SJFA Managers Reflections & Match Reports

Murtaza Hameer – U7/8
We had four teams in Salaam Cup with a total of 23 boys. The boys arrived bright and early and after a hearty breakfast put on by the Salamteers, the team had a rousing team talk before heading off pitchside. Following a brief and energetic warm up where the boys sized up the pitch and practiced their positional setup in anticipation for the group matches. As coaches, we witnessed some of the best performances in Salaam Cup, the team play and attitude to never give up was exceptional despite some of the results not going our way.  The below provides coaches reflection of all the SJFA Tier boys:

[gdlr_column size=”1/3″]Player-Coaches Reflection
Maisam Ahmed – Showed excellent defending and hassling
Aadam Dewji – Skillful player, never stopped dribbling past opposition players.
Uzayr Mawjee – Excellent defender, showed good passing ability and awareness
Muhammad Mahdi Govani – Never gives up and showed good goalkeeping skills
Rayyaan Ali Merali – Very hard worker, kept pressing opposition upfront
Mohammed-Kumail Dossa – Hardworking and disciplined player, maintained the midfield line.
Yusuf Atmani – Excellent goalkeeper, and showed good dribbling ability
Hossein Habibi Namegh – Provided good defensive cover and hassling in the middle
Haani Merali – Held the back line well & showed good defending ability.
Alimehdi Nasser – Never stopped running and pressing the opposition
Aliraza Damani – Very good dribbler, scored two goals for SJFA
Yacine Atmani – High intensity player, drove his team forward and coming very close to scoring.
Amaar Karawalli – Showed excellent defending and goal keeping ability
Abbasali Muraj – Hardworker with ability to push the team forward and do stepovers
Aliabbas Janmohamed – Dependable defender, maintained the back line for team
Junaid Jafferali – Provided excellent support upfront to his teammates
Yaseen Al-Shamary – Skillful player with good control of the ball.
Husayn Merali – Registered but missed the Salaam Cup, a skillful and matured attacker with an eye for goal.
Asad Bandali – Lead the line well and got stuck in when needed.
Amirali Jaffer – Fantastic goalkeeper, produced amazing saves
Ahmed Husain – His engine never switched off. Attacking and defending everywhere
Mehdi Waljee – Top scorer for SJFA with 3 goals. Never stopped hassling and pushing
Ammar-Husayn Ravji – Never stopped trying, hustled well and always willing to mark his man
All in all the tournament was a great opportunity for the boys to get some tournament experience ahead of MAMT and an opportunity for them to play together under match conditions.

Abbas Ismail – U9/10
Our motto for this season is: We back our skills, no matter who the opposition.

Tier 3 entered a staggering 5 teams into Salaam Cup, with a determination to go on and lift the trophy.

Our Salaam Cup tier included 14 teams, split into two groups of 7.
The Greens and Yellows were in Group A, and the Blue, White, and Black teams were in Group B.

SJFA Black
We welcomed coach Abbas Khatau into our tier, who kindly offered to coach the Black team.

The Black team showed the results of what we had been working on all season. They played with spirit, determination, and team work. They strung together a series of impressive performances, especially against SJFA Blue, against whom they scored two cracking goals.

It was a pleasure to watch the boys’ progression over the season, with many parents coming to me and telling me how they could see their sons’ improved confidence and ability.

The Black team walked away with their heads held high and were a match for anyone on the day.

SJFA White
Coach Saf Valjy coached the White team.

The White team started off with a defeat, but then with grit and determination held the much-fancied IGK to a draw. After another defeat, they overcame SJFA Black, and the boys developed a new sense of belief.
In their fifth game, they pulled off a major upset, beating Chalfont Blue with an amazing performance.

The results speak for themselves – the White team just missed out on a fourth place finish on a narrow goal difference.

SJFA White truly achieved an amazing string of results, and deserve a huge amount of credit for their performances.

SJFA Yellow
Coach Tahir Alloo coached the Yellow team.

