City Take the Shine Off the Peacocks

Time: 2pm, March 4th, 2012

Venue: Yingfeng Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a bright, hot day at Da Jia Yingfeng Riverside Park, the Taipei City players gathered in readiness for the match against the Taipei Peacocks – on their home turf. The surface was dry and smooth in spite of the damp weather since Chinese New Year. The wind affected the flight of the ball during the game! This was the first day of BML competition in March, and the fixtures are not yet half completed. (That’s seven matches, including this one, played so far out of a scheduled fifteen.)

All the squad had taken the trouble to arrive in good time, so there was a long warm-up before kick-off. The starting eleven was Dale Neal in goal; Matt Wharton at right-back; Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defence; Mamadi Colley at left-back; Danny Weir at right-midfield; Michael Christie and Alex Ramirez in central midfield; Omar Malcolm at left-midfield; Oumar Senoussi at inside-forward; and, Neao King at centre-forward. “Dapper” Danny Wilkinson, Brian Fitzpatrick, Luis Mayorga and manager Dan Calvert were on the bench.

The first twenty minutes were played at a quick pace, with some clever close passing and skilful individual play from the Peacocks. Playing with confidence, the Peacocks obliged City to make tackles, which were usually successful but not always. The Peacocks were adept at threading play from the back and through the midfield. There were some scares but the City defence was immaculate, so while the Peacocks had considerable skill and pace, Dale was not unduly troubled in goal. There was no doubt that City had a real game on their hands, though.

As the half progressed, City began to come forward with more conviction. This was basically an evenly-matched contest. It has to be admitted that the Peacocks were more often first to the fifty-fifty ball; but City were dogged without the ball and also cagey when in possession. This meant that City sometimes put the Peacocks on the back foot. Proving that he is a gifted performer in all areas, Brian McGuinness often orchestrated passing moves through the middle, and twice narrowly shot wide from just outside the box. Alex Ramirez was also a proverbial thorn in the Peacocks side, regularly shooting on sight. Oumar Senoussi was a handful and Neao King always threatened to get clear. Sensibly, the Peacocks opted to defend deep. Possibly City could have pushed the ball out wide quicker to Omar Malcolm on the left and Danny Weir on the right. Both were on excellent form and both, indeed, hit the side netting, as did Neao King.

For their part, the Peacocks always looked impressive going forward. Still, such was the staunch defending from Matt, Brian, Tom and Mamadi that Dale didn’t need to make a flying save. Dale was noticeably quick and alert coming off his line to snuff out the through ball whenever the Peacocks launched it from deep. He acted decisively a few times, with excellent judgment.

On about thirty minutes, the referee decided to award a penalty to the Peacocks. The decision was marginal, but the referee was certain if nobody else was. Fortunately, Dale looked composed on the line and the Peacock penalty-taker tried to be too precise, with the result that the ball shaved the outside of the post.

There was more end-to-end action to round out the first half but no goals. Both teams went in at half-time knowing that the match could be anybody’s. Dan Calvert addressed the need to get the ball wide quicker, but otherwise commended the team’s efforts and decided on an unchanged eleven to start the second half.

The Peacocks had the kick-off and began the second half with an impudent attempt to beat Dale from the half-way line, straight off. Dale was having none of it, of course. In spite of the heat and pace, both teams kept up a good tempo for the first ten minutes of the second half. With both teams sitting deep when defending, though, it was beginning to look like stalemate.

Trying to inject some fresh legs, Dan had the difficult job of taking off first-rate performers. Dan decided on a series of direct (position for position) substitutions. Firstly, Luis Mayorga came on for Oumar Senoussi. Next, Brian Fitzpatrick filled in for Omar Malcolm. And finally, ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson and Dan Calvert replaced Matt Wharton and Neao King in a double substitution.

The fresh players undoubtedly caused problems for the Peacocks. Luis was nimble and quick, always dangerous, and Fitzpatrick was notably influential in the way he linked up the play. ‘Dapper’ was equally strong in defence and coming forward; his delivery and crossing was first-rate. Not to be outdone, Dan Calvert was a solid focal point in attack.

Alex Ramirez likes to put the cat amongst the pigeons when the opposition tries to play the ball out of defence, and his pressure finally told on the Peacocks when he anticipated and tackled. Wilkinson on the right crossed from deep and caused problems for the Peacocks but they seemed to have regained composure, but Ramirez’s challenge sent the ball loose and into the path of Fitzpatrick approaching from the left, who sent a delightful side-footed chip over the stranded keeper into the far corner of the net. 1-0!

There were now about twenty-five minutes left. In the next fifteen or so minutes, City weathered the storm but hung on. The Peacocks threatened to strike back, including one player who went on a mazy run beating a host of City players, but the City defenders prevented him from getting a clean strike at goal. City worked hard to contain the Peacocks’ attacks, and in the last ten minutes had the satisfaction of seeing the Peacocks noticeably tire. The game was won on a knife-edge. City was perhaps lucky as nobody could have grudged the Peacocks a draw, but… the Peacocks will be hungry for the return fixture.

Taipei City FC 1 – 0 Peacocks


City Tames Lions

Time: 10am, February 12th, 2012

Venue:BaiLing Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Another hot weekend came around on the heels of a cold, grey week, and at 10am on Sunday morning the sun was shining bright for the long-awaited encounter between Taipei City and the Red Lions. Unlike in more temperate climes, if the sun is out in Taiwan it is already hot enough at 10am to stymie all but the fittest.

With twenty good players available, Coach Dan had to keep the squad size down to fifteen, so he decided on the usual guys, naming a starting line-up of Dale Neal in goal; a four-man defence comprising Matt Wharton at right-back, Tom Clarke and Brian McGuinness in the centre and Mamadi Colley at left-back; a four-man midfield of Danny Weir on the right, Alex Ramirez and Michael Christie in the middle and Luis Mayorga on the left; and a forward pairing of Oumar Senoussi providing for Dan Calvert’s poaching. The exceptionally strong bench had Brian Fitzpatrick, Omar Malcolm, Karim Cham, Neo King and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson sitting on it.

