Flashback Friday: “Potatoes, Eh?”

After graduating University and joining the workforce, albeit still at the University, I eventually also graduated from playing intramural soccer to playing in a more serious outdoor league. London, Ontario, Canada has an extensive soccer community with many different cultures represented as there are a variety of clubs around including the Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, German, Scottish, Irish, English, etc. And while you would think I would end up with the Brits, it turned out to be a team called Napoli FC. This team had a core of players with Italian roots but was filled out with a broad mix of the countries listed above. This was by far the best outdoor team I have ever played on and over the years before I moved to Texas we won everything there was to win in the London Ontario Soccer League or LOSL, including winning the triple (League, Playoffs, and Tournament) on multiple occasions. This is a little story from one of those seasons as Napoli attempted to finish off the triple by winning the Fall weekend tournament. And what does Potatoes have to do with this?, you will have to read on…

It was a nice Fall weekend for the tournament and it had a little more intrigue for us as we heard a team was coming from out of town to dethrone us. All we knew is that they had also been dominating their local competition and thought they would come to London to do the same, and take home a little $$$ at the same time as the nice bonus to winning was that this was a cash tournament. We were drawn in opposite groups so we did not play in the round robin, and after winning our respective groups we both advanced through the playoffs to set up the Final that everyone had been clamoring for. They were an Eastern European team mostly and were a little more seasoned than ourselves…yes, that is a nice way of saying older, but they had clearly played together for awhile. Napoli was the more dominant team on their home turf and eventually took a 1-0 lead but the opposition had a forward who was built like a tank and was a real handful. In the second half though, when barely bumped by one of our defenders he took a complete dive but the ref inexplicably gave a pk. Now inexplicably may be the wrong word as the referee was a player from Napoli’s league who clearly did not want to see us win as he had also earlier ruled out a perfectly good goal on a bogus offside call. The “Tank” converted and it was tied up. As we were walking back to the center for kickoff I announced in typical Simon fashion, “Don’t touch the big guy, he goes down like a sack of potatoes!”, to which I got a menacing glare. Napoli attacked relentlessly for the winner and thought they had a pk of their own in the last minutes as our player was the victim of a obvious red card slide tackle from behind in the box but the ref waved the appeals away…🤔…😡. The final whistle sounded and we were off to a penalty shootout. I was selected to shoot 5th (or last) as usual as nobody ever wanted it, except me, I had a bit of a reputation for being a cool customer. Then the nightmare situation (or so I thought at the time…) happened as they led by a goal going into the last shots each and who was I stood waiting with but none other than the “Tank”. All he had to do was score and it was over, and he knew it, so he turned to me and said in a thick accent, “Potatoes, Eh?”, and marched off. I could barely watch as he smashed his pk…off the post! I stayed relatively calm as I still needed to score to force sudden death penalties. We pass each other and he comments something along the lines of “Don’t choke”, which I naturally can’t help myself and answer with, “You mean like that?”. I step up and fire it in the bottom corner and despite the outcome still not decided I kind of, may have, sprinted by their whole bench doing the “guns firing” hands and fingers motions. Luckily we went on to finish them off to complete the 3-peat, but in the handshakes I was told, “You good player, but the guns no good”. I wasn’t taking any 💩 and told him his dive was no good…I kinda had trouble not getting the last word in back then, not sure if that has changed or not…

Then in typical Napoli style we went out to spend a portion of our winnings on an all day breakfast at any greasy spoon diner we could find open. I miss that team.

Simon

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