The team started in great flow and movement, and should have beaten their first opponents, Birmingham, but a last minute goal by the Brummies meant it ended 1-1.

After some great performances, the team showed their talent and resilience, overcoming Hyderi with ease, with a masterful 2-0 victory. They had a real chance of making the top four, and they came up against the favourites, SJFA Green.

This was a tactical masterclass by Coach Alloo. Defending deep, the Yellows hit the Greens on the counter, and were duly in front after a cracking free kick. The Greens hit back strongly, and managed to level it. The game finished 1-1.

The Yellows had made fourth position, and went through to the plate semi-final. Here, they narrowly lost 2-1 to IGK.

This was a great result for the Yellows, who played impressive football and showed real spirit throughout their games.

Tier manager Bruce coached the Blue team.

The Blues began well by beating Chalfont Knights, and were then unlucky to draw against Leicester after dominating the match.

After a close defeat to Chalfont Blue, the SJFA Blues responded with a resounding 3-0 thumping of IGK.

Two narrow victories followed over SJFA White and Black, both by 1 goal margins.

The blues had excelled in their group and finished second on goal difference.

The next game was against SJFA Greens, in the championship semi-final. We lost narrowly by 2-0.

All in all, this was an outstanding achievement, and the boys all fully deserved praise and appreciation. Many onlookers commented on the quality and attacking football they displayed.

SJFA Green
Last and certainly not least, SJFA Green was coached by Abbas Mavani.

Last year, many of this team lost in the Salaam Cup final. It was with this painful memory that the boys went into Salaam Cup 2017.

The Greens started amazingly well, thumping their opponents in the group stages by large margins and not conceding a goal until they came up against the SJFA Yellows who gave them a tough game which finished 1-1.

They topped their group with a goal difference of 12, and met SJFA Blue in the semi-final, which they won 2-0.

Onto the final, and here I will give some extra details:

The arena was packed, as most of the other games and tiers had finished. This was now the chance for the Greens to claim a tournament victory and raise the cup. Their opponents were Chalfont Titans, whom they had beaten in the group by 1-0.

The game started and SJFA dominated straight away. Apart from one or two nervy moments in defence, our boys were in control and showed a masterclass performance. Abbas Alloo was a safe pair of hands in goal, Aqil Karawalli, Alireza Hamir, and Abbas Chandoo were a solid defensive unit. Mehdi Azeemali, Yasin Merali, and Ali Dewji ran the midfield with a masterclass performance. And up front Husayn Ismail and Rayaan Merali were always a threat.

However, Chalfont were proving hard to break down.

I knew it would take something special, and something special was delivered. Ali Dewji picked up the ball just beyond the halfway line, took it wide onto his right foot, and hit a sweet shot that sailed over everyone into the top corner of the goal. It was a goal that deserved to win any tournament.

The boys managed to keep it tight after this, and the final whistle blew. The boys had done it, and thoroughly deserved their title! Well done to the Greens and their coach!

Final reflections
With full thanks to Allah, as manager of the Tier, I was honestly reduced to tears when the final whistle blew and the Greens were crowned champions. This is a very special group of players and they fully deserved their win.

At the same time, I was equally impressed and proud of all the other teams. All of them – to a man – played their hearts out, gave everything, worked as a team, never gave up, and this can be seen in their performances and results.

It really felt like we were seeing the results of our hard work over the past year, and it was great to hear the positive feedback from the parents.

I will indeed be very sad to see some of these boys go up into the next tier, but this is inevitable. Our duas and best wishes go with them.

As for the current year 4s and the new players to come, we are very excited by their potential and can’t wait to start coaching them. I am already eyeing MAMT as our next trophy!

Our motto: We back our skills, no matter who the opposition.
Fuad Musa – U11/12
To say I am proud would be an understatement. All the boys who participated in my Tier displayed commitment, positivity and akhlaq throughout the day and it was heart-warming to see the unity and brotherhood that was on display amongst all our tiers and guests.

