EMPA Football: Kenneth MacInnes

EMPA footy web

The UKMPA team

The 51st EMPA football tournament was hosted on 14-15 May 2015 by Amsterdam pilots. The UK competed with pilots from Norway, France, Belgium, Italy, three districts in Germany, three in the Netherlands, and an EMPA squad of extra players and volunteers. The UK squad was striving to go one better than reaching the final of last year’s tournament in Kiel, where Weser-Ems scored in the last moments of extra time to win 3-2.

On the first evening players, supporters, friends and family members gathered in the Grand Hotel Krasnopolsky, in central Amsterdam. We renewed acquaintances over a buffet and drinks, dancing and fine live music, and most importantly we observed the drawing of the two groups of teams. The UK was drawn with Vlissingen (Flushing), France, Kiel, EMPA and Weser-Ems.

Next morning coaches drove the squads and supporters to the sv RAP playing fields. Four pitches – three grass and one artificial – were of excellent quality. Each team had five group matches of two halves of fifteen minutes. At Kiel the UK brought only nine players, with two pilots from France adding greatly to the effort, but this year eighteen turned out from the UK, so there was much rotation, with two players for most positions.

The weather in the morning was ideal, being overcast but dry with a cooling breeze. The UK started a little slowly against Flushing but defended well. There was a fortunate penalty when the Flushing keeper saved an accidental handball. The UK found the net in the second half, though their effort was disallowed as offside. A goalless draw ensued.

Next up were champions Weser-Ems, who took an early lead with a quick break and first time shot after sustained UK pressure. We continued to dominate, with a flowing move producing a fine equaliser. Another spell of good play made for a 2-1 lead before half time. The second half had more good teamwork from the UK but no further goals resulted. Victory was even sweeter, because last year’s defeat in the final included a blatant dive to win the penalty that put us 2-0 behind.

Several UK players contributed to the EMPA team that played France and saw at first hand, in a 6-0 defeat, the quality of our next opponents, especially going forward. The UK played well against the French but went behind to a goal from Dominique, who had a major hand in helping us to the final last year. France had an exceptionally good goalkeeper who saved a fierce shot at almost point blank range late in the second half to maintain the slender lead and win 1-0.

Shortly after a buffet lunch – and perhaps a little too soon for comfort, with the sun bright and the wind gone – the UK had its fourth match. This was against an EMPA selection and, knowing that France had scored six against EMPA, the UK was fairly ruthless in netting nine without reply.

Our final group match was against Kiel, who wasted three excellent chances during the UK’s sluggish start. The second half was much better, with the UK dominant, but many good chances came to nothing, the bar rattling twice and other shots soaring high or drifting wide. Two breaks from Kiel were thwarted by fine saves from the UK keeper, but whose second resulted in a corner from which a header gave Kiel a 1-0 win.

Flushing was the group winner and on goal difference the UK just got second spot, thanks to the goalfest against EMPA, combined with our robust defence. The play-offs from fifth and sixth placements were decided by penalties, but UK vs Rotterdam for third spot looked to be a thrilling match. Fatigue was setting in, so to our relief this play-off was only ten minutes each way.
The UK defended well and attacked with numerous flowing moves. Several inviting crosses through the six-yard box went unrewarded, before a diving header from beyond the far post produced the only goal. Flushing defeated Norway 1-0 in extra time to win the trophy in front of a large crowd enjoying the refreshments at the start of a very relaxed Happy Hour and some strong sunshine. Coaches then returned squads and supporters to the Barbizon Palace Hotel, opposite Central Station.

The dinner dance was held in St Olofskapel, a large underground space linked to the Barbizon. It filled for the presentation of trophies, a buffet and dancing to music from an excellent band. The UK did well to finish third, conceding only three goals in three hours of play, and after going so far this year and last it is hoped that another strong squad can assemble for the 52nd tournament, in Rotterdam on 20-21 May 2016. Perhaps the UK can finally bring the winning trophy back from Europe.

As in previous years, many thanks to Simon Wood of Liverpool Pilots for keeping squad members informed, organising the costs and bringing the kit.


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