The prima squadra needed two wins in their last three games to secure promotion this season, and after scoring a 3-0 upset away last weekend, it was looking pretty good with one away game followed by a home game to end the season. But they were shut out in the penultimate game during the week, a game they had half-expected to win, which put the pressure on.
Half the village turned out for the game and it seemed to fire up the players as they came out and heavily dominated the game for the first 10 minutes. The ball barely made it into our half of the field. Then our captain got the ball halfway through midfield and the box, and despite not having position on the sweeper, he simply challenged the big guy’s speed, blew past him, and slipped a nice left-footed shot past the keeper. 1-0.
Not even five minutes later, one of our players was taken down just inside the box. The crowd was screaming for a penalty, but the referee reasonably gave us a free kick right on the line. No matter, our star striker stepped up and hit a soft, but perfectly positioned shot right in the upper corner. The keeper didn’t even move. 2-0.
The game was sealed within the first half-hour when a midfielder headed a half-cleared ball past the defense, the star striker jumped on it, pushed it past the keeper who had come out to try to get it, then casually passed the ball into the empty net. He was right in front of our group of veterans, so he dropped to one knee and threw his arms up theatrically as if accepting accolades while the crowd went wild. It was pretty funny.
Two crossbars in the second half was as close as we got to scoring again, so the game ended up 3-0, but perhaps the funniest moment was when the older striker who sometimes plays with us (and is joining us full-time this fall) went in as a substitute, got the ball, and couldn’t beat the two men on him or find anyone to pass to. He finally put it down the line and out of bounds, prompting one of my teammates to yell, “see, that’s why you’re playing with us next year!” It was a great game from a fan’s perspective, the guys were entirely in control throughout, and there were at least three genuinely spectacular exhibitions of skill that I can’t even properly describe.
All the teams were there, from the younger juniors to the vets, sporting the colors and cheering on the guys. I know all the players pretty well, having played with four of them and practicing twice with the squad, so it was a real pleasure to see them return the club to the highest level at which we’ve ever reached in our history. The players are even better acquainted with Ender, as he is being groomed to be one of their keepers of the future, so I was pleased, if a little surprised, to see him invited to join the team photo they took after the game.
It may be tough to stay up next year, but except in goal, the team is very young and I expect they will continue to improve. But promotion to this level is something that only happens perhaps once every ten or twenty years, so it was exciting to have the chance to be a part of it.