We had 28 boys that registered for The Salaam Cup in our Tier with a mixture of abilities and 3 teams were formed – Black, Blue & Green. Black were the most experienced having played together for most of the season and Blue and Green were a mixture of players who had some experience mixed with the less experienced members.

Team Black came runners up in the championship, managed by Nazir Dewji and myself. Team Blue won the Plate Cup with Asgher Gulamhussein at the helm and Team Green were drawn in the group of death with the eventual winners, however, performed admirably under the guidance of Abbas Suleiman.

It was personally rewarding to see a culmination of the hard work and effort put in by the boys and my coaches over the past year resulting in, Blacks only conceding in the final and scoring 13 goals in 4 games before the final playing free flowing attacking football; Blues winning the Plate and playing some sumptuous football along the way and Greens playing against some of the best teams in the Tier showing grit and resilience whilst remaining upbeat and positive.

Well done to my players and coaches – you ALL played your part.

A special mention of thanks to Shafique Govani, the SJFA Admin Team, Salaamteers and my fellow managers and coaches for making the Salaam Cup the tremendous success that it was. It’s an honour to be part of the SJFA team! Thank you.

SJFA Black – Championship Runners Up
We entered Harefield Academy like a team of gladiators hungry for the opportunity to showcase our development over the last year in front of our friends and family.  We had waited for this tournament for what felt like most of the year. Hundreds of supporters were lining the pitches (and thousands more were lining the kebab stalls).

We had to wait even longer as our first game was not until after namaz time. However, with the stalls, the atmosphere and the entertaining expansive football played by other teams, we were well entertained for a long period before until it was our turn to play.

First game up, the nerves were filtering through the team even though we were a team of players with plenty of experience in reaching the latter stages of tournaments.  Our training sessions over the last few months, the defeats that we had suffered in friendly games, the words of encouragement from our coaches and team mates had prepared us well.
We played with enthusiasm and courage to ease ourselves to a 6-0 win against Essex which was followed by back to back 3-0 wins against Milton Keynes Zainibiya and Birmingham 2.

We were very happy to have topped our group scoring plenty of goals, playing fantastic counter-attacking football and scoring goals where we turned defence into attack faster than Messi, Suarez and Neymar! We had not conceded a goal in the group stages due to fantastic defending and solid goalkeeping but we did not let the happiness and our early success overcome us – we had to progress further.

After proudly watching our Stanmore Blue team reach the final of the Plate, it was our turn to play in a tough Championship semi-final against Birmingham ‘1’ – a determined and hardworking team. We battled and fought like we used to do when breaking our fasts in Ramadhan. It was hard work that paid off and we secured a nail-biting 1-0 win. We were through to the final!

Our other SJFA team won the Plate final encouraged by our vocal support and they were just as loud as we took the field to the Final.  We felt like we had to do the same and retain our trophy, but sadly our opponents IGK were playing some great football throughout the tournament with 2 players in particular standing out.  Those 2 punished us for some sloppy mistakes and scored just after half time. We battled back but a second goal for IGK just before the final whistle settled the game 2-0. Sadly, our hopes came to an end as the full time whistle blew. Some tears were shed at the end, but, we had a wonderful tournament and walked away proudly with our performances.

This experience has given us confidence going into MAMT.  Special thanks to the organizers, the salaamteers and our coaches, Pep and the Special One, for a spectacular tournament. Special mention to Uncle Shafique Govani for organising the tournament.

Zia Dewji

SJFA Blue – Plate Winners
The day started with the SJFA Blue team enjoying a well laid out breakfast (hats off to the admin team) straight after registration with the first match scheduled to be played just before lunch.

The team were rocked by the news that Zahidali Jamal would not be able to participate on the day due to illness, rather than becoming despondent, they rallied around each other and took the enforced changes to the team formation in their stride.

The games got under way but not before a rousing speech from the team captain, the Tier Manager Pep and the Coach Asgher.

All 3 group matches were extremely close affairs, with a tight win, a hard fought draw and a narrow loss leaving the team on 5 points, and our hopes hanging on a knife edge to qualify for the Plate Semi – Final.

