Our eyes met. My mouth was dry. Mentally I ran through possible answers. Friendship or honesty. If personal experience has taught me anything it’s that honesty isn’t always the best policy. Like when a girl asks ‘You didn’t come inside me did you?’ There is a fine line and I was about to cross it. A single tear formed in the corner of his eye and his lip quivered as he mouthed a single word, ‘Please’. I hesitate. Hoggy’s voice blasts in my ear, unhelpfully urging me on,
‘Craig, I’m going to have to press you for his tour rating!’
Whispering a prayer to Thor I begin speaking….
Dear reader I must apologise. Whilst starting at the end and slowly working your way back may be an ideal technique when making love to a Ladyboy; it is poor form when telling a tale. Therefore, before we see how I got to this social precipice we first have to return to the beginning.
After a month of scanning news websites looking for signs of unrest/bombings following the death of the Thai King, Pat finally made the decision that we would head to Bangkok and hope for the best. The squad assembled for a pint and a Burger King as usual. It was a small but enthusiastic squad consisting of Craig (I’m a 7-a-side player really), Pat (atheist Jew), Jerry (work spreadsheets at the airport), Daniel G (last tour), Hoggy (manager for the weekend), Scott (I’m gonna be a good boy this weekend) and Nano (what day is it?). Already in Bangkok frantically scouting clubs that stayed open past 12pm were Aron (gynecologist by day and DJ tracker by night), Ben (head of a choir boy, body of a Yakuza) and Daniel Vo (philanthropist and bell ringer). On arrival it was decided we would need road drinks so Hoggy bought Honey Jack Daniels and cokes for everyone. It turned out to be the sweetest drink imaginable to the point it was practically undrinkable. Undeterred we had a quick turnaround and headed out in our new black (mourning) polos.
We consumed as much Thai food as possible in an hour before being topping it off with a pint of beer in a beer race. Suitably gassy, we headed to the famous Charlies bar where the local expats were out in force. It was there that Pat was confronted by his biggest drinking challenge to date. To make matters worse it was another American. Imagine the opening scene in Troy. Their guy was the huge mother fucker who appears from the ranks looking someone has inflated a particularly angry turd … and we had one of the dwarves from The Hobbit with an unconditioned beard. Nevertheless we were confident…apart from Pat. Both groups cheered on their champions. The beers both tipped back quickly, both were fast, but the huge freak of nature finished his beer in the blink of an eye. There was a shocked silence as it became apparent that Pat had been defeated. Wiping tears from his beard; Pat had to be led away a broken man.
Seeking to console our chubby Achilles we hit a rooftop cocktail bar with a spectacular view over the city. Scott and I got into an awkward conversation with a group of girls after our initial joke about being a gay couple got way out of hand. It ended with graphic depictions of anal sex which left the group in stunned silence. Sheepishly we rejoined the team and avoided eye contact for the rest of the night. The problems began when we were refused entry to Levels at 1am, ‘Sorry lads we’re closing.’ The words we had been dreading. A few night caps in a nearby bar then a relatively early night for some and a night of terror for others.
The team woke up the next day bright eyed and bushy tailed, apart from Pat and Ben who it seemed had sat up smoking till the early hours and didn’t surface from their pit of despair until 1pm. One group of eager explores headed off on a tour of Bangkok with human sheepdog, Daniel Vo. The rest of us ‘once you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen them all’, had a lazy day in the pool. Deciding that drinking all day in the heat before a 4pm kick off may not be the best strategy I suggested Shandy’s which went down a treat. Nano told us about all of his adventures, jobs, lost loves and dreams. It was inspirational.
The day passed in a blissful haze of shandy, sunshine and top level banter. As 4pm approached there was a small number of people suggesting that maybe we should ‘Fuck off the football and get on it’. These naysayers were dismissed and we headed into the Bronx of Bangkok for our game.
