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Week Five of SIFL: Saigon Saints 0 ASW 0

Just in case you had trouble reading that header or believing a game of top flight amateur football in Saigon can remain scoreless for 80 minutes: I repeat... SAIGON SAINTS ZERO, ASW ZERO!

Saints Stats

No. of Spectators Including Saints: 7

No. of Spectators not including Saints: 1

Yellow Cards: 4

Shots off the Bar: 1

Spectacular Fresh Air Clearances: 1

Clearances that went backwards: 3

Percentage of players hung-over: 60%

No. of Butterfly Henna Tattoos on the Right Shoulder of a Belgian man named Roel: 1

A brief summary: The Saints wanted a clean sheet. The Saints got a clean sheet. But who woulda thunk that both teams would fail to score? Betfred.com weren’t even giving odds on a no-score draw. The Saints went home shaking their heads though in fairness so did the Men in Pink F.C., officially known as ASW. They hit the woodwork twice and had a penalty not given (and had a goal disallowed). The Saints piled on the pressure in the first half but failed to boss the game in the second half. “What went wrong?” Club psychologist Dr Iaian Campbell quizzed the Noble Knight of Nottinghamshire Steve Shaw over a mug of tea in the club’s imaginary kitchen-slash-therapy room. “I think we might have overdone it on the skipping at training,” said the club captain. “The lads looked overcooked.”

“Au contraire, I’d say we were undercooked,” said Chairman Peadon, who 24 hours into Movember was already looking like a cross between Freddie Mercury and the fifth Musketeer. “Playing a new team with a pink kit, the lads weren’t mentally up for it.”

Whether overcooked, undercooked or medium-rare, the Saints certainly failed to pull off any of their signature “That looked like a fluke but it was actually something we practice at training routinely”-moves. They also failed to out-jump men on average about half a meter shorter than them.  

However, the Saints were missing firepower up front with that Great American Patriot Chuck Roger and Aidan McNally of the Bundesliga-Worthy-Hair both injured.

And let’s not forget that clean sheet—the first *in a while*. It was a great defensive effort by the starting back four and all the subs with Ol’ Sleepy Eyes Boyle rarely troubled (he knew those shots were going to rebound off the post). The lads re-assembled at Game On and managed to gather a kitty of VND2.3 million in the kangaroo court—the season’s biggest tally and that was without Roel and his butterfly henna tattoo turning up.

Next week: Saint vs. Saint, Buddy vs Buddy, Mate Against Mate, Etc.


Saigon International Football League Round 3: Saints 2 Raiders 1

True story....

Playing long-time arch rivals on Saturday, half of the Saints decided that Friday night was the perfect time to go to Oktoberfest—Ho Chi Minh City’s annual tribute to the city of Munich’s festive orgy of beer, sausages and dancing on tables.

As one of the club’s Patron Saints, Duncan Ferguson, will tell you – nothing sets you up for a massive derby better than going out and getting completely ossified the night before the game. By obliterating your conscious and subconscious mind, there’s no chance of lying in bed with a dose of the pre-match nerves.

Those who went to Oktoberfest did us all proud. They poured beer on each other’s heads, they puked, they lost their phones; they made it home but don't know how they got there. They think they had a good time but can’t really remember. They arrived at the pitch looking like shit (those of us who hadn’t been out drinking felt hung-over just looking at them).

Skipper Shaw, who incidentally came straight to the pitch looking positively spiffing in his work clothes, announced we would be going with a 4-5-1 formation as we went through our meticulous pre-match ritual of stretching one minute before kick-off. Sam Greene, Steve Shaw and Chuck would sit in the middle of the park. Paul Hurley would slot into the “Borremans role” and Sean Skene would take responsibility out on the right. It was a midfield line up that had everything: youth, experience, one of Vietnam’s four Leicester City fans, a great American patriot, a modest man from Limerick… The Raiders would have to go over the top and there they would find a formidable defence who looked like a pack of convicts: Ben “I can puke on request” Peadon, Ian “Black Eye” Campbell, Ben “The number you have dialled is not in service” Hulbert and Sean “Actually, I went to the theatre last night” Campbell. Even if the Raiders could squeak through they would then have to put it past Sean Boyle, who’d been on the wagon since 9am.

The Saints caused problems from the off. Within minutes, a flick from the webmaster playing up top on his tod found the feet of Chuck “Suspiciously Mellow” Roger, who shifted the ball into the path of the onrushing Paul Hurley, who took a touch before unleashing a left-footed beaut of shot into the far corner of the net. The Raiders were at sixes and sevens defensively and soon after he’d scored his first ever goal for the Saints, Hurley would plunder the Raiders box and poach his second by getting to a loose ball first and poking it past the keeper. The Saints looked like they were going to put the Raiders to the sword but collectively sensing that this would be an anti-climax for the international media, they decided to gradually ease off and let the Raiders get a bit more of the ball. Some ponderous play just before half time in midfield went tits up when the Raiders best finisher nicked the ball off Skipper Shaw, who on a quick side note went straight to the pitch, and suddenly the Raiders were through on goal and back in the match.