With the number crunching done, the team got through to the Semis of the plate by virtue of having the best goal difference, this had a galvanising effect on the players which translated into the semi- final performance.
Some of the football played in the Semis was a joy to watch which was won comprehensively.

The heat, energy and commitment put into the group matches and the semis was now taking it’s toll on the players, however, full credit must go to the boys who put in a magnificent effort in the final going on to claim the trophy.

Each and every player in the SJFA Blue team gave it their all on the day and made the Tier 3 management team proud.

They all deserve a well-earned break before the new season starts with the focus now being on translating this success to other tournaments.

Asgherali Gulamhussein
Stanmore Jafferys truly pulled out all the stops for this event. From the choice of venue, to all the Salamateers who volunteered on the day, the delicious food stalls and not to forget the bouncy castle, it was easy to forget that in all the hustle and bustle there was also the small matter of a football tournament to be played.

Stanmore Jafferys Green played admirably in conditions that were physically challenging. They pushed each of their oppositions all the way and a remarkable draw against one of the top teams in their group was an amazing reflection of their efforts.

Although the team were knocked out in the group stages the tournament experience will do the boys good. The trophy beckons for another year and until then the boys should enjoy their summer hols in preparation for the new season.

Abbas Suleiman
Mohamed Valjy – U13/14
The night before the start of the Salaam Cup I was sitting on the BA aircraft at Murtala Muhammed International Airport. It had been a tough week in Lagos as I was waiting for my 11pm flight to take off. As I sat in my upgraded seat I started to think and plan for the big day.

The planning was short lived as within a few minutes on the tip of the runway we were advised that there were engine problems and the flight would be delayed. Although I now had extra time to think about the 4 under 14/13 teams we had to manage on the day, I had the extra pressure of whether I would get to London before the 9.30am start.

I landed at Heathrow at 7.30am and was delayed by 2 hours. There was no time to go home but instead I went straight to Harefield Academy where a small crowd was building up. The first person I saw was our leader who gave me a big handshake. I got changed into my SJFA gear and got into the zone.

It was a though day mentally and physically for all those involved. With temperatures hitting 30 degrees it was not easy. At this point I should really acknowledge all the Salaamteers who pulled it off – and we thank you!
The teams I was looking after were the under 14/13s Blue and Yellow teams. The Yellow team lost all their group games but I have to say I was impressed as they were resolute in their defending and worked as a team sharing goalkeeping duties. Two boys who I would like to call out are Nasser and Jagani who really did a great job in defence.

The Blue team started well by winning their first fixture 4 nil against Leicester. The next two matches they lost (Belmont) and drew (Stanmore Black). The match against Stanmore Black was a disappointment as they really should have won that match. They continued to win and lose the last two group matches to qualify for Plate Cup.

I had some stern words with the Blue Team as I felt they had a lack of bonding and it was my job to change things.

The Plate semi-final was against Stanmore Black and the boys did me proud. It was a hard fought match and we came away with a 1 nil win with Jehta scoring the important goal.

We were in the Final and it then dawned on me that I was losing my boys in my role as a manager coming to an end. It was sad as I had been with the group of boys for the last 2 years and I really started to get know them.
In the Final against Peterborough we started well and took an early lead with a typical Kanji goal scoring from a tight angle which the Peterborough management felt went though the side netting. Peterborough equalised. However, we scored the winner and it was another contentious goal. The ball was in our end and there was a mix up as another ball came onto the pitch. It allowed us to break quickly with Valjy threading a nice pass to Jehta who had a 1 on 1 with the goalkeeper and he cooly slotted home the winner.

Overall we deserved the Plate Trophy and the only two matches we had lost were against Belmont teams who both got to the final of the Championship Cup.

I want to also take the opportunity to thank Abbas Merali who was in charge of the SJFA Green and Black teams. The Green team reaching the semi final of the Championship Trophy.

