The squad was managed by the tier manager, Fuad Musa:
Ali Abbas Suleiman (GK)
Ali Hadi Govani (C)
Hassan Merali Dewji
Husayn Yahya Merali
Mohamed Mahdi Janmohammed
We arrived at the Indian Gymkhana to find a sports club that was a vision of exactly how we all would envisage our community sports facilities to be. Ample parking, spacious grounds, football pitches, astro hockey pitches as well as a cricket ground and nets! The grounds were well maintained with a beautiful multi-level clubhouse.
Understandably, our initial focus was on the facilities and set-up rather than the football!
We were warmly greeted by our hosts and we got the feeling the organisers had gone all out to welcome us and make this an event that would be enjoyed and remembered by all. After group photos and before kick-off we all observed a minutes silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the plane crash in Columbia a few days prior.
SJFA started the game with a 3-3-2 formation and held their own for the first 10 – 15 minutes. There was little goal mouth action in this time where the majority of the game was being spent in midfield.
The deadlock was broken when we committed a foul on the edge of the box. Indian Gymkhana scored from the direct free kick into the top corner leaving Ali Abbas Suleiman, our goalkeeper, with no chance, 1-0 to Indian Gymkhana.
The Indian Gymkhana boys then started to find there rhythm and we could now see the benefit of playing as a team on a regular basis, they were stronger and had more of an understanding of their positional play. They quickly took the initiative of the pressure and scored a well taken second, 2-0 to Indian Gymkhana.
Our biggest threat in the first half came from midfield by Zia Dewji who was strong and creative, causing the opposition problems defensively, unfortunately, Indian Gymkhana were well drilled and sniffed out our attacking threat that was posed by our strikers Hassan Merali Dewji, Ali Khatau and Jameel Walji. They were given no time on the ball and were up against bigger and stronger defenders.
For the second half we changed the formation slightly to try and pose more of a threat up front. Again, initially, the battle was mainly in midfield. We had a bit more of a threat going forward but lacked that cutting edge that was on show the week before.
Ali Hadi Govani received a late challenge resulting in the game being stopped for a few minutes, typically, he found the strength and determination to soldier on.
As the second half wore on we found the oppositions attacking threat was gaining momentum and Indian Gymkhana forced a few corners before getting a third goal, 3-0 to Indian Gymkhana.
Soon after the third goal the opposition manager suggested we stop the game with approx 5-10 minutes remaining to have a penalty shoot out, 5 penalties each. Unsurprisingly, when I asked who would like to take the penalties everyone put their hands up which was a sign of the positive mentality of this team. I could only choose 5 and decided to give the defenders the opportunity to take them because of their outstanding performances at the back. The penalty shoot out was won by Indian Gymkhana 4-2, with a mixture of some very well placed penalties and good saves.
A special mention must go to our defence (Ali Merali, Shahhid AP, Bakir Lilani) and our captain Ali Hadi Govani who played as a defensive midfielder. Collectively they nullified most attacks and showed good composure on the ball and more of an understanding of their responsibilities. This is a positive development in the experiences they have gained from playing together in these friendlies.
Our midfielders (Husayn Yahya and Mohammed Mahdi) also worked extremely hard especially off the ball to track the oppositions runners and provide an outlet for our defence.
To round off our match the hosts kindly gave our whole squad medals for taking part which was a wonderful and well received gesture.
Even though we lost the boys could be proud of their performance. This was only the third 9-a-side game, on grass, that they have played as a team together against a team that plays weekly in a league! A great learning curve and yardstick to measure ourselves against.
Well done to all.
Fuad Musa, Manager Tier 4 (U11/12)