Wembley Stadium, Millenium Stadium, and Friends Arena are preparing to host major final games of the year. Chelsea and Tottenham are battling for the Premiership in the North whilst Real Madrid and Barcelona are neck and neck in the South. In between, Bayern Munich have already wrapped up the League Title with three games to spare. The common denominator of these chains of events marks the last phase of the 2016/2017 season. Although there is one exception, IFK Gothenburg has made a poor start in the Swedish League only one-third in to the season and whether their season structure makes more sense than playing football in cold and dark winter evenings is a debate for another day.
Zooming in to NW London on Saturday 29th April – the Barnet fans were celebrating a 3-1 home victory over Grimsby, the sun was shining and SJFA had gathered for their last training session of the season. I vividly recall the very first training session in January 2016 where we entered our new venture under a rain storm turning into a heavy snowfall and hailstones. During our tenure the weather became some kind of a symbol where everyone was expecting grey clouds and strong winds to sweep over The Hive and Barnet not to win. Whilst sunshine and Barnet victory became a rare commodity, nothing could hinder the colourful and relentless spirit of the SJFA family. This saga was concluded with a small presentation, extending appreciation to our hosts for their guidance and support throughout the tenure.
As we now take a break from our regular training sessions, the SJFA calendar remains lively over the summer. The weekends running up to Mahe Ramadhan will be filled with our newly discovered Futsal venture together with the awards ceremony as icing on the cake. As soon as the Eid biryani is digested, the players will start focusing on summer tournaments, with our own Salaam Cup on 8th July as the highlight. This year the bracket is stretched to invite local external clubs together with a mini- festival element. Both these components reflect our progress, aligning our tournament arrangements with the grass-root football clubs but with the added spice of our Khoja emblem including mandazi and bharazi breakfast. The summer season will then end with the traditional MAMT returning to Peterborough, before we embrace the 2017/2018 season at Harefield Academy.
Whilst the clubs mentioned at the outset are in a different league or rather on a different planet, the principles are no different to any small grass-root community club. All clubs have their own history and story, shaping and living the dreams they design. Our U14s turning around a 4-9 deficit to a 9-9 draw in Wembley on a January afternoon would be equally valuable to what Liverpool did against Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final. This game epitomises the SJFA spirit throughout the season, a season that has been very challenging with some very difficult games against well established league teams. Regardless of conditions and challenges, our crew and passengers have remained relentless with a determination firm as granite.
As the evaluation of Premiership clubs will be based and judged on silverware, and trust me there has been some interesting banter amongst the coaches ( I can see a smile emerging on the Spurs fans!), the SJFA evaluation is built around the gems our community and club is blessed with. As the salary negotiations will be underway in the transfer windows, we will not even begin to consider putting a value on our priceless precious stones. These assets are so formidably surrounded by the community and household structures, equally part of the achievements, providing the support for a successful and sustainable mission.
Before I sign off, I would like to thank ALL of you keystones generating numerous milestones during the season and throughout the SJFA journey so far.
It is truly an honour to be part of this operation.
Salaams & Duas
Head of SJFA