Now that the Red Lions are in possession of some formidable players, they are capable of getting results against anybody. Of course, everybody before the game was looking around and wondering whether this would be the day for an ‘upset’?

The first twenty minutes produced some good football, with some incisive passing from the Lions’, orchestrated by their classy midfield, and also some decent moves, mostly down the flanks, involving City. The Red Lions forced corners and fashioned a few decent chances, but managed only a few clear shots. Still, Dale had to be at his best to stop at least three shots in the first half destined for their target. The Red Lions edged the first twenty minutes, although City also had one or two chances early on which could have been better taken.

Having attacked with intent and pushed up on City, after their initial dominant period the Red Lions seemed to run out of steam. Perhaps this was a result of slightly better all-round fitness and preparation by the City players. Now City began to push up more and compress the play in the Lions’ own half. This was the pattern of play that persisted, with a few spells of Lions rampant, for the rest of the game.

To City’s credit, they did not give up putting pressure on the Lions. It was partly thanks to this kind of pressure that City got their first goal. Alex Ramirez and Oumar Senoussi both harried and the ball broke for Dan Calvert just inside the half-way line. Clear but still with a lot to do, Dan ran for twenty yards, with the pace and strength to keep a chasing Lion at bay, and took the ball round the keeper to finish with class.

At 1-0, City started playing with more composure. The Lions were still able to break sporadically but City looked more likely to score. The Lions often passed the ball out to a defender on goal-kicks , but this proved to be their undoing for the second goal, when Oumar isolated a defender and the ball bounced for the City forwards in the danger zone. In a matter of seconds, Danny Weir had lobbed the ball over the Lions’ keeper into the far corner of the net. It remained 2-0 at half-time.

In the interval, Luis made way for Omar Malcolm. Five minutes into the second half, Christie departed for Karim. The fresh legs of Malcolm and Karim immediately added renewed impetus to the slow-starting City line-up. The Lions still meant to make a game of it, and they mounted some forceful runs and clever moves in the opening stages of the second half, but again Dale saved excellently to deny the Lions sharp-shooting. At the other end, City continued to put pressure on the Lions defence. From a corner, Alex Ramirez sent a ball that squeezed through the cluster of players in the six-yard area, and after a melee the ball broke for Dan, who shot powerfully and got a deflection from Oumar Senoussi’s chest before hitting the net. Oumar deserved the goal!

A little later, Brian Fitzpatrick, Neo King and ‘Dapper’ Danny Wilkinson came on for Oumar Senoussi, Danny Weir and Matt Wharton. The new arrivals all helped make life harder for the Lions, and created more scoring chances. A lofted cross-field pass from Tom Clarke found Neo in space, who controlled precisely with his chest and turned – leaving his marker clutching at air – to slot the ball past the keeper into the net. 4-0! The Lions did not deserve to lose and City did not deserve to win this game 4-0 but while, as usual, the City defence and goal-keeping was excellent, the Lions were not as strong here as they have been in the past.

City gave a redoubtable performance without being brilliant, and was beholden to admirable defending. The City defenders had covered all the necessary space. The Lions were always dangerous in attack but just couldn’t find a way through. Dale saved three certain goals, which goes to show how different the game might have been without his class in goal.

The game was passionately contested but while the Red Lions had some good moves and their best players often won one-on-one challenges, Taipei City were able to spread the play and, without a noticeable weak link, overall had the better ball, especially as the game approached its end. On the day, Taipei City deserved the win.

City Overpower the San Chung Boys

Time: 3pm, January 15th, 2012


By Michael Christie

On a treacherous pitch inimical to the stylish kind of game Taipei City aspires to, the boys of San Chung Senior High were looking for an upset. In the end, though, while they showed clever footwork and some pace, they lacked strength. A solid if unspectacular performance from City was enough.

Dan started with a back line of Dale Neal in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defense, and Oumar Yassouf at left-back.  In midfield, Danny Weir, Ebrima Njie, Michael Christie and Alex Ramirez schemed to supply Neao King and Dan Calvert up front. On the bench, Brian Fitzpatrick, Danny “Dapper” Wilkinson, Omar Malcolm and Lionel Cassanova provided exceptional depth.

Looking a little short of match fitness and not quite at their sharpest, City pushed forward and put the boys under pressure in their own half. San Chung were not given the time to settle on the ball and so made a lot of mistakes. The conditions were not right for flowing football, though, so City also made their own fair share of mistakes. At least City kept the ball in San Chung’s half. Surprisingly, San Chung drew first blood when a long through-ball cleared the heads of the City defense and the San Chung forward calmly lobbed it over the advancing Dale.

City’s reply was not long in coming. Some good passing resulted in Ebu with a man to beat on the edge of the penalty box. Ebu cleverly crafted an opening and his shot had enough power to beat the keeper. At 1-1 City kept on working hard and their effort was rewarded when from the half-way line Matt Wharton in the right-back position sent a curving ball into the near post for Dan Calvert to run onto and hit on the bounce. About five minutes later, the third goal was almost identical. Perhaps it bounced a little higher this time? Anyway, Dan Calvert again lashed it into the far corner. City were coming forward now with more conviction. Danny Weir and Alex Ramirez on the flanks were both making inroads. City’s fourth goal came when Dan shot from the right and the San Chung keeper could only parry it and push it out for Ramirez to collect on the left. He fashioned an angle but his shot was pushed onto the bar by the keeper. Bouncing down quite hard and bouncing quite high, Ebu was able to get his head to the ball ahead of two chasing San Chung defenders. The score stayed at 4-1 until half-time.