I had lost my voice over the 14 hour day and there were only two things I wanted to do at the end of the day; 1. find a kebab roll (the food was not great in Lagos but if you ever go try out NOK which was a fusion pan African restaurant and 2. sleep!
Hassnain Suleiman – U15/16
SJFA tier 5 fielded 3 teams in a group of 6 with Birmingham Leicester and the favourites Belmont.

With some last minute dropouts and a couple of late call ups, we were ready to go.

SJFA Green got off to a flying start with a convincing win over Birmingham. Some great goals from several different players. Although they dominated their 2nd game against Leicester it ended in a draw. The 3rd match against Belmont started well but our lack of fitness showed and in the later stages Belmont came good and it ended with a win for Belmont. The 4th game was against SJFA Blue which on paper this looked like and easy win for greens and although all the play was in and around the Blues penalty area the Greens could not score and they over committed and the Blues broke and scored on the counter attack. The manager made a couple of changes and had few chosen words from the touchline. The Greens woke up and scored a couple of late goals to narrowly win. The final match for greens was against SJFA Blacks. The managers of these two teams had a discussion as how to play out this encounter and it was mutually agreed that they would both go out for the win, at this stage both teams were through to the stage but whoever lost would be playing Belmont in the semis. Green scored 1st and had more possession but Blacks didn’t give in and scored and equalised. This meant Greens had the tougher opponent next.

SJFA Blacks 1st game was against Leicester, a strong performance but could not find that elusive goal. The game finished with a draw. Their 2nd match v Birmingham, another impressive display and an easy win for SJFA Blacks. Their next game was going to be their test and how well they coped. Belmont came out quick, attacking at will. But Sabir the Blacks manager had his tactics spot on. Wave after wave of attacks from Belmont, all the SJFA players stood strong and defended in number. Muneeeb the SJFA keeper had an amazing game and kept another clean sheet. This draw was the turning point for Blacks and they knew anything was possible. The 4th game was against SJFA blues another fine performance and a deserved win for SJFA Blacks. At this stage SJFA Blacks had not let in a single goal as all the defenders and the keeper had played superbly. The final match in the group stage ended with a 1-1 draw v SJFA Greens.

SJFA Blues started the tournament with a disadvantage with 7 players and no subs. A depleted squad due to late dropouts from several players some unavoidable and others well lets say a little disappointing. The managers had to make a few tough decisions and ultimately at the cost of the SJFA Blues team. Without a dedicated goalkeeper, the manager decided to rotate so that every player got a fair amount of time outfield. Almost all their games were one sided but the highlight was taking the lead against SJFA greens. They fought hard and kept their heads up. Very impressive under the circumstances.

1st semi final: Belmont v SJFA Greens.
A tough match,  had the Greens learnt from their 3-0 defeat in the first encounter?  It was a physical game, pretty equal. Belmont struck first with some good passes and movement off the ball. You could tell these boys were coached well and had played together as a unit for some time. The pressure was on the Greens to get the equalizer and with only a couple of minutes left SJFA got a free kick near the half way line. A great cross from Roshanali and a powerful header from Mohamedmehdi hit the inside of the post. What a goal. The game ends in a draw but there has to be a winner. A tactical change and Sameer goes in goal for the penalty shoot out. Team captain Yaseen scores for SJFA and Sameer saves. SJFAare in the lead. Unfortunately SJFA miss a couple and Belmont score the rest. A deserved win for a very professional display throughout the tournament for Belmont.

2nd semi final: SJFA blacks v Leicester.
SJFA should have won the first game, will they keep their nerve this time round? The three front players move the ball around kept their formation and won emphatically.

The final match: Belmont v SJFA Blacks.
Unfortunately SJFA lost their captain and stalwart defender for the final and with no subs it was going to be a difficult ask.

Belmont stepped up and this was by far their most impressive display. A proper drubbing. The final score didn’t reflect on SJFA Blacks performance throughout the tournament.  Well done to the Belmont players and coaches. A thoroughly enjoyable tournament had by all.
Selected Match Reports – Mohamed Kazim Kanji
Our reporter Mohamed Kazim Kanji was going round the pitches to capture specific moments.

