Break Free"|
In all seriousness though the Tibet message had been carried very well and with the "Free Tibet" chants coming as a constant, albeit a bit tedious, it was an amazing way for the troubled state to get some awareness to the people at the game, but also to the mass media streams in attendance. Back on the pitch the game continued to be well contested really and as Tenzing Yougyal forced a good save from Bela Fejer Csongor on the hour-mark, you sensed that there was still more to come. Whilst in the bar getting a refreshing shandy, we both ran outside as the noise levels rose and from the frame of the clubhouse's doors I just about saw as Yougyal hit an ambitious long-range drive which seemed to go miles into the sky before dipping down and into the top corner, causing a frenzy of celebration from most within the ground. Kárpátalya 3-1 Tibet. We were pretty chuffed to have seen a Tibet goal and although it would only spark Kárpátalya back into life for the final 20 minutes, it was still a fantastic moment. Alex Svedjuk tried to stop the party by scoring almost instantly after his side had conceded, but it was to no avail. Kárpátalya 4-1 Tibet. For Tibet it was not about the result though and having managed to notch for the second game in a row they were in full-swing. Moments after the three goal lead was restored it was then extended as Takács got his second of the day with a simple finish following a successful tussle with three Tibet defenders. Kárpátalya 5-1 Tibet. The only other highlight during the game to mention was one of humour as one Tibetan found out where the control for the speakers was, made a cheeky manoeuvre over to the fader and then switched it off. His smile as he darted away was very much that of a naughty schoolboy, but inside I was thinking what a great move he'd made for the good of everyone.
The full-time whistle came and after cheering off each player from both sides, the Tibet lads came back to their sub's bench to have a bit of a debrief before standing in a line facing their fans and simply offering a militaristic and perfectly observed salute as the crowd sang proudly once more. This was another magnificent moment for me and one that I will carry through with me during the rest of the tournament. Because we were rushing off to Slough, we couldn't stick around too long but we did leave with wide smiles at our experience here at Larges Lane. I summarised this trip as being one of those where had I attended a Tuesday night Bracknell Town league tie I'd possibly have left disappointed, but sometimes the ground is not always the key feature in football and in this case the actual football wasn't neither- it was these plucky folk.
|It certainly wasn't much quieter, by any stretch|
|Cheers Bracknell, cheers Tibet!|