At half-time, Neao made way for Omar Malcolm and Christie came off for Brian Fitzpatrick. Alex Ramirez went into centre midfield so Brian Fitzpatrick could take the left-sided berth. In truth, the second half was not so different from the first half. City still had most of the possession inside San Chung’s half. Within fifteen minutes, though, San Chung had managed to string together several passes in a good move starting from their own half. Dale didn’t have much chance in the one-on-one; again San Chung had snaffled a goal against the run of play. It was now 4-2.

Any fears that San Chung would mount a serious challenge as had International the previous week were allayed by City’s continuing dominance in midfield. The surface didn’t help but City managed to keep hold of a lot of the ball. San Chung hardly created another chance, while City could have had five or six more goals and should have had at least two or three, but a combination of wastefulness and some good keeping from San Chung’s diminutive keeper kept the score down. It has to be said that San Chung also defended energetically.

Perhaps the highlight of the second half was Danny Weir’s run across the face of the penalty area and left-footed shot. He beat at least three players before unleashing a shot good enough to beat the keeper but just a little too high to beat the bar.

There were two more substitutions to come in the second half. With about twenty-five minutes to play, “Dapper” Danny Wilkinson came on for Matt Wharton. Then, about five minutes later, Lionel came on for Danny Weir. The character of the game remained the same, with San Chung unable to break out from the City stranglehold. In that sense, City ground out the victory.

In conclusion, City deservedly won having done enough. Whether this will be good enough in the future against more testing teams remains to be seen. Every City player on the day will be feeling that there is room for improvement.

TaipeiCity FC 4 – 2 San Chung

International Boys Test City

Time: 7pm, January 8th, 2012
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

Rescheduled to 7pm for arcane reasons unknown, the Bai Ling pitch had slightly longer to recover from the rain but it was still a wet, stodgy surface. Covered in sand, there were no puddles and it was not too slippery, but the bobbles made for some unpredictable bounces in a competitive match.

Without Ross Conlon’s customary input – his focus and enthusiasm was missed – it was left to Dan Calvert to give the pre-match team talk. He decided on a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with a back line of Dale Neal in goal, Matt Wharton at right-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke a central defensive pairing and Mamadi Colley at left-back. In midfield, Luis Mayorga was on the right, Alex Ramirez and Michael Christie were in the middle and Brian Fitzpatrick was on the left. Neao King and Dan Calvert were united up front.

The opposition mostly consisted of some obviously not fully mature but still well-fed schoolboys, bolstered by no less than two one-time City players, Jamaican Oliver Harley and New Zealander Richard Fisher.

The first ten minutes were a little tentative from both sides. Still, City pushed up more solidly and so had the better of this crucial period. City worked hard to close down space, while International had not yet found their confidence or their range.

Some good build-up play from City released Luis down the right flank. Having got behind the line, he crossed on the ground for Dan to run onto at the near post. Dan managed to push the ball and go outside the outstretched foot of the defender at the near post but the foot was stretched out quite long and Dan went to ground with a thud. In spite of complaints from the International defence, the referee was sure it was a penalty and so up stepped Brian McGuinness. His firmly struck kick beat the keeper and City was 1-0 up. A few minutes later City came forward again, though this time the keeper gathered the ball safely in his arms. Ah! The ball is never safe. While his defence was still pushing up out of the penalty box, with their eyes fixed somewhere up the field, he decided to throw the ball out to one of them. Unluckily, it hit the back heel of an unwitting defender and bounced back towards Dan who, alive to the opportunity, beat everybody else to the ball and clinically clipped it past the keeper.

International was a little shell-shocked to be 2-0 down with only twenty minutes gone. They were unlucky but didn’t give up playing football. Deciding to take the game to City, they were beginning to look dangerous. It was uncomfortable for City at times in midfield, though with Matt, Brian McGuinness, Tom and Mamadi composed at the back, International only managed a few threatening moves and no clear-cut chances. The offside trap worked well for City. Going forward, City had some good spells in possession, with Brian Fitzpatrick on the left, Alex Ramirez in the middle and Luis on the right all instrumental in some good link up play with Neao King and Dan Calvert up front. City’s third goal came when Dan latched onto a through ball in the inside right position and passed the ball inside to Neao, who had the speed to take the ball outside the defender and the composure to finish from a tight angle. While City was good going forward, International was able to find space for breakaway attacks. The youngsters were also becoming more confident in their skills, and while they sometimes lost the ball by attempting too much they also embarrassed some City players somewhat. As half-time approached, the game took on an ‘end to end’ character. Luckily for City, there was another goal. Alex Ramirez in the inside left channel set up a perfectly weighted ball for Neao to run onto on the edge of the box. Neao took one touch and again sped outside the oncoming defender to finish from another tight angle. The ball found the same spot just inside the far post for Neao both times!

4-0 up at half-time was not an accurate reflection of the balance of play, perhaps, but City had clearly won the contests in the areas of the pitch that mattered. A pleasant surprise was in store forTaipeiCityat half-time. After four years away and just two days after Ross had left the country, a veteran of Taipei City FC’s inaugural BML title-winning season, Omar Malcolm was back!

One change was made at half-time, with Oumar Yassouf coming on for Brian Fitzpatrick. The first ten minutes of the second half were subdued from International, and City looked to press forward. Possibly one of the best City moves of the season involved only Luis Mayorga and Dan Calvert interchanging passes all the way up the right flank, culminating in a left footed effort from Dan only just going the wrong side of the post. However, International gradually began to pick up more momentum. City took off the tiring Christie and the sterling Wharton for Daniel Wilkinson and Stoyan Todorov ten minutes into the second half. Stoyan was a straight swap for Matt at right-back, while Danny came into central defense allowing Brian McGuinness to go into the vacated central midfield position. City enjoyed some good football but with nothing to lose Continental were pressing forward now with gusto and making life difficult. They missed a few decent chances including one point-blank tap in, before they got a breakthrough goal. The crucial difference was that they were now finding space and getting behind the City defence. Sensing blood, they were more adventurous in their attacks, launching more balls behind the City defence. Only some brilliant last-ditch defending by Tom saved City at two particularly chary moments. Dale also distinguished himself with a brilliant save from a long-distance free-kick. International were not to be denied a second goal, though, which came through sustained pressure. Malcolm came on for Luis at around this time, with twenty or so minutes to play. At 4-2, City was not sure whether to attack or defend while International was only attacking. A hopeful punt from distance was enough to give International another goal. The last ten minutes were going to be tense for City. In the end, though, an excellent corner kick from Alex was met by the head of Tom, who ensured a final 5-3 victory.