I reached the venue at 8am in the morning. It was a peaceful morning and the roads were quiet, yet when I arrived I saw that volunteers were already on site setting everything up. As time passed the car parks became fuller and the noise in the breakfast hall was rising. Players from all over the country were coming in: familiar faces were everywhere but a lot of new faces could also be seen in the crowd.

At exactly 10:34am the tournament was officially kicked off, beginning with a beautiful recitation of the Quran highlighting the importance of getting to know one another.

This was then followed by a speech introducing the tournament in the spirit of peace (salaam). You could see the boys smartly dressed in their strip sitting together in their teams rearing to go. It was all energy and excitement, and the presence of an FA represtative boosted the buzz even more. There was just a little housekeeping and then a cheer erupted from the competitors as they rushed off to get started. The pitches were filled with players warming up; balls were flying; laces were tied; just minutes to go until the games began.

Pitch 4 11:00 – SJFA Yellow vs Peterborough
Peterborough were in high gear from the start, keeping play in the Yellows’ half, their accurate passing giving them the advantage. The Yellows were speedy with their counter attacks but struggled to break through the Peterborough defence.

Peterbrough’s work paid off just before half time as they managed to work their way in very close and sector the first goal from short range.

A big opportunity to run away with the game came for Peterborough in the second half by means of a free kick. The Yellows’ defence was holding up as they blocked the attack but the onslaught continued. The Yellows were under pressure and it showed as one defender back heeled it away from the goal area only to find the opposition. Suddenly the threat was far more dangerous, and all it took was a couple of passes before Peterborough slid it home once again. 2-0 and not long left.

Time was running out and Peterborough were continuing to mount pressure. Some spells of possession by the Yellows showed potential but passes were not finding their targets. To their dismay the final whistle was blown too soon for any comeback. It was a tough first defeat.

Pitch 5 11:24 – SJFA Blue vs Belmont
Belmont started strong with composed ball control, good team chemistry and bombarded the Blues completely. It was tense, but thanks to some excellent keeping, the Blues were still in the game, although they were struggling to come out of their own half for more than a few seconds. Passing it well and outperforming their opponents, a goal was inevitable. A one on one opportunity and the ball was smashed into the far right of the goal. 1-0. But the attack was just getting started. The keeper was stopping shots with his hands, shins, anything he could find, but there was nothing he could do when a screamer launched itself into the top right corner. Play had hardly resumed and suddenly the ball was launched again into the top left. The match couldn’t end sooner for the Blues, and by the time it did the score was an overwhelming 5-0 to Belmont.

Pitch 5 11:36 – SJFA Green vs Birmingham
The game had barely started. The ball was in the Greens’ half and before anyone knew what had happened, they took the ball and countered swiftly, breaking into the opposition territory and overwhelming the defence. The ball was in the net already. The Greens were bringing a really strong game and Birmingham was struggling. A rash tackle gave the Greens a free kick and they scored again.

Playing exquisitely, it was difficult to follow the plethora of attacks as time and time again the Birmingham defence were put on the back foot. Corners led to more goals and as the game entered its final quarter it was 5-0 to the SJFA Blues. Birmingham launched a counter attack with acres of space but the defence got back quickly and dealt with the threat before they could get a shot in. Birmingham managed to grab a goal at the death, but it made no difference. They had suffered a heavy 6-1 defeat.

Pitch 5 12:11 – SJFA Green vs Belmont
Two giants, possibly the best in the tournament, were head to head. Excitement was building as the game began. The game began evenly, with the greens possibly slightly ahead. Both teams built attacks well but the defending was firm and no real opportunities arised. The first chance came as a free kick was awarded to the Greens. A direct shot was ricocheted off a defender for a corner, but with no success. The Greens built a couple of superb attacks with cm great control, through balls and movement.
Suddenly Belmont were in the open. Outside the box with a lot of space and Belmont were able to take the lead with a shot in the bottom corner that beat the keeper. A second goal followed shortly as a midfielder sprinted down the wing with the ball and passed it to the middle. The keeper pulled off a save but the ball bounced away to the side where a Belmont player was waiting to smash it in. 2-0. The Greens lost their intensity and Belmont grabbed a third at the end for an unfortunate defeat.

