Agilent UK qualifies for European Football
In May, Agilent UK put together a team of 16 highly skilled athletes to compete in a three-way European football competition in Turin, Italy.
You’re probably thinking, scientists don’t play football!
This is far from the truth. Here in the UK, we play 5/6 a side football once a month with a group of regular players from the delivery management, tech support, sales, legal and logistics teams. The monthly matches take place at a specific indoor football facility next to one of the largest shopping centres in Europe (Trafford Centre) and only 10 minutes from the “Theatre of Dreams” Old Trafford, home of Manchester United (there is another team in Manchester, not quite as well known).
These matches are often very competitive and fast paced with everyone feeling aches and pains in the following days, especially if they have been tackled by Sam Bernard or duped by one of David Smith’s Cruyff turns, renamed the “Smith drag back”.
Back to the main subject of this article, the European adventure.
The idea for a European Football Championship came from reading an article on our internal Agilent newsletter about a match two of our European sites. Our colleagues from the enormous Waldbronn site in Germany and Vacuum pump manufacturing plant in Torino, Italy played out a hard-fought match and on a Saturday afternoon followed by an evening of celebration between the two teams and travelling fans.
This led to the UK wanting to get involved and see if we could be a match for our colleagues and footballing rivals. The next match was due to be hosted in Turin but we needed to make sure we would be able to field a team before thinking about anything else first. This didn’t end up being a problem and following an advert in the UK and Ireland newsletter, we were soon able to put together a very strong looking team that now had the backing of Sarah our UK Country Manager.
With the team assembled, we had one or two things to organise before we could call ourselves a team, the main one being a kit. This again was not an issue, not when you have fantastic support behind you and Sarah was instrumental in gaining some extremely generous funding from UK HR to purchase a kit for the newly formed national team. Sarah had also managed to drum up some more support and the team was going to be joined out in Italy by Andrew and Kevin.
We all arrived in Milan at roughly the same time and had our driver for the weekend waiting to collect the team to take us to Turin. A two-hour journey later and we had made it to the team accommodation, a friendly hostel in what appeared to be a slightly less up market area of Turin.
There was time to quickly freshen up after choosing rooms and beds before heading down the road for a team meal with our travelling hoard of fans in a local Pizzeria. One or two beers and some food later, we headed back to the hostel and got to bed ready for the big day.
Match day had finally arrived, after all the build-up we were finally here. Bruno, our driver collected the team from the hostel and took us up to the Agilent office/factory where we met our hosts and organising party for the weekend and were taken on a tour of the vacuum pump manufacturing plant. Two facts we learned from the plant tour were that Agilent ion pumps are used in the CERN reactor every 2 meters over 27 kilometres and an Agilent Modified PHD sniffer was used in the Ghostbusters movie.
A pre-match snack was provided before all three teams made their way to the ground where we were shown in to our dressing room. The weather by this time was terrible, with rain pouring down. This wasn’t going to put us off though, in fact the very opposite, we were using it as an advantage for us being from the rainy little island taking on the two European super powers.
After a good warm up and stretch it was time for our first match against the Italians. We were ready for this and started strongly going 1–0 up after barely 5 minutes. Jonny rattling one in from 20 yards past a helpless keeper. We hoped to build on the great start but this is where our troubles began with some interesting refereeing decisions and plenty of falling over from the opposition to put it politely. The Italians equalised following a couple of mistakes at the back and then took the lead from the penalty spot putting pressure on us to get something from the match as we knew were going to find it tough in our second game against a fresh German squad.
The weather was making it very difficult and making the pitch and legs heavy. Several substitutions were made on both teams with two of the changes contributing the equalising goal. Greg played Mike through with plenty of pitch to run into with four Italian defenders hot on his tail. The keeper smothered the shot but it rolled out to the edge of the box where Johnny was waiting to bury a shot through the crown off the post and in to equalise.
The rest of the match played out relatively uneventful for a 2–2 draw and respectable point…considering!
Up next were the rivals Germany who had brought a seemingly never ending squad and were fresh for their first match of the day against our weary legs.
There were plenty of changes made for the start of this match again and the weather and pitch were just getting worse and worse as the rain kept falling. We knew were in for a battle and so it proved with plenty of tough challenges going in, some intentional but some caused by the soaked turf.
Germany capitalised on our tired team to go into an early 2–0 lead but we weren’t going to let our heads drop. A few tactical changes and substitutions later and Joe found space on the right of the German penalty area with Johnny and Dave in plenty of room in the middle. Joe played a delicious cross in front of the keeper that Dave manged to finish off sliding into the back of the net along with Johnny to make the score 2–1.
We were back in with a chance and on top at this point but Germany were using their large squad wisely now making changes to keep the team fresh. They broke up to the other end of the pitch with number 12 finding some room behind James who laid the lightest hand on his back before falling to the earth and being awarded another penalty. The penalty was tucked away and the score was 3–1. A frustrated Nathan picked the ball out of the back and we readied ourselves for kick off again.
We restarted and within a few seconds the score was 3–2. Mike weaving his way down the right. He crossed the ball with his right foot across the 6-yard box, taking a deflection into the direction of 6’5 Jamie who stooped to head the ball into the empty net to make the score 3–2.
There was only a matter of minutes left now and we believed we could pull it back again for a draw. This proved not to be the case though. Germany played a long ball over the top to nobody. Nathan had plenty of time to come out of his goal and take a touch. The next part is where it went wrong though, the clearance ended up at the feet of a German player who had even more time to take a touch and with Nathan miles off his line lob it over him to make the score final score 4–2 to Germany, leaving team UK bottom of the table, disappointingly.
The final match was played out between Italy and Germany to decide the winner. The Italians taking this match 3–1 and winning the tournament on home turf.
When the football was finished, all three teams and supporters headed back to the office for a delicious Italian buffet and a well-deserved beer or two. Each team was then presented with a trophy and medals to remember the weekend by.
The weekend wasn’t quite over yet though, we had time to get back to the hostel and get showered and changed before making our way into town to firstly watch the Juventus vs Torino football match, a local derby before meeting our colleagues in a bar on the huge Piazza Vittorio Veneto where everyone could get together and share our thoughts and stories from the match over another drink or two, some people possibly had more but that is just speculation.
Sunday morning arrived much sooner for some members of the team than others, with a few people only making it to bed at around 6am. The coach arrived to take us back to the airport at 9:15am. We just about managed to get everybody on the coach but the journey back to the UK was a very quiet one, it must have been the disappointment of finishing in third place.
The weekend had been fantastic and we will look forward to taking part again next year, wherever it may be hosted and hopefully expanded even further.
Editor’s note: Jonathan is a UK and Ireland support sales transactional team account manager at Agilent. He is a big football/soccer fan and loves playing, watching, and being a fan of Bolton Wanderers. He will watch pretty much any sport that he comes across and will give most sports a go at playing as well. He also loves travelling and visiting different places and new cultures with his wife.
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