VMFC likes a place called America...
10 June 2017
Village Manchester faced teams from America, Australia and England as they took part in the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) Unity Cup in Miami. The tournament was due to be part of the World OutGames but gross mismanagement from the OutGames organisers threw the whole competition into disarray three days before the action was due to get underway on the pitch. With the organisers having failed to pay the pitches, referees, water, the travel, the... well everything (!), the IGFLA committee sprung into action to try and sort things out to ensure players - many of whom had travelled thousands of miles - would get some games.
They gallantly put a plan into place and rinsed their funds but were still thousands of dollars short of the required amount. Fortunately for the football community a good, and seemingly wealthy, Samaritan was kind enough to stick his hand in the pocket to breach the gap in finances. With the football competition assured of going ahead, everyone could look forward to the tournament.
The draw took place at the National Hotel on Sunday evening and there was a feeling of relief and excitement. The slightly elaborate draw (ok, the most complicated draw in football history) culminated with Village being drawn to face London Titans XXL, San Francisco Spikes, Sydney Rangers and Seattle Stonewall. We should also have faced a team from Mexico (Didisex) but they had already pulled out of the tournament in protest of OutGames management of the event.
Karl Storey (captain)
Matt Hall (manager)
Moncif El Fadili
The games took place over 20 miles away at Kendall Soccer Park and as the vast majority of teams were based in Miami Beach it meant that Uber drivers got a lot of business as competitors made their way across Miami to compete. For this tournament Village were joined by players from Soho FC, Yorkshire Terriers and London Falcons. Josh Day, Adam Robson, Steve Atkinson, Moncif El Fadili and Gary Fozzard joined us from Soho with Ian James-Freddie and Dan Nixon joining from the team from Leeds. Former Village second team manager Matt Hall, fresh from moving down to the capital and joining Falcons, was our manager for the tournament.
The action kicked off early on Monday morning with an all English clash versus London Titans XXL - one of two Titans teams to come to the States. The weather for the game, and the whole group stage of the tournament, was uninterrupted sunshine with searing heat that took it out of the players. The game was a typically British affair with both teams jostling for the upper hand.
And it was Village who grabbed the initiative as a superb strike by Golds (it may well have been a cross!) flew past the keeper and found the back of the net. No more goals were scored in the half so Village went in 1-0 up at the break. In the second half Village came in for more and more pressure as the game went on with the Titans trying to gain parity. The defence dealt well with the pressure though and Village got a second as they moved swiftly on the break and Day excellently chipped the keeper. Village managed to see the game out comfortably to get their tournament underway to a positive start.
Full photo gallery here.
San Francisco Spikes were next up for Village on Monday afternoon. The boys had done their best to stay out of the sun and stay hydrated during the games and they started the second game off well. However, it soon become obvious that the heat had affected them with the lads struggling for inventiveness to breach the American rear-guard. San Francisco were kept at bay though so it was a non-scoring game going into half time.
Village continued to hold firm without creating too much themselves and they were left kicking themselves as they conceded a sloppy goal from a corner. With the humidity sapping any energy the guys had left the game petered out into a disappointing 1-0 loss for the Manchester lads.
Full photo gallery here.
The next day it was the turn of Sydney Rangers to face the Mancunian boys. Sydney themselves boasted a number of British players so it was not long until the two teams started to match each other. It was the Aussies who struck first with a fine strike, but Village were handed a route back into the game when the referee pointed to the spot for an obvious penalty.
Golds, who is not short of confidence, took the penalty and found the back of the net to send the teams in level at the break. Another great strike from the men from the land of Oz restored the opposition's lead and they soon secured the victory from the penalty spot as the referee again pointed to the spot – and again it was the correct decision.
Things got worse before the end of the game with Crosby needlessly getting sent off for allegedly aiming the ball at the referee.
Full photo gallery here.
In the evening, the squad headed to Pelican Restaurant where they celebrated the IGLFA's 25th anniversary. It was a great opportunity for everyone to mingle and provided an excellent holiday snap with the beautiful Miami skyline in the background!
Wednesday was a rest day and the lads from Manchester made the journey to the Everglades where they went aligator spotting.
The guys woke up on the Thursday knowing that it could well be their last game of the tour – barring an unlikely set of results, so they were determined to go out on a positive note. It was unfortunate therefore that their final game was against one of the top seeds, Seattle Stonewall. Things started decently for the lads with Village holding their own but it wasn't long before the opposition spotted the lack of pace at full-back and exploited it to devastating effect.
The Americans scored two goals before the break and Village had Fozzard, making his debut in goal, to thank for a couple of smart stops. With the guys pushing forward to try and get a goal back that could throw the cat among the pigeons, Seattle grabbed a third and, as the British boys began to crumble in the heat, they grabbed three more to make the final score 6-0.
Full photo gallery here.
On the pitch, the boys were slightly disappointed that they were not able to build on a promising start. However, with a squad that comprised players from four different teams the effort and willingness could not at all be faulted. The weather, especially the humidity, played a major factor and unfortunately is something we can't replicate in the north west of England!
Of course as we headed to watch the final at the end of the week, the heavens opened and the rest of our American adventure was treated to grey skies and warm rain.
Off the pitch, like most tournaments, it was a success. After the initial drama of the cancellation and eventual resurrection of the competition the tournament was excellently run. For the Village Manchester players, it was an experience they enjoyed and will learn from. For many it was their first VMFC tournament and it has given them appetite to experience more. The players bonded whilst watching the FA Cup final, Champions League final and numerous drag shows at Palace Bar (!) and there was a strong squad unity.
Many thanks to each and every player and supporter who travelled to Miami. To the lads from Soho, Terriers and Falcons, it was great to meet/reacquaint ourselves with you and we loved having you join us for the trip.
Thanks to Matt for taking charge of the team and humongous thanks to Joycey for all of his sterling work in organising the club's involvement in the tournament.
And final thanks go to the IGLFA who rescued the tournament from a precarious position and to the rich guy who stumped up the final sum to make the competition viable!
Words: Rob McPherson
Photos: Steve Joyce