In conclusion, this was a hard game for City. International will surely take points off good teams so City can be thankful for making the most of their chances when they had them.

TaipeiCity FC 5 – 3 International

City Enforcers Punish Rogue Boys

Time: 1pm, November 27th, 2011
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a smooth, dry Taiwanese riverside surface, two tough expat teams faced each other in the season opener.TaipeiCitywas the favorite to win, but Rogue had a new team and was looking for an upset. Wily manager Ross Conlon opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation to start. As usual, Dale was in goal. The back four, from right-back stretching to left-back, was Ricardo Abrego, Tom Clarke, Karim Cham and “Dapper” Daniel Wilkinson. The midfield, from right stretching to left, was Danny Weir, Brian McGuinness, Michael Christie and Ross Conlon. Alex Ramirez filled the hole behind beefy target-man Dan Calvert.

The opening ten minutes were critical for both teams.TaipeiCityhad more urgency and worked hard to close down space. Working hard helpedTaipeiCityplay at a tempo that was slightly too quick for Rogue.

As the game wore on, City managed to dominate possession. The City forwards and midfield put pressure on Rogue and forced Rogue on the back foot. However, though Rogue was organized in defense they never pushed up enough to make life uncomfortable for the City midfielders and defenders. City could always pass back safely to Ricardo, Tom, Karim or Dapper at the back.

The new-look Rogue was often clever in possession and threaded some nice passes together, but they were unable to sustain anything for very long. City always had a good outlet, especially on the flanks where Ross Conlon and Danny Weir made themselves available.

Rogue defended stoutly and withstood a lot of pressure but ultimately found the City forwards hard to manage. The breakthrough first goal came when Alex Ramirez found Danny Weir in the channel down the right flank. Weir crossed low for Calvert who beat the defender (ex-City stalwart Alex Daly) to the near post and hooked a fine half-volley with his right foot into the far corner. Later, Dan Calvert scored a less memorable but just as effective goal from sustained City pressure.

2-0 up at half-time, City had worked hard but could not claim to be brilliant. During the break, Stoyan Todorov came on for Abrego at right-back and Luis Mayorga came on for Dapper Dan Wilkinson. Ross Conlon dropped back to left-back, Brian McGuinness moved to left-midfield and Alex Ramirez came into central midfield. Luis Mayorga slotted into the “hole” behind Calvert, of course. After the break, the game picked up where it had left off with more City possession. After ten minutes, the spent Christie was replaced by Gustavo Maffio. Maffio came in at right-midfield and Brian McGuinness moved back into central midfield with Danny Weir, who was electric all day switching to the left flank to terrorise the Rogue right full back for a while.

A number of other City players had very strong games, including Karim Chan, Alex Ramirez and Brian McGuinness. Brian McGuinness deservedly got on the score-sheet with an opportunistic strike to make the score 3-0. He later made way for Matt Wharton, who gave a good cameo performance. Then, the last twenty minutes were all City. Having acquitted themselves well for over an hour, the Rogue players were exhausted by the end of the game and couldn’t raise themselves for a final push. City continued to probe for holes in the defense and found them. Dan Calvert completed his hat-trick with a well-taken first touch, turn and left-foot shot into the far corner after good build-up play and Alex Ramirez fittingly made it 5-0 with a fine shot finding the corner of the net from distance.

This was a good job on the day. For their part, Rogue are sure to improve. City will also naturally look to improve as the season progresses. City looks set for a good season so there is everything to play for.

TaipeiCity FC 5 – 0 Rogue FC

City Pipped at the Post

Time: 6pm, March 19th, 2011
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

With everything to play for, both Taipei City and Hong Ming Bualien lined up to contest the game of the season – the BML final in all but name. Taipei City started with a 4-4-2 formation: Dale Neal in goal, Yunusa Njie at right-back, Ross Conlon at left-back, Brian McGuinness and Tom Clarke in central defense, Carlos Mayorga at right-midfield, Alex Ramirez at left-midfield, Ebrima Njie and Badou Njie in central midfield, and Dawda Fatty and Dan Calvert up front, Dawda in the hole and Dan as the target man. City also had a strong bench, with Kareem Cham, Paul Hsueh, Lionel Gonzalez, Ricardo Abrego, Mamadi Colley, Michael Christie, Luis Mayorga and Oumar Senoussi all ready and waiting.

The opening fifteen minutes were cagey, as both sides sought to establish a viable pattern of play. Taipei City and Hong Ming Bualien both had plenty of possession, and both teams put pressure on the other when without. There were no clear cut chances, though, because neither team was able to dominate in any area of the field.

Hong Ming Bualien, a highly experienced group of players and disciplined team, adopted a flexible formation. Sometimes it was 4-4-2, sometimes 3-5-2 and sometimes 3-6-1. When sitting deep and absorbing pressure, it was either 3-5-2 or 3-6-1. They were able to close down space very quickly in the middle of the park and in their own half. In possession, HMB were crisp and unhurried in their passing, which with their intelligent support play, forced City to work hard doing a lot of running. Still, City was holding their own.

Some rustiness getting into the game from City was noticeable in the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Neither side was able to carve out a really good chance until twenty minutes into the game when a speculative through-ball from HMB was easily read and covered by the City defense. The HMB forward, however, barged McGuinness from the back, and then took advantage of some City honesty – our man didn’t go down – to wriggle past the off-balance defender. The finish was the only credit-worthy thing about the performance. HMB was 1-0 up.

