The 1998 SKLPC Tournament

March 22, 2017


With images of Ronaldo, Zidane, Denilson, Owen and company still fresh in everybodys thoughts, it was not surprising that the 1998 SKLP 5 a-side Football Tournament proved to be one of the most successful in terms of teams entering with eleven teams battling it out for the Under 16 Tournament and a record breaking 32 teams turning out, to battle it out for the seniors tournament, and in terms of general turnout. After a successful trial this year, the 1998 tournament was once again played over two back-to-back Sundays, 19th and 26th July at the now established home of Kanbi football, SKLPCC Northolt.

The qualifying stages for the seniors tournament was played on the first Sunday with the top 18 teams then going on to the second Sunday to fight it out and every Kanbi footballers dream of getting their hands on Beetacoms the defending champions crown. The 32 teams were organised into 6 groups consisting of 5 or 6 teams with Group 1, 2 and 3 scheduled to play in the morning, with 4, 5 and 6 in the afternoon.

The morning matches included the defending champions, Beetacom who with some shrewd close season signings had clearly come to the tournament with the intension of holding on to their title. Beetacom started their day in the same manner as they had finished last year’s tournament. They brushed aside all who faced them and won their group easily and without conceding a goal.

Not to be outdone, two old, and I use that term loosely, war horses, Kingsbury Builders Merchant and Bolton SKLP ’A’ also won their groups ending the day unbeaten. Unlike Beetacom who actually appeared to break some sweat, KBM and Bolton SKLP ‘A’ appeared to be happy to cruise though their respective games, making their opponents do the majority of the work. Both appeared to be saving their energy for the challenges that lay ahead the following week.

Joining Beetacom, KBM and Bolton SKLP ’A’ into the next stages from the morning matches were S&P, beaten finalist in 1996, who with an injury ravaged team which deprived them of two of their top players qualified for the next stage, finishing second, just behind KBM. Baladia Youth ‘C’, All Stars ‘A’, Rookies, Dahisara Three and East London made up the rest of the qualifiers from the morning stages.

The hot weather for the afternoon matches was ideal for the fans, but as the afternoon matches wore on, it did appear to affect the players with the result that the afternoon matches proved to be much tighter, with no one team exerting their overall dominance, no doubt influenced by the weather. Finchley Reds, Bendev, Baladia ‘A’, Ace Contractors, Baladia ‘B’, Cobra, Yardees, White Sands and Euro-Par-Interiors ‘B’ teams qualified to the next round. With the first weeks warm ups over the remaining 18 teams were given a well deserved week off to rest to fine tune their skills before recommending the following Sunday.

Unlike the seniors there was no restbite for the juniors who finished their tournament on the first Sunday. The 11 teams who entered the juniors’ tournament were put into 2 groups, one consisting of 5 teams and the second 6. The top 3 teams in each group would go through to the quarterfinal stages. Players ranged from 9 to 15 years; Jiten Harsiani from New Vision was the youngest player on the pitch and played confidently with boys much older, so all you budding, players don’t be afraid to enter a team next year; you’re never too young to start!!

With so much at stake, it was not surprising that the games were nervy and tight. Group 1 was won by Kera-Kundanpur and they were joined by SEHA Youth Wing and Junior All Stars. However, Bendev, who were also in the group and were one of the favourites at the beginning of the day, crashed out finishing the day with only one victory. Group 2 was won by the Falcons but only by goal difference from Shree Stars and they were joined by Baladia Youth Club.

The 6 remaining teams were split into two groups of three with Kera-Kundanpur, Junior All Star, Baladia Youth Club and SEHA Youth Wing emerging as the top four teams and going on to battle it out in the semi-final for a place in the final. The semis were once again a tight affair, but Kera-Kundanpur and SEHA Youth Wing made it through to contest the 1998 under 16’s final.

The final was again a tight affair, with both defences playing on top of their respective games. It was therefore not surprising that the deadlock was finally broken by an uncharacteristic error by SEHA’s goalie that allowed Kera-Kundanpur to score from an acute angle. The final whistle could not come soon enough for Kera-Kundanpur, as SEHA pressed on looking for the goal that could bring them back into the game, but all their efforts were in vain as Rohit, Kera-Kundanpur’s goalkeeper stood firm. As the referee blew the final whistle the relief on the faces of the Kera-Kundanpur players was evident. Kera-Kundanpur supporters invaded the pitch to congratulate the SKLP Junior Champions 1998. With the juniors putting on such an impressive show, the spotlight was now back onto the seniors, and the question on everybody’s mind was who would join Kera-Kundanpur as 1998 Champions?

