Reported by Zachary Low
Edited by Celine Yeap
9.14pm, 1st day of February 2012. A cool Wednesday night. I sit here in my room, typing this sentence out on my laptop. It’s been an hour or so since the men’s soccer semi-finals between KE7 and Kent Ridge ended. We ended up losing 1-0 but let’s talk about that later. First, match recap.
It’s 6pm at the SRC field and I’m there just in time to watch the first possession of the game. Liangxun, armed with a camera, is already here. Depleted by injuries, the boys in red on the field are playing without our star striker, Arjun, and defender Fred. JK is plagued by an ankle injury, and Shaam has just recovered from illness. The game flows on pretty evenly, with KE7 having just a slight edge in possession. We’re playing the long ball down the flanks, hoping to cross it in for an opportunity at a shot. We get some chances, but we’re not converting.
On the other half of the field, our back line is doing a good job keeping Kent Ridge away from goal-scoring opportunities. Our defenders show their mettle: Prakash marshalls the defense, Anand is everywhere, and Cunzhi (he of the incredible 2/3 field free kick goal against Eusoff) is as usual masterful as the center-back. Our goalie Nelson is steady between the posts, clad in his iconic retro jersey. The defense looks solid, repeatedly denying KR any play off three consecutive throw-ins. The first half ends with JK making a run down the right flank, cutting past 4 KR players.
The second half begins after CK, our soccer captain, rallies his team at the halftime break. KE starts the half threatening the KR defense with free kicks from Cunzhi, but still we can’t capitalize on it. The pressure builds as the game goes on, the score still tied, and then KR is awarded a free kick just outside the penalty box. KR scores off the free kick as they successfully fake out the KE7 wall, and the ball deflects off the inner post into our goal. 1-0 to KR.
KE7 continues to fight on and the crowd is really into the game. It’s our second last chance to get into an IHG final and we’re all rooting for our soccer boys. Guys whose names aren’t known to the general public become hometown heroes as they play their hearts out on the pitch. Everyone in red is acting as an extra linesman: when the ball goes out of play on our side of the pitch, the KE7 contingent erupts in cries of ‘eh ref!’
Pressure mounts as the game goes on and we attempt to ignite our offense by continuing to play the ball long down the line. But KR, buoyed by their goal, repeatedly heads the ball away. CK’s chance at a 1-on-1 with the keeper is called offside by the referee – a decision hotly contested by KEVIIans present but to no avail. Two free kicks offer glimmers of hope, but they too fail to find the net. Tension between the two teams on the pitch is tangible as emotions run high and the game becomes increasingly physical. The game ends with KR managing to hold on for the win. Our boys walk off the field with their heads held high.
9.46pm and I hit alternate-tab to watch NBA highlights before I continue writing. As much as I enjoy writing there comes a point where mechanical reporting about a loss is rather depressing. I’ve got all these quotes with epic comic potential, which I could insert at strategic points in an article where we won, but it just doesn’t seem to fit the mood, does it?
Ten minutes later, I’m back at my Microsoft Word document. My Grizzlies have beaten the Nuggets but take overtime to do it. The Cavs claw their way back from a 20 point deficit but eventually lose by 3 to the Celtics. But why am I talking about the NBA in a soccer IHG article? Because professional sports like the NBA proves the point that playing any sport is eventually not about the refereeing, or the nature of your opponent, but instead about ourselves. Now, I could have devoted an entire paragraph about dirty plays, or another two to the questionable nature of the referee’s calls. But those aren’t excuses to win the game. Let’s not get me wrong here: I’m not casting any doubt upon our soccer boys. It was a game we should have won, but we were done in by a momentary (literally a moment) defensive lapse. A break in concentration, and the opponent scores. At the end of the day, the outcome of the game is on us. A friend told me what Jerwin said after our volleyball boys had lost their first match of the season:
“To say that ‘we tried our best’ after a loss is an excuse. It means our best is not enough.”
Many a time I’ve heard it said after a loss that
‘it’s okay guys, KE isn’t a sports hall’
‘well, they had <insert number here> of IVP players and we didn’t have any’
Or something to that effect. But we can’t use that excuse forever. People ask me why I play sports for KE7, even though realistically speaking, the odds of victory are stacked against us. At first I couldn’t really answer them. But we end up playing for the supporters who come down to each IHG game, for the men and women proud to wear a red jersey and who cheer for you even if they don’t know you personally. You play for the people who feel the same pain as you when the game ends in defeat – if you were at today’s soccer game you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s super chaoji emo after you watch a game where KE loses. Go back your room also no mood to do work. Pardon the temporary break in formal grammar but colloquial Singlish expression is the only thing that can do that particular sentiment any justice.
I used to be one of those who believed that sports in KE7 is a lost cause. Maybe other halls have other people with more talent. Maybe the referees are kayu. But maybe also we can train, and we can train, and we can train and train and train some. We can (and we should) take it upon ourselves to hit the gym and the track in the holidays, to work on our game in the offseason, to really want to make something happen. Michael Jordan didn’t win 6 championships by taking a chill pill in Hawaii during the offseason. He worked his butt off. And his teammates also worked their butts off. In short, the entire team was working their collective butt off – together.
It’s 10.26pm, and I refuse to believe that sports in KE7 is a lost cause. How about you?