With a lead established, HMB policed the rest of the half. There were some good plays from City but nothing to really test the HMB defense. City simply couldn’t find a way through the mass of bodies HMB had assembled.

Taipei City made one change for the second half. Yunusa came off, Carlos dropped back to right-back and Luis slotted in at right-midfield.  Fiveteen minutes into the second half, Ross made way for Mamadi. Later on, Paul came on for Carlos, Christie came on for Badou and Omar came on for Dawda. Unluckily, Alex was sent off for a second bookable offence. Well, City worked hard but there was still no way through. HMB didn’t threaten very much, but just soaked up pressure and looked to break.

City maintained good pressure until the end, but had to be content with the “might have beens.” There was a lovely run and shot from Dawda, which the keeper just got a finger to. He’d beaten two men and his shot was sailing into the top corner. The keeper had to make a top-class save to keep it out. Then, there was a great penalty box tackle from Oumar. With a little bit more luck that would have been a goal. There was a great shot on the volley from Carlos. He beat the keeper but was inches the wrong side of the post. There were scrambles in the penalty box that HMB only just managed to clear…

Sometimes them’s the breaks.

This was the last game together for many of the players. Yunusa, Dawda, Ebu and Badou, brilliant players who always gave great performances for City, made their bow. You guys will leave a massive void. Ricardo, also, who never had a good chance to shine in a City shirt, and Carlos, who proved a fine addition to the team this year will also graduate in June, so won’t be around next season. Hopefully his brother Luis can stick around and some other players on the fringes this season can step in and help City to regain their title next season. With such a talented squad and a winning ethos, we will always manage to rebuild. Let’s all get together before graduation in June. Actually, there’s a tasty university game involving many of the City players that really shouldn’t be missed. It would be good to cheer on all participants in that one.

Old Grey Fritz Just Aint What They Used to be…

Time: 5pm, March 13th, 2011
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

On a hot, dry Saturday afternoon, City gathered a squad of twelve to take on the once mighty Fritz. In previous seasons, facing Fritz with such a small squad would have been dicing with ignominious defeat, but Fritz are not what they were. (It seems like they’ve gone downhill a lot since last season, never mind from when they were at their peak.)

The pattern of the game was established quite early. City applied pressure high up the field, Fritz tried to clear or play themselves out of trouble but couldn’t and City invariably got back possession. The game wasn’t ten minutes old when Alex Ramirez struck on the edge of the box. With City dominating possession and Fritz making mistakes, City were forcing corners and looking to build on their lead. Next, Tom Clarke spotted a high ball and leapt clear of the Fritz keeper to glance a great header into the corner of the net. 2-0. After this, yet more chances came City’s way. However, owing to some good goalkeeping mostly, City failed to extend their lead. At the half-time team talk, Dan put it well: with the City forward line and midfield applying enough pressure, Fritz were reduced to launching long balls for their forwards but the city defence were winning everything in the air. At the restart, Fritz briefly looked liked threatening, but very soon Dan Calvert had made it 3-0 from a low cross by Ramirez.

After this, Fritz let themselves go. Their one dangerous forward, no.10, got himself sent off for a kick at Ramirez. Then, the fight went from the match and City were able to keep the ball at leisure. The last goal from City was from Lionel Gonzalez – his debut goal – a clinical finish from a narrow angle. Bualien awaits now and surely they will give City a much tougher match than Fritz did.

The Season So Far

By Michael Christie

After twelve games played, with ten victories, one draw and one defeat, Taipei City face into the penultimate game of the BML season in top spot. So, how has the season actually progressed for Taipei City so far…? Read on…

Game 1: An Easy Opener against JFC

Taipei City was lucky to have their easiest game of the season first. New to the BML, JFC strangely decided to field a weak team. Or maybe it was too early for some of their better players? Anyway, Dan, Dawda and company had a field day. The final score was 11-1 and that was a fair reflection of the match.
JFC improved later in the season, but after losing to the Red Lions on January 23rd missed out on a chance to claim sixth spot and with that a place in the top league for round 2.

Game 2: A Second Convincing Win against Feng Ching

Buoyed by the previous week, Taipei City struck again to inflict a big defeat on Feng Ching. Dan and Dawda led the scoring with goals galore! Some others chipped in with a few beauties, too!

(Feng Ching has done little to suggest they don’t deserve to be near the bottom of the league this season. They won’t need to worry about us again this season as they battle it out for seventh spot.)

Game 3: Mitsukoshi Give City their First Test

This was City’s first competitive game. Mitsukoshi have one of the meanest defenses in the league and City needed to work hard before Dawda or Dan delivered in the last few minutes before half-time. It was 1-0 but it had been a really even game in all areas. After the break, City again worked hard and played some fair football to make it 3-0 before Mitsukoshi scored a deserved consolation.

(Mitsukoshi have a really mean defense and keep the games tight to the very end. Nobody else has come close to beating Mitsukoshi 3-1. Dan and Dawda were in excellent form in this game. The results tell us Mitsukoshi beat Fritz 2-1 and drew 2-2 with Bulien. Apart from losing to City, Mitsukoshi were beaten 1-0 by Dentway. They also got a few 0-0 draws against lower-ranking teams. They are as hard to score against as Bulien and Fritz but less likely to score goals – only ten in eight games this season. Anyway, they are certainly capable of beating anybody in this league. With the acquisition of a really good striker, they might be giants!)

Game 4: City Stumble and Fall against Bulien

After four straight wins, Taipei City suffered a well-deserved defeat against the under-regarded Hong Min Bualien. Lateness and arrogance (thinking we could still perform against a football team just by making sure we turned up a few minutes before kick-off) were the undoing of City. Credit should not be taken away from Hong Min. They were clearly the better side and deserved the 3 points on the day. Every Taipei Citizen who came to the game was justifiably upset and disappointed with himself. This was a low point for everybody connected to Taipei City FC.