The second half is easy enough to summarise: basically the Saints defended like beasts for 40 minutes (and that 40 minutes felt like hours) but the Raiders failed to score (despite making a few chances). Our subs all did important shifts as we closed out the game with Darrell, Dom, Ben Greene and Maxine all working their socks off. The ref finally blew up and the Saints are now unbeaten in three league games and sitting on seven points. We’re also unbeaten in five straight matches after beating Olympique in a friendly and the Raiders in the ashes last month.  

Which reminds me of another true story: the Raiders advertised this year that if players joined their club, they would get to beat the Saints three times a year. Oops. That’s what you call a #marketing #fail.

After the match the losers trudged off to Oktoberfest to drown their sorrows in a litre-sized bier stein.

We went to Game On.




This Year's Models: Saigon Saints look, feel, smell and play fantastic

We unveiled our new strip to the press and our adoring fans (nearly double figures including bystanders) last Sunday morning before pipping Hiep Phu 3-2 with a narrow (but much deserved if you ask me) win.

Match report is in the previous post.





Set Piece Specialists Saints too much for Hiep Phu

Saints 3 Hiep Phu 2

SIFL Stadium

Attendance: 7 or 8, maybe 12 including groundskeepers, passers-by, including one immaculately dressed Korean baseball player.  

The Saints’ meticulous training ground manoeuvres proved to be the difference as the boys claimed three points with three goals from three set pieces against Hiep Phu (all while sporting our splendid new jerseys).

After a tense, cagey first half played under a blazing sun, the match was scoreless at the break. Our immense defence with Sean Campbell and the Honourable Chairman Ben Peadon in central defence, Iaian Campbell and Ben Hulbert on the flanks, had so far looked impenetrable. While the midfield led by Captain Steve Shaw along with Sam Greene, Chuck Roger, James Teague, Sean Skene and Roel Borremans had given the opposition no space to create anything of substance.

The Saints’ tried to score from open play and came close straight from the kick off with the Webmaster one inch too short (or just too slow) to reach Roel’s superb low cross across the box. We all knew it was time to launch OPERATION SET PIECES. Completely on purpose, we won a free kick from just outside the penalty box. Sensing greatness within our young Thai winger Dom a.k.a. Natthawut Triggs, Chuck “Increasingly Mellow” Roger handed the ball over. It was time for Set Piece manoeuvre 44c: Dom curling a dipping shot which squeezes under the goalie and into the bottom right of the goal. Yes, you know the one. He carried it out to perfection. Boom. One nil. The Saints burst into life after that and searched for more set pieces. When we won a corner, Haider Al-Asady instinctively knew it was time for carrying out Set Piece manoeuvre 72b: volleying the ball straight from Chuck’s corner with a smidgen of shin, a touch of inner calf and the top of an ankle (yet another straight from the training ground move carried out to perfection) into the top corner. Boom, boom! Two up, it looked like the Saints would cruise from there, but no.9 for Hiep Phu had other ideas, starting with a 35-metre curling thump that – in the words of goalkeeper Sean Boyle – “looked like it was going really slow then it went really fast” (which is coincidentally the name of Sean’s forthcoming auto-biography)… and then it was in the back of the net. The Saints started to look a little ragged in the heat. No. 9 started looking rather fast or were the Saints looking rather slow? A little bit from column A, a little bit from column B. Hiep Phu’s No.9 worked his way up the pitch, played a one-two off some Hiep Phu stooge and then pinged a shot, which in the words of Sean Boyle, “looked like it went really fast, but I didn’t really see it to be honest” – coincidentally the name of the sequel to his forthcoming auto-biography – and... then it was in the back of the net. The Saints were flailing a little bit and some players might have settled for a point at this um… point. Not naming any names, but that’s what Roel said on the touchline. But with the clock winding down, the boys put together some neat team play through the middle to send Skipper Steve Shaw galloping into the box where he was ruthlessly chopped down. Now when a Brave Knight from the Realm of Honest Footballers of Nottinghamshire goes down in the box, every referee in the world knows it’s a no brainer. Men like that do not dive. He pointed to the penalty spot (interesting trivia: that’s the first penalty awarded to the Saints against a Vietnamese team since 2003). The Great American Patriot, Chuck Marion Roger of New York State, stepped up to “the plate” to take the “P.K.”, waited for the “ump” to blow the whistle, before “bulging the back of the onion bag” which is handy as Americans hate “ties” in sport and no one wants to see Chuck angry.

The Saints held out after that despite leaving another Hiep Phu stooge completely free in the box. Luckily he reacted like it’s the first time he’s ever tried to head a ball in the opposition's box and who knows, maybe it was. The referee blew it up and the Saints go marching on. Unbeaten in four matches including two pre-season friendlies and sitting on four points in the league after two matches with five goals from… you guessed it five set pieces.


