A grand day out: The Carlsberg Pub Cup
May 21, 2012 in Features
While the footballing world had their eyes on the Allianz Arena, Wembley or Hampden Park this weekend, a select few, including yours truly, had their footballing sat navs directing towards Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for a tournament of a different kind. The Carlsberg Pub Cup.
Listen here for my day out in audio form:
16 five-a-side pub teams worked their way through tough qualifying tournaments all across the UK to get to today, where they would play in group stages, quarter finals, semi finals and then the big final; it was a one-day Champions League. Four to six games going on all at once, it was a sensory overload for the football fan. The prize was also Champions League in its size – a trip to Poland and Ukraine to face a team of European legends in a game, and to be managed by Gareth Southgate. They would also go to watch England play Sweden at Euro 2012, a big prize for any fan of the beautiful game. Not to mention, this impressive piece of silverware.
There was also a separate tournament for teams that may not have won their own tournaments, or won any games at all – but were given an entry way to another tournament to play on the Emirates pitch. There was also an invitational tournament between some of the companies that helped bring the whole tournament together. A blagger’s tournament, if you will.
It was hard to keep track of who was playing where, as each team was playing in either green or white – but every game was great to watch, with a number of teams looking like they should be playing on the Emirates on a weekly basis. A number of teams stood out over the others; FC International were putting teams to the sword with great attacking skill and powerful finishing, West One Three had a very passionate squad with a manager to match, and The Libertines were close to my heart, as they represented my local pub when I was at university in Harrow.
The days action was covered by Arsenal TV’s Nigel Mitchell, and comedian Tom Watt was the pitchside reporter, catching all the players as they came off the pitch. These players were living the life of a footballer – pitchside massages, sports drinks aplenty, journalists grabbing them at every opportunity. They were lapping it up, enjoying every minute, but also keeping their eye on the prize, and the teams were all quickly whittled down from the groups, to the quarter finals, the semis and the final itself.
In between the the quarters and the semis, the invitational tournament was played, as the likes of Greene King, a team of local journalists and the two favourites, Goals and Powerleague, took to the field. That grudge match was played out in the group stage, with Powerleague coming out on the top in that encounter. The top two teams in the league played each other in the final and once again, it was the battle of the 5-a-side centres, as Goals took on Powerleague.
The final went the way of Powerleague, and boy, did they enjoy it. Goals looked absolutely gutted to come out the losers, but it was now time to focus on the matter at hand. The semi-finals were thrilling, with one going to sudden death penalties, with West One Three coming out on top.
It was now finals time, and before we had the Carlsberg Pub Cup final, we went to the Green Card final, with BL-Oaks going up against Sporting Veridian. They got all the complete final’s experience, being led out of the tunnel, the obligatory team line-up and singing of the national anthem, and even a trophy presentation from Arsenal legend Martin Keown. The full experience – I was very jealous.
This one was again a tight affair – going down to the wire, finishing 0-0 after the fifteen minutes of action wrapped up, so it went down to the lottery of penalties. The BL-Oaks goalkeeper was in imperious form, saving two penalties, the last being the decisive spot kick that gifted them the title. The joy on the boys’ faces was brilliant, as was the heart that both teams put into the final, and this one was played just for the honour and the silverware! Tony and Matt were the two stand-out performers from the team, but it was a complete team effort to grab the silverware and spray the Carlsberg champagne, or champagne bottle full of Carlsberg – I couldn’t figure out which. They even told me that the reason they got into the tournament was that they wrote a knob gag on the application form. Lads.
It was now the big final time, and it was an all London affair as FC International went up against West One Three. These two teams impressed me in the group stages, so it was no surprise that they both made it to the final. You could tell that there was a lot on the line, you could see the anxiety and nervousness on their face as they stood in the tunnel awaiting their day of destiny. I’m sure I’ve heard that a lot this weekend, I’m sure this was about that.
It was, once again a close game, with both teams really going for it; once where there was light hearted banter and humour, there was nothing but focus, as both sets of men wanting to get that trip of a lifetime. When it came to the nitty gritty, FC International had too much attacking power for West One Three, with two powerful strikes giving them the 2-0 win and all the glory. They will now go on to face Patrik Berger, Bolo Zenden, Nuno Valente, Vitor Baia and others at Euro 2012.
All in all, it was a fantastic day out – it was great to see these genuine fans of football battle it out to live out their dream. Some of these teams do five-a-side tournaments on a regular basis (football hustlers, if you will), some were there just for the craic. But the one thing that brought all of them to the the dance is the passion to want to play football with their friends, and just enjoy the beautiful game. Maybe we can get Ballsy Banter in the invitational next year? One can dream. And to top it all off, I scored a goal at the Emirates. Life goal – fulfilled.
PS. I would like to say thanks to Carlsberg and Fast Track Agency for looking after us, and Reprezent Radio for getting the creditation to do my press thang.