(Hong Min have a disciplined and settled formation, work hard and absorb pressure. They are good at getting an early goal and then being patient. How good are they? Well, they are always solid and are a team who simply cannot be underestimated. They will give us a very stern test.)

Game 5: City Return to Winning Ways

Without player-coaches Ross and Dan, the Taipei City players were determined to redeem themselves after the loss against Hong Min. Alex Ramirez and Dawda ably managed this week’s incarnation of Taipei City to a hard-working 5-0 win. This was another potential banana skin for City, as Dentway have had a good season. (Indeed, after beating Mitsukoshi 1-0 on January 23rd they are neck and neck with Fritz on seventeen points!) This was a hard game until City put away some difficult chances with good finishing late in the game. City really had to work hard for the win, and the late goals were the result of some great finishing, which doesn’t always happen late in a game but is great when it does.

(Dentway are obviously a better side than this result suggests. A dominant performance by the City defense, in particular Tom on this occasion, nullified their attack. Dentway will be determined to beat us and should be ear-marked as potential champions. They will definitely give us a hard game.)

Game 6: City Bring it Home to Rogue

In City’s first “expat derby” Rogue seriously wanted to dent some pride. However, City just didn’t allow Rogue to get any foothold in the game. Rogue defended stoutly but couldn’t keep out Alex Ramirez’s sweet left-foot volley before half-time. In the second half further goals from Christie and two others sealed a 4-0 win!

(Rogue just haven’t had a good BML season. This was the one and only BML game we’ll play against them this campaign. Rogue will have to try to redeem themselves by grabbing seventh spot if they can.)

Game 7: City Bring it Home to the Lions, Too

This was City’s second “expat derby” in as many weeks, but like Rogue the week before, the Red Lions failed to give City much trouble. The Lions had assembled a good group of players for this game, including the excellent Mike O’Gorman, City’s Player of the Year last season, but collectively didn’t play their best on the day. The Red Lions went down to a Dawda strike and a Dan header and one more goal from Oumar.

(The Lions look like they will make it to sixth spot, in which case we will play them again. Don’t be fooled that they played anywhere near their best in this January 16th game. If they can improve in a few areas they will mount a challenge. They also have a new forward, an American who by all accounts has the ability to challenge Dan and Dawda for the title of best foreign striker in Taiwan.)

Game 8: City Spank the Boys

Poor, old Sanchung, firmly rooted to bottom spot. Poor, old Sanchung? Poor, young Sanchung, more like. Despite having a good coach, bags of running and great potential, the new-look high school team is simply too raw at this stage to compete against fully-grown men. Two goals from Dan, two from Dawda (including a penalty he won following an amazingly cheeky dribble around two teenagers very close to the goal) and more from Brian McGuinness and Alex Ramirez put paid to Sanchung. City had a good work-out in this game. Will they be ready to forgo the “Thank You, Coach” next year?

(When they learn to get stuck in they will be a good team. Let’s give them time. This season is a learning experience for them. They are still a little too nice and like all young people, don’t know who their real friends are. Hopefully, playing against Rogue will bring out the anger that is no doubt welling up inside their adolescent minds but needs an adequate outlet. Let’s hope they kick out against the Rogue!)

Game 9: Fritz have no Answer to the Pressure of City living

There was a time when Fritz was feared for their clinical sharpness and ability to keep the ball. They would make the opposition run all day. This time, even bolstered by a few new players in different positions, they struggled to compete on even terms. City pegged them back for most of the game and restricted them to breakaways. Against most defences they would have been dangerous, but with Tom Clarke and Yunusa Njie marshalling at the back they hardly got a shot on target. City played one of their best games of the season to win 3-0.

[Round 2] At this stage the league is split into two sections with the top 6 teams remaining in the top division and the bottom 4 teams relegated to the second division.

Game 10: City narrowly escape from Hungry Lions in a Fierce Encounter

The Red Lions gave City a much stiffer game this time. With some new players and new ideas, the Lions never gave City enough time to settle on the ball, and so the spectators were treated to an old-fashioned end to end game, in which anything might happen next. Thanks to some good forward play near the end of the game, particularly a good finish from Alex Ramirez to make the score 2-1, City still had enough class to edge this encounter, but it was always too close for comfort. Dale and his defence played well to keep the Lions to a single goal. The Lions hit the post twice thanks to their new forward, who impressed everybody. City were certainly lucky the Lions didn’t have a few more performers of the same calibre as him (the new forward) and Mike O’ Gorman, City’s Player of the Season last season. That’s probably why, in spite of playing poorly, City did enough to earn a 3-1 win come the final whistle.


Game 11: No Sale at Mitsukoshi on a Sloppy Saturday Night

On one of the wettest days in years, City was obliged to field a team to play a game of football on a swamp, which was a pond in places. The referee, seeing that City was ready to play, tried to cancel five minutes before kick-off at six, but Ross insisted on playing. It was the right decision because the only thing worse than being asked to play in those conditions would have been being asked to postpone when everybody was kitted up and ready to play. The game? It was not football. City went 2-0 up in the first half courtesy of two fine long range strikes from Michael Christie but conceded before half-time from a well executed free kick. Then, Mitsukoshi hit long balls in hope and eventually, near the end, somehow fluked an equalizer.

Game 12: City strikers dread trip to the dentist.

On the form they displayed in this game, Dentway are surely not capable of getting results against the best teams in the BML. Actually, they have a dangerous forward, so they relied on defending in depth and the break-away. City gifted the Dentway forward a goal in the first ten minutes and then, even with most of the possession, struggled to make any effective inroads in the Dentway penalty area. Just before half-time, Dawda managed to snaffle a goal at the end of one of the few meaningful City attacks, but the evening was looking bleaker and bleaker the longer City couldn’t put the ball in the net. With the second half, City brought on Ebu and Paco. There was more fluency in possession from City in the second half, but Dentway still held out. In the end, when nerves were really being fried, only a daisy-cutter from Dan separated City from a night of real embarrassment. 2-1 to City.

