… quite entertaining, to start with a massive understatement. Lunatics FC celebrated winning the 4th Division B Championship with a 3-course meal, spread out over the summer months. With autumn nearly halfway, here’s the hopefully tasty report.
“Kuchen” for Starters
July 2018 (*), Dünsbach, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Royal Zeezicht FC and Lunatics FC both participate in another wonderful tournament hosted by our long-time Stuttgart based friends of ICE Neckarstraße and ASV Filderstadt. Check out https://medium.com/fc-socrates/trans-europe-express-2fdaaffa867b to read more, if you fancy it, but it’s in Dutch.
In between a couple of pints of Fürstenberg, an exquisite through ball, a mistimed tackle and at least three dozen of Swabian Kuchen, representatives of the two Belgian teams have a brainstorming session about organising a tournament together at the famous Ponderosa (tournament virgins: see further below for more details) in 2019.
Talks go smoothly and at the end of the weekend — the stylish Hannover outfit Internationale Härte have just beaten the exuberant tournament fetishists of The Yard on penalties — the most important decision is made: we have a name for the festivities.
Tous Ensemble it is and Tous Ensemble it will be. Meaning “All together” in French, it sums up the ethos of the unofficial European network perfectly. As a bonus, proper Belgians, who despise any Flemish jingoism, can see it as a perfect two-fingered salute to anyone who wants to break up our tiny little “we don’t give a f*ck as long as we can drink together” country by the North Sea.
That’s it. All we have to do now, is make sure we divide the tournament organisation meetings evenly between Café Zeezicht (pub of you know who) and Café De Vlaey (of Lunatics Veteran Wallie), and all will be rosy.
Meat and 25-veg for Main course
What famous football grounds like Anfield, San Siro and Maracanã are for your average football fan, is what the Ponderosa means for every alternative party animal/football player.
As soon as the announcement was made that Zeezicht and Lunatics would be hosting a tournament at this legendary venue in the Berendrecht (or is it Zandvliet?) woods, people all over the world started drooling.
From Bradford and Leeds to Hamburg and Hannover, from Vilnius to Bristol and Devon — via Stuttgart and Sao Paulo — friends of both Antwerp based football teams started scouring the internet for trains, planes and automobiles.
Since Lunatics FC hosted its first 10-team international tournament in 1997, five more editions had seen the light at the same venue before this year’s Tous Ensemble. Each edition being slightly different in its set-up: 10 teams rapidly became 16, or 15 if some buggers dropped out at the last minute.
One year, a women’s tournament saw the light, only to disappear and then make a comeback. Another year, we nearly had something like a proper kids’ tournament. Every year, virtually all kids, women and men had a more than excellent time and they all vowed to come back “asap”.
It meant that of the 25 teams that were in attendance in total in 2019, there was less than a handful of them that had never before played in this neck of the woods. But, after having heard so much about this nice little place in the Texas of the north, they couldn’t wait to pop their tournament cherries.
In short: literally everyone was buzzing to join the Ponderosa pandemonium. So it was no surprise that come Friday 9 pm, the big marquee was packed to the rafters for the tournament draw.
Short musical intermezzo
It was no different on Saturday and Sunday night when — thanks to nothing but excellent connections on the music front — the hosts could offer some entertainment of the highest order.
In one way it was a pity that we couldn’t give a platform to one or two so-called tournament bands (we still hope Desacato Civil and Putte und Edgar count us among their friends, not to mention the incredible Wank), but as soon as we found out that there was a possibility that one of the most legendary Belgian punk bands ever wanted to play at Tous Ensemble, we jumped at the chance.
So on the Saturday night, The Kids turned up, tuned in and about 300 witnesses dropped out. Jaws fell to the floor at the same time as the marquee lost its roof. To put it mildly, it was an awesome show, with no excuses for blowing our own trumpet.
The Internationals repeated the trick the next night, albeit with a slightly less punky set. A fact which can only be seen as pretty normal, because they’re quite simply known as the most legendary Belgian based ska-calypso-Afro-reggae-jazz band. I’m not sure if there are any other Belgian based ska-calypso-Afro-reggae-jazz bands, but don’t let that spoil the fun. The gig was top notch as well.
Now, we could go on by giving a detailed account of how the Football Committee fixed the draw in both the Women’s and Men’s competition (to avoid some sort of self-invented fixture congestion for teams that entered two participants)…
… or how the so-called experienced Chief-Writer of the tournament programme had failed to see that one of the most notable teams of the circuit had been left out — and were hastily added to the drawing procedure halfway through the process …
… or how the so-called experienced Master of Tournament Ceremonies committed a schoolboy error of mixing up the names of two notoriously competitive Brazilian hotbeds of football (Rio and Sao Paulo), which nearly led to a favela gang war.
But we won’t. Neither will we bore you to death with an all-inclusive round-up of every game that was played, how the group stages panned out on Saturday (and Sunday morning for some) and what that meant for the Final games from Sunday noon onwards.
Seriously, we won’t. Mainly because we’ve forgotten all about it, to be honest, but that’s a detail. No, because let’s face it: although we call events like this a football tournament, although football is at the heart of the festivities and although football is talked about from breakfast to bed time, football is not the most important thing during such a weekend.
