The SJFA U12 team are finally playing an 11 –a-side fixture! And no, it is not an April Fool’s joke. Our U12 squad were about to start their 11-a-side careers with a bang On April 1st. The game today would be against the Ickenham Youth C team, though their team included several who could walk into some of SJFA’s older teams. They had a huge club, reflected in the number of players they had, as well as the number of teams. Unfortunately our 13-strong team was reduced to 12, as Ali Sheikh had to miss due to illness. Another setback was that Tommy wasn’t here to start the match, so our starting line-up was everyone who was here. The match was to be an 80 minute fixture, with 4 quarters of 20 minutes each, and swapping sides on the 40 minute mark. Here is the complete squad that played:
Ali Hadi Govani (C)
Ali Abbas Suleiman (GK)
Our side, captained by Ali Hadi and coached by Nazir Dewji, started off well, pressing the Ickenham team. We began to pass it around well, creating opportunities whenever we could. Whilst we defended resolutely, they created chance after chance and managed to salvage a corner. A fantastic corner went in, looping high and into our area, only to be headed into the goal by their striker.
We kept our heads high, and went back to our attacking style. However, their quick wingers were too much for our defenders and the 2nd goal went in with a lovely shot guided into the top corner. The referee blew the whistle to signal the end of the first quarter. Our gaffer brought us in, giving instruction about what we need to do. We changed formation to a 3-4-3, giving much more opportunities to the attacking 3, and limiting the back 3 to center-backs.
SJFA went back out there, with Nazir Uncle’s instructions in our minds. SJFA once more started the half brightly, with a dribble by Husayn Yahya, opening up opportunities for Jameel, who then passed. However, the attack soon fizzled out, but this was not to be the end of SJFA’s attacking threat. Another bright move saw Hassan latch onto a pass and take it around the keeper, though missing from a tight angle. It was an incredibly close chance, and SJFA felt bolstered with confidence.
Down at the other end of the pitch saw the defence work impeccably hard, clearing off a goal-line clearance and the scrimmage that followed after it. Another corner took place and Ickenham Youth managed to slot this one in with a nice volley. The ref blew the whistle for half-time, with the score 1-0 and 3-0 on aggregate.
Nazir Uncle gave us some more pointers, and kept with the same formation. We knew we could win this quarter. The SJFA U12 squad went out there and battled Ickenham, and we managed to string a few passes together, keeping the game nice and level. We knew we had the quality to win this quarter, as did the oppositions coach. He said that ‘every time we attack we look like a threat’. This is a very high compliment indeed! We set out to prove him right, and we so nearly did! Ali Khatau was tackled just as he reached the box, and the combination of the front 3 was very potent indeed. Who needs MSN or BBC when you’ve got HAJ instead! Unfortunately, despite the threat we put out on the break, a goal was not scored. We also conceded a very unlucky goal, once more the result of a corner. This would also highlight a point to work on in training.
Once more the referee blew the whistle to end the third quarter, and we went in for a team talk. The formation was reverted back to the old 4-3-3, designed to give the wing-backs plenty of space in the flanks. Shaahid and Ali Merali were more than up to the task. Then as we were about to start the final quarter, a familiar face ran in. Mohamedmahdi Janmohamed! He immediately replaced Yousuf, and we were underway once again.
A similar intensity to the match was revived again, with tired legs boosted by a quick sub. We played our normal football, though we once more conceded 2 goals. Hassan and Ali once more produced the creative spark from their quick and tireless sprinting. Towards the end of the last quarter tempers flared between the captain and a member of the opposition side, though it was quickly resolved.
The referee blew the final whistle, and we headed to Nazir Uncle for a quick debrief, after shaking hands with Ickenham. It was the end of a good match, with the overall score 6-0, though a fantastic experience was also achieved.
By Husayn Yahya Merali