AJ Memorial Tournament
20 December 2015
Sunday 20 December saw the club travel to Nottingham to take part in AJ Memorial Tournament.
The tournament was set up to commemorate the life of AJ who tragically died at the end of October. AJ played for the club for a couple of years, was good friends with a number of our players, was great fun on a night out and he had a personality and smile that was all-consuming. He also played for a couple of other clubs – namely Nottingham BallBois and Yorkshire Terriers – and was a familiar face on the GFSN circuit.
The tournament, which took place at PlayFootall Nottingham, consisted of four teams - Village Manchester Nottingham BallBois, Yorkshire Terriers and a combined Nottingham Lions/GFSN team.
Proceedings kicked off with a speech and a minute’s applause to reflect on the life of AJ – an individual who touched so many people’s lives. In attendance were AJ’s family, his boyfriend, his friends, a local MP, representatives from CALM (The Campaign Against Living Miserably) and players and representatives from numerous GFSN clubs.
The first semi-final saw Nottingham BallBois face Yorkshire Terriers and it was the hosts that were successful as they saw off their visitors from Yorkshire. There was a special and tearful moment in the game as AJ’s brother Graham opened the scoring with a well taken goal. His celebration of pointing to the sky was a very touching moment.
The other semi-final saw Village Manchester play a combined Nottingham Lions/GFSN team. Village unfortunately had a few late withdrawals but were able to call upon GFSN players Benjamin Moutter, John-Paul Kesseler and Steve Hemblade to join them.
With a few new additions and the absence of a number of regulars, the game was a bit disjointed and Village struggled to impose themselves on the game. The combined Nottingham Lions/GFSN team looked dangerous and got a few early shots away. Village quickly grew into the game and started playing more football and it was not long until they were peppering the opposition’s goal. There were a few times when Village should have taken the lead but it wasn’t until Gibson expertly drilled a ball into the back of the net that the team got the opener. They couldn’t hold onto the lead for very long though as opposition striker Manley cleverly flicked the ball round defender McPherson to set up his strike partner who finished well from 15 yards out.
With the game level at full time the game went to penalties. And it was Village who emerged victorious as they expertly despatched their penalties with goalkeeper Baker guessing right and saving two opposition penalties.
The heavens opened towards the end of the 3rd/4th play-off and the final, which was between Nottingham BallBois and VMFC, was played in a torrential downpour that only subsided towards the end of the game.
Village started the game much better than they had in the first with Cowell being much more influential in the game in his deeper lying position. Without a recognised striker Village were not as potent as they might have usually been but they did hit the woodwork twice as they tried to grab a goal. BallBois looked solid and in AJ’s brother they had a player who was not afraid to shoot and be a menace to the defence and Baker made some good saves to keep the scores level.
The game ended all square and so it was to be that the final would be decided on penalties. As in the semi-final, Baker provided a goalkeeping master class as he again repelled two of the opposition’s penalties. Village were more assured from the spot (well, maybe not Westy!!) to be crowned winners of the AJ Memorial Tournament.
Village were presented with the trophy by AJ’s father and it was accepted by captain for the day Alex West who was a good friend of AJ’s.
Afterwards the teams headed to the Waterfront Bar in Nottingham city centre for some food and drinks before going their respective ways.
At the end of the day, it did not really matter who emerged victorious at the end of the tournament – it was just a great chance for everybody to talk about and reminisce about AJ and play the sport he loved.
The club would like to thank the guys at Nottingham for putting together this great event. We would also like to thank everyone who turned up to take part – be they players, officials or local politicians – but we would especially like to thank AJ’s family for raising such a beautiful, charismatic and friendly person.