Pitch 1 11:28 – SJFA Black vs Birmingham
The game started slowly with no team being a strong threat. Over time that changed as Birmingham were given a huge opportunity in a free kick just outside the box, and they did not let it slip. The first goal was in. Just seconds later a through ball was made right into the middle of the Blacks’ half and a striker ran in from behind and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to give them a 2-0 lead.

The Blacks had an amazing counter opportunity with a corner that went far into the box but it wasn’t picked up by anyone! A weak clearance gave them another chance and this time the ball went true. However there wasn’t enough time to build a full comeback and the game ended 2-1.

Pitch 4 14:10 – SJFA Blue vs Belmont AA
There was a classy confidence about the Belmont teams as everyone had come to realise their level of play. But the Blacks gave them a good challenge and despite not having as much possession there was no worry in the way they defended, matching the attack with a strong defence and getting in tackles in all threatening situations.

About 8 minutes into the game the breakthrough came as a Belmont attacker lost his man just outside the box and managed to slip it in. Once the deadlock was broken it was only a matter of time before a rebound from another shot fell to a Belmont player, and there was nothing that could be done. The Blacks were 2-0 down. As play continued Belmont showed some real class as one striker ran circles around three defenders before stealing a third goal to seal the game.

Pitch 5 14:27 – SJFA Black vs Belmont
The first minutes passed uneventfully with Belmont generally on the attack, but some superb keeping and a deep defence keeping them out.
A long range shot whistled towards the Blacks’ goal narrowly missing. It was a close call. Throughout the game Black’s kept it tight, the whole team back. But whatever they did they could not get hold of the ball. Whereas Belmont built solid, team attacks by passing, the Blacks were playing a long ball strategy that wasn’t quite working just to keep the ball out of their own half. With seconds to go a shot was fired by Belmont hard into the corner but a fantastic save got the Blacks through the turmoil to end with a goalless draw.

Pitch 3 14:53 – SJFA Black vs Zaynabiya
The Blacks started quite strongly generally pressing well into the Zaynabiya half. Every now and then Zaynabiya would break away but never managed to get the final part right and possession would change hands.

Suddenly the Blacks looked very dangerous and attacked hard with play staying very close to the goal area. One shot saved, another deflected onto the bar, pressure was buildings. In the end it was a narrow angled shot that took an unfortunate, heavy deflection to end up in the net.

The Blacks then broke loose and another shot smashed against the post, and with numerous attacks it was inevitable that one rebound would find a Blacks striker, and as expected they went two up.

It seemed to be a game of deflections as a third goal came from a corner and another heavy deflection which directed the ball into the net at the closing stages of the game. It ended 3-0.

Pitch 5 15:25 – SJFA Blue vs Birmingham
Both teams got off to a slow start. Neither team had very deft movement and so opportunities did appear occasionally. Birmingham were first to capitalise and took a lead. Some poor defending shortly after led to the ball being taken from a defender and the Birmingham player went past the last defender to bag a second.

Birmingham picked up the pace a little and the Blues were falling behind. Attacks were countered and set pieces were taken more swiftly and it was looking worse and worse for the Blues and more goals followed.

One chance arose for the Blues when a slide tackle inside the box led to a penalty, which was put away effortlessly.

Pitch 5 Semi Final – SFJA Green vs Belmont
Tensions were high as two favourites were facing off. Belmont was keeping possession but were unsuccessful in securing a lead for the first 5 minutes but eventually a screamer was sent into the top corner. Not long later the Greens were in danger once again as a free kick was given to Belmont. Luckily for the Greens nothing came of it. Although the Greens were holding their own they did not look threatening.

There were less than two minutes left when the Greens got a free kick. A long ball from the halfway line was headered in! It was all tied up at full time. It would go to penalties.

