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Titans in Mexico 2012 – Final Report
Report by London Titans FC
Mexico 2012 – Manager’s Report, by Ed Connell
Despite trepidation on the part of other teams, Titans decided that we were going to travel to this year’s IGLFA World Championships in Mexico City. Much of that decision was based on the great due diligence conducted by our very own Chris ‘Sally’ Salvage.
I have to say that I am delighted that we went. It was one of the best away trips that I have been on since I began managing the club 7 years ago. Any concerns about safety were quickly dispensed with. Despite having a reputation for crime, we never had any such concerns whilst we were there.
In fact the presence of police officers everywhere you looked was quite comforting even if there were incidences of people being asked to pay spurious financial penalties, in most cases without cause (Chris King, your ‘penalty’ was entirely justified.)
In many respects, central Mexico City is like any other city. The Metro is almost identical to that of Paris although in Paris you do not have to endure the relentless buskers, sellers and most annoyingly of all, purveyors of CD’s blasting samples of their music out of speakers mounted on their backs.
We stood out as being obvious visitors but looks were mostly out of curiosity and if anything, the Mexicans seemed friendlier than the inhabitants of European cities. Cab journeys were scary unless you had experienced taxi rides in Buenos Aires.
Two things did, however, stand out.
The first is the Mexican obsession with street food. Streets are lined with small stalls selling home cooked foods which filled the air with their smells. Many of us succumbed to temptation and gave them a try, few people were well enough to try them again.
The second striking thing is the poverty. This was perhaps most noticeable when we took an expedition outside the city where we saw what appeared to be shanty towns built into every available hillside.
From a footballing perspective, we went with realistic expectations. Our squad was small and made up of a combination of both GFSN and LUL players and the conditions were not ideal; hot weather and altitude.
As a consequence, a variation on the familiar Titans “park the bus” formation was required. Realistically speaking I think we all hoped that at best we would avoid any humiliating defeats, winning and scoring goals would be a bonus.
We didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Our first game was against our eventual group winners, Trigay Mexico. Already absent one player who wasn’t arriving until the second day of the tournament, we found ourselves immediately in difficulty.
Our keeper Luke Tuffs suffered a back injury which, under normal circumstances, would have meant him being substituted but he bravely soldiered on. Other players quickly succumbed to the difficult circumstances and we found out quickly how disadvantageous it would be to have a small squad.
That said we drew some solace from the penalty which Matt Beal dispensed efficiently giving us our first goal of the tournament.
Our second game was against San Francisco Spikes II, a team with which we are familiar having had some of their players play for us in London 2009.
Although we dominated large periods of play, we failed to convert our chances. I couldn’t possibly report on this match without telling you that I scored our only goal in this game which in fact was our only goal from open play in the tournament and resulted in me being joint ‘Titans Golden Sombrero’ winner with Matt Beal.
I have been referred to in the Mexico diaries as “veteran striker” but I really couldn’t care as I now have a World Cup goal to my name. We were deprived a win in the game when Sally lunged into the back of a Spikes player heading away from goal and conceding a penalty which they scored.
Sally did, however, pay the price for this “blunder of the week” as those who saw him out on our last night wearing the outfit from The Mask will know.
On day two we played SAF Gay from Argentina, one of the tournament favourites. Although we lost 2-0, it was an incredibly strong Titans performance. At times, the defence and midfield looked like a team that had played together for years and were incredibly tough to break down. Meanwhile, Ollie having arrived from the UK brought much needed energy to our front line even if he didn’t get much service from us.
SAF Gay narrowly lost 1-0 in the semi finals to the eventual winners Dogos from Argentina and so our result in this group game demonstrates how well the Titans performed in the group.
We knew that positions in the group might determined by goal difference and so fought to the very last minute to contain what was on paper a much stronger team than us. Our task was made all the more difficult with Scott receiving a red card at the start of the second half. Our reward was to finish 3rd in the group guaranteeing us at least 6th place in the competition.
As an aside I would like to say how it never ceases to amaze me how team cohesion and camaraderie brings out the very best in Titans resulting in performances way beyond expectations.
Our quarter final game was against Uruguay. When I watched their first game in the competition I formed the view that they would be too strong for us but buoyed by some stout defending and solid performances in our group, we all genuinely believed that we would be a good match for them and indeed we were.
The defence stewarded by Muzz were outstanding and afforded the Uruguayans very few opportunities in front of goal. The midfield, boosted by the inclusion of Ollie worked tirelessly even if with little reward. The game ended 0-0 and was in my view our best performance of the tournament.
The semi final place had to be decided by penalties which as everyone knows is a lottery and on this occasion we came off losers, with two players missing. Despite our loss, we were proud of our achievements and felt that we had performed as well as we could have.
Our final game to decide 5th and 6th place was against San Francisco Spikes I. Although it doesn’t sound like a glamour tie, it would allow the winners to proclaim themselves the highest placed team outside of South America in the tournament. This game was finely balanced with opportunities at both ends but once again ended in a 0-0 draw and so for the second game in a row it went to penalties. This time luck was on our side and we won the shoot out.
I spoke at the end of tour dinner about how much I enjoyed the tour. It was without doubt the easiest team I have ever had to manage. Everyone did what was asked of them, giving 100% both physically and mentally, no mean feat in the difficult circumstances. Finishing 5th was in my view an outstanding team performance and every player should be proud of what we achieved.
Sadly this tournament will also be remembered for its terrible organization. We have travelled to tournaments all over the world and this was by far the most poorly organized and the worst value for money. IGLFA World Championships, for which teams plan and fundraise for the best part of a year, should be the very best of competitions. This tournament sadly fell far short.
A week before the tournament was due to begin we learnt that it had been moved 50 miles out of Mexico City. This wasn’t communicated to us by the organizers who we had been chasing for even the most basic of information but by a fellow team who had learnt the news and decided to share it.
Kimberley Hadley from IGLFA, friend of the club is to be commended for coming to the rescue and restoring the tournament to central Mexico and for helping out with the day to day running of the competition, but IGLFA have a great deal to answer.
With players having paid $120 each to participate, it is simply unacceptable that player registration be so chaotic, players being given hand written and photo less player passes, being told that there was no longer the promised travel cards for players, an opening ceremony which changed venues at the last minute and for which players were now being asked to pay, an absence of organized social events, no printed schedules or team sheets and the list goes on.
It simply was not good enough and annoying to have every complaint met with “the government withdrew the funding.” We run our own successful tournament every year and manage to achieve almost all of the above with a fraction of the money. If IGLFA expect teams to compete in their events in the future then they will need to report on exactly where things went wrong this year, where the large sums of money were spent and give assurances that this won’t happen again. If they don’t then they risk losing the support of clubs like ours.
That all said, I wouldn’t want IGLFA’s failings to detract from the fact that we had a great time in Mexico. As always we had as much fun on the pitch as we did off it and it was a pleasure to meet up once again with our friends from San Francisco and Sydney. Our club loves international competition and we hope that next time we will be competing against many more teams and many more old friends.