Other highlights/ lowlights/ observations/ questions:

Social: Was Alex “WhatsAPP” Crane sitting in T.C. Bar at 1230 practicing his own set piece manoeuvres?

Fair Play Award: Is this the first time the Saints have played a match and not had anyone booked!?

Noted: Sean Campbell hates incorrect offside decisions so much he even tells the ref when he got it wrong for the opposition

Birthdays: Dr. Iaian Campbell didn’t tell us but it was his 33rd birthday on Sunday but Facebook did. Nice try Iaian. A stripogram is on the way to your office today to offer you belated birthday wishes. 

Drinking: Decent showing for Court (even if we were struggling to come with fines after a very satisfying performance and win) but we can and will do better next week.

Medical report: Haider reported his nipples were fine after the match.



Raiders of the Lost Ashes? Saigon Saints reclaim city-wide bragging rights with 2-1 win 

Saigon Ashes: Saints 2 Raiders 1

Ky Hoa Stadium, September 13, 2014

Attendance: Literally dozens (including groundskeepers and random punters)

After losing the Ashes last year for the first time ever in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD, the Saints needed no big team talk before resuming “friendly hostilities” with long term rivals, the Saigon Raiders, which is lucky as everyone arrived 10 minutes before kick-off and there was no time for a team talk.  “Let’s get a quick touch,” said someone to someone else before someone else said that someone else who may or may not be called Ben Hulbert hadn’t brought the balls.

No matter. Who needs a ball. We're all about the preparation and tactics. After consulting vice captain Ben Hulbert, club skipper Steve “I’m Going Straight to the Pitch” Shaw named the team as the Saints stretched. Going with a revolutionary 4-4-2 formation, the Saints pressed and worked the large pitch to try and open up the Raiders with Chuck Mellow Roger lively in the middle of the park and Roel the Flying Belgian working the left flank. With the tallest front line town, Aidan McNally and Webmaster Stokes brought a combined total of 12 feet 8 inches in aerial options so obviously the Saints tried to keep it on the deck. With the ball bouncing somewhere in between in the air and on the ground, the webmaster kneed the ball to send Aidan away from the halfway line. He made it to the by line by edge of the box before pulling it back to Chuck who pinged it off the post completely on purpose to set up the Saints’ Spanish maestro Adrian Paz Franco who coolly picked a spot and rifled home a shot from 15 years out. From start to finish it was a move that quite clearly came straight from the training ground.

The Honourable Chairman, Benjamin Peadon also made some fine saves in the first half helping the Saints to go into the outdoor dressing room at halftime one-up. All the talk was of a good start to the second half and getting that all important second goal. It came quicker than the Saints could have hoped. Again Aidan proved troublesome for the Raiders, working his way on the right (something he did all day long) and pulled it back across the goal. Chuck looked likely to shoot but he heard the call from Ben Hulbert who had wandered up from left back. Chuck’s simple but classy back heeled flick teed up the vice-captain who creamed an absolute peach into the roof of the net from outside the box. That’s right: another fairly standard training drill in action: two-zip.  

The Saints were bossing the game everywhere – the defence, Ian Pavitt, Dr. Iaiain Campbell, Alex Crane, Ben Hulbert, including important defensive shifts from Darrell and Simon on the flanks, were all outstanding, and Skipper Shaw was tireless in midfield with his young apprentice Sean Skene also putting in a great shift. The Saints were also still creating opportunities. Chuck was sent clear by a hoof over the top only for a Raider to flatten him out when clean through. Slightly aggrieved that this player had escaped any kind of card, Chuck decided to query this with the referee. After being blanked by the ref, our young American unleashed an expletive-based sonic scream inches from the referee’s face in an effort to transform the referee’s perception of the universe and his interpretation of the rules of the game. The logical outcome would be the ref realising the error of his ways, reversing his non-decision and producing a red for the Raider, perhaps apologising to Chuck for good measure. Unfortunately, it backfired ever so slightly and Chuck got a straight red.     

But even down to 10 men, the Saints created plenty of opportunities, Sam Green was unlucky a couple of chances didn’t fall kindly for him in the box. Adrian and Aidan combined beautifully to set the latter up but he skied his effort + young Dom outsprinted the defence to glance a header over the onrushing keeper only to see it go inches wide. The Raiders pulled one back – only a deflected shot that clearly didn’t come straight from the training ground -- to make sure the last five minutes were torture for the players on the side-lines and our fans (nearly double figures thanks to Roel’s growing harem). The Raiders managed to waste a couple of chances probably because Ben Peadon looked distractingly nervous in goals and thankfully the ref blew it up, returning the figurative Ashes to the Saints’ imaginary trophy cabinet.

A famous victory required the consumption of light ales in a number of venues across town with everyone wearing their new Saigon Saints-Game On polo shirts, which entitles every squad member to work either behind the bar at Game On or alternatively parking motorbikes whenever they feel like it.


Next week: Saigon Sevens