The Greens started by hitting the back of the net as the crowd erupted in cheer. Belmont calmly equalised. The first two penalties of both teams were in. One of the teams would hit the post on their third penalty. It would then be down to the fourth one. The Greens missed their fourth! 3-2 to Belmont. If they scored, it would be all over. The player stepped up and took his shot… the keeper got his hands to it, but oh no, it’s not enough! The ball finds the back of the net and Belmont are through to the final!

Pitch 5 Semi Final
Post match report
SJFA Black 2-0 Leicester
It was a rather balanced match, although the Blacks looked the better team throughout. Despite the Blacks having more shots, it was not a one sided game. The first goal was rather unfortunate: a long ball came in and the final defender left it for the keeper not realising a striker was chasing down the ball. Although the keeper reached it first his clearance smashed into the striker and rebounded into the net.

The Blacks continued to dominate and with some fine individual skill the Blacks’ attacker opened up the defence and drilled the ball into the goal. SJFA Blacks would face Belmont in the final.

Pitch 5 Final – SJFA Black vs Belmont
The Blacks started really well. They had defended really well in their previous encounter but this time they had a couple of strong attacking opportunities. Two close range shots almost went in. But it was Belmont who struck first. A blunder from the keeper gave Belmont the lead.

Play slowed and the middle of the game was uneventful. The difference this time however, was the defending. It wasn’t tight and the Blacks paid for it as 1-0 turned into 5-0 before the Blacks really knew what had happened. With each goal the defence was getting wider. It was Belmont’s year this year.

The final score was an overwhelming 8-0.

Pitch 4 Cup Final – Belmont AA vs Belmont SM
Two teams from one club facing off in a final, you can see the dynamics of the game are completely different as they play very similarly. SM were making a lot of runs down the wing. AA were looking very slightly stronger approaching the five minute mark, but this was true end to end football.
SM got a big opportunity when they sent a through ball down the middle and a striker beat the keeper to it on the edge of the box but the keeper managed to get in the way of it. Corner to SM but AA countered and whirled down the pitch and passed their way into a one in one situation but the team did well to close the striker down and the angle was narrowed by the keeper. It rebounded off and AA had another shot and it deflected onto the post! Now SM were on the counter. They played their way to the final third and shot from an angle, it was so close!

Play was still furiously fast but opportunities began to thin allowing both teams to take a breather from the tension. When the whistle blew for full time it was still goalless. This championship would be decided on penalties.
SM began with the first penalty… and it was saved! But AA did not fail and it was 1-0 to them. Both teams scored their next two penalties. 3-2.

SM bagged their fourth, but so did AA. It came down to the last penalty. The SM player put the ball down, aimed, stepped and slid it into the corner! The tension was high. If AA scored, they won. And score they did. Belmont AA were crowned champions!

Pitch 3 Cup Final – SJFA Black vs IGK
It was quite a big pitch for the U12s and so they had a lot more breathing space on the ball. The game started with both teams pushing hard and corners for both sides, but until half time neither team was able to steal the lead.

IGK vegan the second half by attacking viciously, nearly scoring with the shot blocked for a corner. Despite defending it the attack continues and the Blacks just couldn’t clear the ball away. With the ball finally away the Blacks made their way into the box but could not get the shot away. A perfect corner kick by the Blacks still wasn’t enough to bag a goal.

As the game drew to an end the deadlock was still not broken; then suddenly IGK charged out of nowhere and the Blacks were under pressure! As the ball was sent into the box the striker got to it and so did the keeper sending the ball spinning into the air… which hit the floor and spun backwards into the net!

With the home crowd encouraging the Blacks to go forward and launch an attack, the Blacks fought. But going one down was tough on them and they weren’t able to get upfield as swiftly. IGK continued their attacks and one shot almost smashed into the net, but the keeper saved it… only to fall to the striker again! He leathered it a second time but the keeper made an exquisite save. They couldn’t hold up however, and eventually one shot did make it past the keeper just before the final whistle. It ended 2-0 to IGK, the new cup winners.