What really matters, is the fact that we bring people together from all over the globe, simply to have a jolly good time and enjoy each other’s company. Nationality, colour of hair/skin/teeth, trans- or other gender, environmentalist or tax dodger, atheist or worshipper of someone else then a football god… no-one cares.
No party-poopers please
It’s literally: go out and enjoy yourselves. First and foremost on the football pitches of course. That goes without saying. To give you an idea of the tournament spirit: the overwhelming majority of maybe nearly 100 football games played over the weekend was refereed by players of another team.
Number of yellow and red cards brandished over 2 days: zero. We can recall only one serious incident on the Saturday, in which a player thought his name was Vinny Jones and he launched himself into a two-footed tackle on the calves of an opponent. The matter was dealt with by spectators from other teams, the organizers and the Captains of the teams in question.
Next morning, a quiet word was had with the man in charge of the team — they were new on the scene — and to their credit it has to be said they played the rest of the games without any more incidents. They bowed out in the semis, in which they lost 3–0 to a team that gave many a semi.
The fact the cooperation between Zeezicht and Lunatics was so good, was maybe best illustrated in the women’s tournament. There, nearly all preparations were done by the Royal and Royale crew, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the Zeezicht people entered two female teams for the tournament, whereas the once so beautifully kitted out LunaChix seemed to have disappeared over the horizon.
I think it’s fair to say the women’s tournament was a big success. With hosts Royale Zeezicht fielding two teams on day one and the effervescent Easton Cowgirls taking on that mantle on day two (after two consecutive night shifts in the bar), the always present Republica Internationale and Frau Dörte Becker knew they were up against some fierce competition.
Throw in one very late but very much appreciated entry by the South-German enthusiasts of Lauchladies and both on Saturday and Sunday a 6-a-side 6-team tournament was played.
If a 20-team men’s (or mixed, if you want) tournament was maybe a bit audacious, it proved so on the Sunday. Having 4 groups of 5 teams each and opting to:
- play games of 25 minutes
- start the final games with the top 8 on Sunday about noon
- decide the outcome of the bottom 12 with only a couple of games and plenty of shoot-outs (to save time)
… meant that there were 4 teams who had virtually finished playing on Saturday evening — because they had played their 4 group games. If they were so unlucky as to end 3rd, 4th or 5th in their group, they could basically twiddle their thumbs on Sunday.
As you see, we draw our lessons as we write a report. But, although it looks like we might very well go back to a 16-team tournament next time around, we’re still very happy we went the extra 4-team mile this time.
It gave us the perfect opportunity to open up the tournament to a couple of Belgian teams who had never been around before: Hammertime, Los Amigos and Real Hoek. And we could welcome pretty well-known tournament teams who had never been to the Ponderosa before: Abfahrt Bambule, Catadão and the newly formed but oh so experienced Hajduk Splint.
Without wanting to single out one team in particular — because we really love you all just as much — a special mention must go to The Yard. Because they helped out the tournament organisers when it got known that we were looking at having only 19 participants. So they offered to enter two teams: The Yard and The Extra Yard.
When push came to shove, it turned out they had 17 players in total, meaning that some of them had to play virtually every game. No mean feat in the Ponderosa heat. To top it all off, The Yard and The Extra Yard played each other in one semi-final — with a couple of guest players of course.
The fact The Yard eventually lost the final on penalties against a couple of skilful Scousers — bessie mates with the Organising Committee, even going so far as to draft in one of them as right-back and baptise him Trent — will go down in folklore in the same way as teams who lost a final against a bunch of fools in dresses.
Dumplings for Dessert
Not simply dessert, more like the icing on the cake really. Yep, it has to be said: if you want to treat yourself to something very nice after a couple of months of hard graft like organising a football festival, there’s nothing better than to go out into the big unknown and brave a whole new world.
And that’s exactly what we did at the end of August, when we set off for the Lithuanian countryside and a tournament organised by Eastern Europe’s equivalent of the old Lunatics-when-we-were-all-a-bit-younger: FC Vova.
Celebrating 15 years of punk rock/anti-fascist football, Paulius and his friends were so kind as to invite us all to be part of it. And part of it we were, us Lunatics, albeit with only 8 of us.
Normally, 8 Lunatics would be enough to play a full 8-a-side tournament, but with 4 non-playing or half-crippled supporters and a captain who was unavailable for selection on day one because “somebody put something in his drink” (to quote the Ramones) on Friday night, the playing part of Lunatics FC consisted of 3 (three!) players.
Thankfully, Republica were there as well — with one 1-in-12 member as well, if we’re not mistaking — and they had about 5 players altogether. Being good at maths, we decided to form a team called Republatics and play virtually every single game of the tournament.
Although the Lunatics’ President played a blinder in goal — rumours that he played like a blind man are wide of the mark — we ended day one in the last and last but one spot with a goal difference of minus 37 or something.
Did we care? Did we f*ck! We were simply happy to be there, among like-minded folk once again, in astonishingly beautiful surroundings, enjoying a nice cold beer, good music and excellent weather. We even had time to organise a swimming competition.
Fair Play to the couple of different Vova teams, the African squad and the boys and girls of Belarus, St. Petersburg and the Ukraine who played us off the park. It was a pleasure. Hopefully, next time we can come over with a bigger mob. Not that it guarantees more success on the pitch, mind…
(*) Congratulations, you spotted it well. The 3-course meal celebrations started in 2018, nearly a year before we had a reason to celebrate.