So with two games left to play Taipei City find themselves one point ahead of their 3-0 defeaters from earlier in the season, Hong Min Bualien.  The two remaining ties couldn’t be tougher with old rivals and 7 times BML champions Fritz this weekend and a final day show down with the aforementioned Bualien. It’s games like these that make the difference between good teams and champions.

A Flood of Goals on a Wettish Day

Time: 10am, November 7th, 2010
Venue: Bai Ling Bridge Riverside Park

By Michael Christie

There was a nice, slick surface, if a little wet and slippery in places, at Bai Ling for when Taipei City kicked off their BML campaign against JFC on Sunday morning at 9am. The slick surface meant that the ball skidded quickly over longer distances than usual, so everything was set up for a good game between two teams that like to pass.

The full squad of JFC players duly assembled at 6am, four hours before kick-off, while Taipei City were saved from taking the field with ten men by the arrival of Paul five minutes before kick-off. Taipei started with Andy Weston in goal, Taka Koizumi at right-back, Mamadi Colley at left-back, Tom Clarke and Paul Hsueh in central defence, Carlos Mayorga in right-midfield, Ross Conlon in left-midfield, Brian McGuinness and Michael Christie in central midfield, Dawda Fatty in “the hole” and Dan Calvert as “the target man.”

The first half opened with Taipei City establishing control, which they never relinquished. City pressed up possibly too much, in that Dawda and Dan didn’t have much space to work their magic in the first ten minutes. City had four or five corners in quick succession, the last of which produced the opening goal. JFC attempted a clearance but the ball fell to Mamadi just inside the box. Drilled hard and low into the corner through a crowd of players, this was a finish of classy assurance.

Next came “The Big Dan Show.” Not content with scoring the opener, Mamadi laid on an excellent cross for Dan to finish with his head. Dan’s second and City’s third scored with the boot from Dawda’s assist  followed soon after. Then near the end of the first half Dan got another header from an excellent Taka cross. The first half was marked by good possession football – clever passing and good movement.

There were no changes at half-time, though with the arrival of Matt Wharton there was now more strength in depth. Matt came on for Carlos after fifteen minutes. Taka moved up to right-midfield and Matt played at right-back. Meanwhile, Mamadi scored with a long-range pile-driver to make it 5-0. JFC had a rare attack and managed to score next. They celebrated wildly, but quite soon Mamadi had forced another ball into the net, this time a deflected header from a corner. At 6-1 to cap a great game from the connoisseur’s point of view, Dawda scored two rapier-quality goals. Ross emulated Dawda with two top-drawer bottom-corner finishes to make it 10-1 (He passed up the opportunity of a hat-trick out of modesty.)  Unburdened with humility Dan had a volley from five yards out which he slammed home to take his tally to 4 on the day, not counting the 5th wrongly chalked off for offside.

So that was the first BML game. Much easier than expected, City were comfortable and played with a lot of composure. JFC tired badly but credit should be given them for trying, not giving up and getting a goal. On the day, City can give themselves a pat on the back for doing a good job. Of course, there are harder games to come.

FIFA Futsal International City Cup Taipei

By Michael Christie
Aug 7-9th, 2010

Before I begin the report proper, let me just say why I think we were invited to the tournament. I believe we were brought in to play the role of whipping boys. We were paraded as the International Union of Brothers, but with only a couple of weeks notice we could hardly be expected to play as a well-oiled Futsal team, especially against high-level specialists in the game. The fact that we actually played some good Futsal speaks volumes for everybody involved.

After finding the venue late, borrowing some socks and some frantic negotiations concerning shirts and team colours, the International Union of Brothers were ready to take on Taipei City in the tournament curtain-raiser. Led out by Dede Costa to a fanfare of delirious excitement from the Taiwanese girls in the stands who’d come to see the handsome foreigners, the IUB meant business. The starting five comprised Dale in goal, Ricardo and Yunusa in defence, and Ebou and Dede up front. On the bench, Dawda, Karim, Onur, Ross, Christian and Christie proved the IUB had strength in depth. That said, Taipei City had at least ten substitutes to IUB’s five. This was obviously not going to be an easy game.

Straight after the whistle, the experienced Futsallers looked to keep the ball and work some openings. Taipei City must have had some of the best Taiwanese Futsal talent in their ranks, so they were able to control the first few minutes. The IUB defended doggedly, though, so City was getting a trifle frustrated. (Remember, in this report the Taiwanese team are City.) City managed to get a lucky goal on about five minutes, which calmed their nerves, but there was to be no capitulation from the IUB. Although clearly dominant, City had to defend well against enterprising forward play at times from Onur, Dede, Dawda, Ebou, Christian, Yunusa, Karim and Ross. Ricardo and Christie were more defensive and did some good support work. The Taiwanese played some excellent futsal but only managed two more goals before half-time. These were good, well-deserved goals, it has to be admitted. Ironically, just before the half-time whistle the defensive Christie was put through on goal after an excellent passing move (from… sorry, I’ve forgotten!) and he put a toe to nudge the ball slowly past the City keeper. 3-1 down at half-time, the IUB had put up a really good fight and proved themselves not just an ordinarily talented group of expat players.

The second half was again an uphill struggle for the IUB. Dale sustained an injured finger making a great save, and later he sprained his ankle rushing out quickly to deny City an otherwise certain goal. The IUB had some good shots on target again, but facing the fresher legs of City’s numerous substitutes, began to tire. Dede shot into the top corner to score a brilliant goal halfway through the second half to make the score 6-2. Unfortunately, fatigue was a factor in the last ten minutes, so City were able to rattle in some more goals. The final score was something like 10-2 to the Taiwanese.

The next game of the day saw the flamboyantly outfitted professional team from Malaysia, Figos Juniors, take on Yung An, from mainland China. This was a dreadfully one-sided encounter which saw the Malaysians demolish an obviously shell-shocked Yung An. The question was: were the Malaysians really good, or was Yung An City really poor?

