Staff vs Students Football Match, Nov 2011

310621_292260297480540_1464668331_nWhen it comes to the world’s favourite game, heaven has no favourites. They came, students and staff, male and female, tall and short, fit and aspiring, and squared off at the Quadrangle on Nov. 4.

Five minutes to kickoff, and the ‘Students’ team was experiencing a crisis of confidence.

“So, do we play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3?” asked one serious-faced defender, peering out at the ‘Staff’ team coolly bouncing the ball between their wingers, on the other side of the Upper Quadrangle.

“When you say 4-4-2, do you mean 4 defenders or 4 forwards?” came one reply.

“Folks, have you all noticed that the average height on the opposing team is around 6 feet?” interjected another.

“Our goal for the first half: keep it less than 10-nil. If we can prevent 10 goals, we’ve done our job.” That from the team’s centre-back. “We need to make sure they don’t get too comfortable.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the ‘Staff’ team was suffering from the same performance anxiety, resorting to some less-than-noble psychological tactics before kickoff: “Keep in mind, you are playing against the very personalities that decide whether you pass or fail academically” shouted one enthusiastic Professor, hoping to crumble some of the Student team’s esprit de corps . Egged on by a mob of 30 staff and a cheerleading squad armed with amplifiers and pom-poms, this wasn’t just casual banter. It was an intimidation strategy.

As it turned out, none of this really mattered. Thirty seconds after kickoff, the frowns turned to grins as each team’s ‘strategy’ devolved into ‘send a mob after wherever the ball is.’ The atmosphere loosened, and the teams got down to the task of having some serious fun.

379030_292260387480531_1110567719_nEvery touch was greeted with a loud shout from the superlative cheering squads, led by MPP senior Fika Fawziaand and MPP Junior Natasha Godinho. Some of the chants were truly inspired, like the anthemic ‘Yes Wee Cheng’ slogan in honour of energetic winger Yeo Wee Cheng.

It was Wee Cheng who created the first goal of the match, weaving past the Staff team defences to set up a chance for Marco Guadalupi, who dispatched it neatly into the back of the net. 1-0 to the students.

This prompted self-appointed match commentator Cody Eckert to egg the Staff Team on: “This is what happens when there are no teachers on the teacher’s team!”

It didn’t stay that way for long. Prof T S Gopi Rethinaraj and Prof Scott Fritzen took to the field soon after, and the resurgent Staff team patiently worked their way forward, led by lightning-fast runs from wingers Kelvin Singh and Gaddafi. Student goalie Shumpei Watanabe (“Shumpei ShumpeiShumpei, he’s okay!”) stood in their way with heroic resilience – diving, punching and deterring even the most flamboyant of attacks. Just before the half time, staff striker Kelvin netted the ball with a powerful shot past the student goalie.

Halftime. The score read 1-1.

After a short break for intense strategy meetings (essentially, it boiled down to “Guys, we need to score a goal”), the second half began with the Staff continuing to dominate, piercing through the Student defense. Cameo appearances from Prof Phua Kai Hong, Prof Petr Blizkovsky, Senior Research Fellow Toby Carroll and Executive Vice Dean Stavros Yiannouka kept energy levels high and the cheering squad busy.

But repeatedly let down by unlucky shots, the always-heroic Shumpei and some persistent defending, the Staff team let their own guard down, letting midfielder Elyas Felfoul capitalise on a counter-attack to put the students in the lead. The scoreboard was now 2-1. The tempo picked up on both sides.

The game stayed tense right till the very end. Student forward Tan Yen Zi stayed sharp on the ball, keeping the Staff defenders busy. Defender Olivia Husain tackled multiple runs from Prof Fritzen, in spite of reminders from the audience that he was her faculty advisor. If anything, this fueled her determination!

A freak handball incident 5 minutes before the end gave the Students a chance to seal the match, and they did so with ease: striker Minami Maeda’s penalty left no room for chance.

But seconds before the final whistle, the Staff team pulled one back when a Student defender failed to clear the ball, and it trundled across the line off an unlucky deflection. The final score: 3 – 2. So ended a fitting opening entry into the LKY School’s history records, and the foundation, perhaps, for many epic Staff vs Student football matches to come.

And true to LKY School tradition, Dean Kishore Mahbubani offered this succinct bit of analysis as the teams trooped off the field: “To win, you have to make three points, and that’s what the students did.”

Photos were taken, ice tea was quaffed and prizes given out to deserving players. Shumpei Watanabe was adjudged Man of the Match, and Tan Yen Zi won Best Female Player.

It ended, as most good things do, with a gauntlet being thrown down for the future.

Executive Vice Dean Stavros: “ Next time, I hope to be on the field for more than 7 minutes. And I wish to tell the students not to get too comfortable with their trophy, because we’re having a rematch next semester.”

Game on.

All images of the match are available on the LKY Facebook Page here.