Starsailor play at Elland Road for Soccer Six 2004Elland Road, Leeds, Sunday 16th May 2004.
Report and photos by Boo, score keeping, bag carrying and ball-returning by Boo Jnr.
After Starsailor's trip to Anfield in 2003, they agreed to subject themselves to two rounds of the Soccer Six music industry charity football tournament in 2004, the 10th anniversary year of the event that started at Mile End Stadium a decade before. 2004 saw three rounds to be played at Everton, Leeds and Reading's grounds, Starsailor playing at the latter two. The beneficiaries of the Soccer Six event is The Prince's Trust - helping young people to tackle their futures, whatever opposition they face.
Sunday 16th May was a glorious, hot and sunny spring day, certainly too hot for playing football and rather too hot for even spectating, the reddening shoulders and noses bore testimony to that as the afternoon progressed. The first round used all three pitches set across the normal match pitch and each team were scheduled for three games apiece, organised into four groups. Starsailor's first match was against the same team they played first at Anfield; The Music. Enquiries in advance of the game as to their match fitness and readiness for the sport ahead ilicited a stream of unrepeatable answers that basically translated to "no, we're not really feeling fit." Some members of the team had already been sniffing the barmaid's apron.
Ben took the unenviable position in goal and the rest of the team to the field. Three members of Starsailor were playing, Ben, James and Stel, Barry taking to the sideline despite being handed a kit as he arrived, which he was strangely reluctant to don, once again citing the vomit-inducing properties of unecessary running around. Their team was completed by long term friend Brendon, who was, as last year, to prove to be a shining light, their manager Andrew, guitar tech Les and pro footballer, Paul Dalglish. As the games were six aside, one man at a time took it in turns to sit out. The Music were fast and played well, taking a goal in each half to win 2-0. Ben said he hadn't enjoyed it much. At least that's what I think he meant!
The disappointment he felt must have led to some further thought, planning, possible tuition or just plain inspiration (perhaps the barmaid's apron has magic properties) as he made some brilliant, energetic and reaching saves against the second team up, Blazin' Squad. Even though Blazin' Squad had twice as many on their team sheet and had engaged the services of Peter Beardsley, they couldn't overturn the Starsailor team and were beaten 4-2, a scoreline not helped by them letting in an own goal in the second half.
The heat was really on for the third match of the group as The Music won their second match and were well ahead in the group table with something like a 9 goal difference advantage to be overturned. Starsailor's final first round opponent were a team forwarded by the local radio station and event sponsor; Radio Aire who had celebrities Mark Owen and Tony Hadley kitted out and on the field.
None of the teams turning up at Elland Road that day were taking it lightly and Radio Aire were no exception, they played hard and fast and Ben was really worked hard throughout, his knees getting progressively more grass stained and pink as he was repeatedly forced to make diving saves. But Starsailor were equally determined and all the team put in brave and energetic efforts and being equal at the half time whistle left everything to play for. Starsailor triumphed in the second half with two more goals taking the score line to 4-2. Now came the nail biting wait to see what The Music scored in their final game to follow and what this did to the group table.
The Music won the group with a very clear lead and Starsailor got through to the quarter finals as one of the two highest losers over the three men's groups. Their quarter final opponents were D-Side who didn't look like they were going to make it easy. It was the fast end-to-end game you'd expect at that stage and everyone had to work hard. Just as the half time whistle blew, Ben made a diving save which sent him flying over the grass to land heavily and he remained un-moving for several minutes, rising eventually, clutching his left hand where he'd landed on his fingers. The second half saw the physicality in the stiffling heat increase and Mr Stelfox dropped to the pitch clutching body parts after a misguided ball hit him heavily and then took a sliding tackle that dumped him on his bum. The full time whistle saw 2-2 on the score sheet. The dreaded penalties loomed.
A very brief pause and some hasty consultation led to the penalty takers being allocated and five were taken each - after which the scores were still level. That necessitated sudden death penalties - a prospect none of us really relished, especially the team. The scores were level after two each and D-Side were successful with their 8th, when Starsailor weren't. D-Side were through to the semis and Starsailor could now head for the bar. The Music went on to win the final, beating Liverpool 6, a match also decided on penalties that reached the fourth round of sudden death!
It was a hot and tiring day and Starsailor gave their matches everything they had and to a man played out of their shin pads - except Paul Dalglish, who felt brave enough not to wear any - that was perhaps why he was so fast across the ground. They may all have made faces before the whistle about their match fitness and hangovers and lack of skill and sporting prowess, but they played well, worked hard and did themselves considerable justice when it counted. Howay the lads!
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