At lunch-time, just before their game with the Thai team, the popular IUB players posed for photographs with some of the local Taiwanese girls who’d come to watch and give them their support. This was just as well, because the Thai team brought a large contingent of screaming fans themselves! Though less mobile and less skilled than Taipei City, the Thais nevertheless obviously had a good amount of futsal experience. Slow to warm up, the IUB fell behind quite early, and then conceded another. After finding their feet, as it were, the IUB started to threaten. Great goals from Dede, Dawda, Ebu and Karim, I think, were only the natural reward for good passing play. The game was delicately poised at 4-4 and in truth IUB were showing they were the better footballers, but the Thais, buoyed by their supporters, managed to score seven goals altogether. Final score 7-4. This was a game that if we had to play with a little bit more Futsal experience I’ve no doubt we would win.

Late in the game, Dede suffered a nasty gash to the eye after he was sent crashing to the ground by a sliding tackle. This was a great injustice for our best player on the day, and meant that after a good, long time in Taiwan, Dede had to take an injury home. He was unable to play any further part in the tournament and was greatly missed. (Personally, I feel Dede is the best all-round player I have played with or against in my time in Taiwan. Good luck, Dede. We know you will keep playing football.)

There was one more game on Saturday, I think, and there was a game or two on Sunday morning, but what these were I don’t know! (I seem to remember Figos Juniors giving the Thais a futsal lesson, but I can’t remember when this was. Let me tell you old age catches up with everybody!) At 1pm on Sunday, the IUB reconvened for action against Yung An. Both teams were looking to taste victory. This was a slightly different squad from Saturday’s players. Without Ricardo, Onur and Dede, City now had Brian McGuinness, Tom Clarke and Gassey (apologies if I’ve spelt your name wrong) from Nicaragua. Mindful of Christie’s advanced age, Ross handed him the captaincy for the day. Christie tried to look the part but arguably lacked Dede’s gravitas.

The IUB started slowly against Yung An and again conceded first, but then sheer ability asserted itself and the IUB fairly took Yung An to the cleaners. Yunusa, Ebu, Dawda, Brian and Tom were excellent in this game, and Christie, Karim, Gassey and Ross all made valuable contributions, too. The IUB were able to play quick passing football to the wide positions, from where the ball was regularly bulleted to the the far post. This tactic had been effective the day before against the Thais, but now it was looking much slicker. There was a hat-trick for Tom and he scored the same goal each time: Yunusa or Brian to Ebu, Ebu to Dawda on the right, and Dawda to Tom at the far post on the left. There were other great goals from Ebu, Dawda, Brian and Yunusa. With just a few minutes left on the clock, the IUB were 8-4 up but then Yung An staged an admirable come-back. With only one minute to go they’d got back to 8-6, and then, with just seventeen seconds remaining, 8-7. Ross called a time-out to settle some nerves and agree some tactics to see us through the game safely, and so eventually Yung-An were denied. It had been a highly enjoyable game for everybody in the arena.

The next game was between the Thais and Taipei City. The Thais were no match for the Taiwanese in this game. For what it’s worth, the Taiwanese scored more against the Thais than against the IUB, if my memory serves me correctly. (But that’s hardly guaranteed!) The watching IUB players argued amongst themselves good-humoredly about which team was better, Taipei City or Figos Juniors. We were about to play the Juniors in our last game.

Most of the IUB players had already played a full ninety minutes of eleven-a-side earlier in the day as well as the game against Yung An, so were not fresh coming into an extremely demanding contest. Indeed, all the outfield IUB starters had played a full match. Still, this was not evident from the first fifteen minutes. Dale (an unsung hero and solid presence all weekend), Yunusa, Tom, Ebu and Brian fully matched the professionals from Malaysia. The expressions on the faces of the Malaysians betrayed uneasiness for the first five minutes, as they found themselves 1-0 down to the amateurs and being held at bay. They managed to squeeze in a goal after six or seven minutes but they still looked disbelieving that they weren’t able to score more.  The Malaysians looked seriously flustered.

With ten minutes gone, the score was 1-1 and the IUB still looked solid. The Malaysians tried everything, but it was all in vain as they were continually frustrated by last-ditch tackles and great saves from Dale. The nods of approbation from the Taiwanese coaches was gratifying as the IUB played precisely in both defence and attack. The Malaysians finally posted a goal on fifteen minutes, by which time they’d used at least three or four substitutes. Now Ross decided to rotate some of the IUB players, with the result that IUB conceded three more goals before the half-time whistle!

The second half saw some more great performances from Dale, Yunusa, Tom, Ebu, Brian, Dawda, Karim, Ross, Christie and the just arrived Gassey, but the IUB couldn’t quite get a break-through. We came close a few times, though, with Dawda and Gassey in particular. Eventually, the futsal fitness, experience and expertise of the Malaysians told as they scored four more goals. 9-1 was the final score and while you have to say the Malaysians had greater resources (including more substitutes and fresher legs) the performances of the IUB players, Dale, Yunusa, Tom, Brian, Ebu and Dawda in particular, deserved only praise. What a weekend!

The final between Taipei City and Figos RSA FC was held on the Monday. Dale, Gassey, Ross, Ebu, Yunusa and Dawda were all in attendance to watch a real top class game of Futsal. It ended 2-2 which meant the Malaysia league champions for the past two years Figos RSA FC won the tournament on goal difference.

The five star dinner on the Monday night in the Grand Formosa was attended by all the Taipei Futsal Association, the teams and their fans, dignitaries from the Taiwanese government and members of the press. The IUB boys were bombarded by kids wanting to take their picture with them, it might even take a few hard games in the BML to get everybody grounded again. Much to all our surprise we were awarded the tournament Fair Play award for our endeavors, the announcement was met by a rapturous cheer from the attending crowd, all in all a fantastic end to a memorable weekend, if you can overlook the irony of the sight of Ross collecting a fair play award!