SJFA U12 v West Drayton


  • Ali Khatau
  • Ali Merali
  • Ali Sheikh
  • Husayn Yahya Merali
  • Mouneer Al-Khayat
  • Muhammed Muhsin
  • Jameel Walji (GK)
  • Shaahid AP
  • Mohammed Mahdi Janmonhammed
  • Zia Dewji
  • Yousuf Datoo

“If I am honest, I personally was not a huge fan of playing friendly matches so early in our development this season.  My concerns were heightened when this game was to be nine-a-side (which we had never played before) and was to be on a large grass pitch (again which we had not played on previously).  To add to this, when we got there, the referee handed us a linseman’s flag to pass to a parent bringing in the offside rule to the group for the first time.

Having said all that, the determination shown by the boys to get stuck in and learn from these new experiences was an example to us all and me in particular.  They have been used to playing 5 or 7 aside on astroturf on very small pitches and so in the half an hour or so that we had before kick-off, the boys had to take a lot in but were really eager and attentive to learn how we would set up and meet these new challenges.  Their enthusiasm was great to see.

The opposition had been playing together for some time and were well drilled as you would expect to see in a team that had played in such conditions many many times before.  We set up playing a 3-1-3-1 formation with and the sheer effort and running of our team – none more so than Yousuf Datoo –  initially stifled the opposition.  They soon however took the lead but rather than see heads drop, our team raised their game for the next few minutes and managed to equalise, Ali Khatau showing terrific strength and pace to run onto a through ball from Zia Dewji and score holding off much bigger defenders to do so.  The team realised at this point that they were very much in this but they struggled with the discipline of the off-side rule to make another breakthrough and, a couple of individual errors later, we were 3-1 down at half time.

Hearing the opposition manager berating their team at half time was testament to how hard our team worked in that first half.  The boys took encouragement and came out with a more attacking intent early in the second half with one overlapping run and cross from Ali Merali a particular highlight.  It was always going to be difficult to match that effort as the boys tired on a large pitch and we conceded a couple more goals before the end, despite the sound overall defensive display from Shaahid AP.

I asked the boys what they learned after the game.  They offered the following unprompted:

  • They have to be fitter.  Running on a large grass pitch saps the energy and they realised how much effort and running they have to put in to win games
  • They must learn to cope with the off-side rule
  • There is nothing to fear in playing bigger boys but our boys need to be much more aggressive and have more confidence.

This shows incredible self-understanding.  Add to this that they all enjoyed the experience, there was no arguing with each other or complaints but rather encouragement of their teammates throughout and the experience was a very valuable one.  I see now that it is only by playing these games will the learning come.

One final thought from me that summarises what SJFA is all about.  There was a boy on our team that if you asked our coaches at the beginning of the season whether they could ever see him play in a competitive football match based both on natural ability and attentiveness in the early sessions, the answer would have been a no.  However, the inclusive nature of SJFA, meant that rather than this boy being discouraged from playing as may have happened in other clubs,  the U12 coaches have witnessed the improvement he has shown both in terms of footballing ability and attitude leading him to be one of our star performers on this day having taken his place in the team on pure merit.

Well done to all – now to put this learning into our next game…”

Nazir Dewji
Coach, Tier 4, U11/12