Having enjoyed a weeks rest, it was back to business for the 18 senior teams left in the tournament. The teams were divided into three groups of 6 teams by virtue of their performances the previous week and this resulted in some, lets say, very interesting combinations, none so more than Group 3 which saw all three Baladia teams being drawn together.

From 1 and 2, Kingsbury, Finchley Reds, Beetacom and Ace all qualified with considerable ease with Bendev and Cobra joining them as the two best third place teams. Who would join them from Group 1? Bolton SKLP ‘A’, having already booked their place played Baladia A in their final game. Baladia went into the game knowing that all they had to do was not to lose. With so much pressure on Baladia, everybody expected them to bring out a team of defenders who would see the game out, but Baladia was having none of it. Their tactics worked and by half time they were leading by 2 goals and cruising towards a semi-final spot against Ace Contractors. The second half appeared to be going much the same way as Baladia looked determined to finish the groups stages in style, with Mansukh Vekaria in particular determined to get his hands on the top scores shield. You could almost see the Rookies packing their things together and getting ready to leave when suddenly Bolton SKLP ‘A’, and it must be said against the run of play scored a goal which totally upset what had up to now been brilliant Baladia performance. The goal lifted Bolton SKLP ‘A’ and they surged forward and equalised with only a few minutes left on the clock. With Baladia still in a stage of shock, Bolton SKLP ‘A’ scored a third and secured a remarkable victory. As the referee blew the final whistle it was too much for the Baladia players who all fell to the ground, probably hoping that it would eat them up.

Kingsbury Builders Merchants, Beetacom, Ace Contractors and Finchley Reds qualified to the semi-finals. The first semi-final saw a repeat of last years final with Beetacom, the defending champions, taking on Kingsbury Builders Merchants who were looking to avenge last years defeat. The game lived up to all expectations with both teams giving it 100%. There were no goals in normal time, although both Pravin and Amit also scored with two vicious strikes, which almost broke the goal post. The first period of extra time was also finished goalless and by now it look as though both teams were settled for penalties. However, Amit had other ideas and produced two bits of magic that probably Ronald and Owen would be proud of and scored the two goals that Beetacom through to the second final in a row.

The second semi-finals saw newcomers Ace Contractors play last years Semi-Finalist Finchley Reds. Both teams were clearly nervous and this could be seen in their play as both teams failed to produce the skills that had got them to the semis. The players were not the only ones to suffer nerves as the fans of both supporters began to feel the strain as both teams pushed on for that elusive goal. The first half was goalless with both defences staying firm, but second half saw spaces opening up, but still the deadlock could not be broken. It looked as though this game would also be heading for extra time when a fierce tackle from Himansu, suddenly left Jit with a small opening who unleashed a fierce left foot drive that found the left hand corner. Ace had managed to get to the final in their first attempt.

The stage was set as the best twp teams had reached the finals. Both teams started cagey and appeared to be making uncharacteristic mistakes, and it was marking and a brilliant finish from Vijesh that saw Beetacom take an early lead. This seemed to wake Ace up who produced wave after wave of attack, but could not find Beetacoms net. With only minutes to go, and with all Ace’s players up in attack looking for an equaliser, Amit found himself in space, broke through and scored goal that killed of any hopes Ace had to winning the lottery. The final whistle blew and Beetacom had become champions and I think all would agree deservedly so. Pravin of Kingsbury Builders Merchants won the Kantilal Harsiani Memorial trophy as he finished top scorer with an amazing 15 goals.

The organisation committee would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors, Bendev, Kingsbury Construction Co. & Romany. We would like to thank the supporters who turned up on both Sundays for adding that extra bit of noise and atmosphere that makes the Samaj Five Aside Football Tournament such a unique event. Finally a big thank you to the organisation committee, Samji Harsiani, Manesh Patel, Nilesh Kerai, Preetam Kerai, Himansu Kerai, Jitendra Vekaria, Shash Mayani, Hashmuk Bhudia and Samji Vishram.

By Preetam Kerai

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