The format of the ‘tournament’ was simply an 8-a-side, 3 teams, winner stays on series of games lasting 10 minutes each for 2 hours. At least Pat had gotten the pitch right. My previous boast of definitely being top scorer had been shaken as violently as my stomach in the taxi. Luckily our opponents didn’t look particularly intimidating. Coach for the tour Jurgen Hogg set the team out in a 2-3-2 formation with Daniel Vo starting in goal, Jerry and Daniel forming a line of steel (bends slowly) at the back, Craig, Scott and Pat taking charge of the midfield, whilst Ben and Aron were left to fight over top scorer upfront.
The first game started well with Ben getting an early goal and the Raiders dominating possession. The low sun was making it difficult to pick out passes but it didn’t stop Aron crossing for me to score a true collectors item; a header. Ben then added a second goal which was a thing of beauty. I hit a long shot which was heading straight into the bottom corner at 5-10kph. Ben instinctively stepped over it and deliberately flicked the ball off his trailing heel and into the top corner he sprinted away and showed off his new celebration, the cartwheel. Not as fancy as the African backflip but strangely hypnotic to watch. Definitively the goal of the tournament. The Raiders saw the game out comfortably 3-0. The second Thai team had a higher skill level but were again no mach for the Raiders. Jerry and Daniel were passing the ball around nicely at the back and they couldn’t handle the big lads up front. I think Aron scored. Probably my assist. I forget. I may have missed an open net but the sun was in my eyes…. Jerry showed no mercy after Ben rifled the ball against the post, it rebounded straight into the keepers face (added hilarity due to the fact he was wearing glasses) and Jerry charged in to smash the ball into an empty net. As the Thai keeper squinted his blood shot eyes and peered through his fingers he could see the silhouette of Jerry running back to the halfway line with his arms aloft.
3-0 up and Pat Guzan had been relatively untroubled in net. Hoggy offered him the chance to come out of net but he stated that he ‘wanted to keep a clean sheet’. No sooner had the words left his mouth and a bullet of a shot was flying past him into the top corner. Still the game ended 3-1 and another win.
The Raiders stayed on again and the 3rd game was hard fought as fatigue was kicking in for the Raiders. Ben scored again to take his total to 3 and and it looked like we would see it out for a win but the defence fell asleep and allowed their best player space at the back post. I was in goal and was well aware of my responsibilities. I grew up watching David Seaman block shots at point blank rang. I advanced, arms spread, ready to be a hero. However, when a ball is traveling at 80km towards your face, primal instincts kick in. I ducked. The Jurgen Hogg wasn’t happy. I think he may have called me a ‘Useless cunt’, and the game ended 1-1. I didn’t get a hug.
The rules of the tournament stated that a team could only stay on for 3 games in a row so we headed off for a well earned water break. Putting Duckinggate aside we had played well and were looking good. The team were passing the ball well and the other teams whilst competent were beatable. For the next game Daniel Vo started up front with mixed results. The game started badly with a misplaced back pass gifting their striker a goal. I forget the culprit. We dominated the game and created chance after chance. Pat set up Daniel Vo twice at the back post for tap ins. The first he narrowly missed and the second he decided rather than simply tapping it in he would apply full power, imagine the power bar in Pro Evo, it was way past the red zone. The ball hit the post so hard the rebound ended up in our half. I put 3/4 crosses on Ben and Aron’s heads but they headed over. Nano was battling in midfield with Scott to try to make something happen but the Thai’s could sense an upset and began putting themselves about. The game got scrappy and ended in our first loss. Totally undeserved but that didn’t stop us arguing about it afterwards.
Determined to make amends Coach Hoggy decided to play everyone out of position. Craig and Scott were in defence, Aron, Pat and Ben were in midfield with Jerry and Daniel up front. Predictably it was a disaster. However Nano was doing well in goals and keeping them out. We somehow took the lead through Vo getting a rebound and tried to hold on despite not managing to put 3 passes together. Pat swapped with Nano in net just as they won a free kick. He decided not to dive and watched as it sailed into the top corner. So far the day had been played in a friendly manner, Danile Vo’s Vietnamese blood boiled at this and he decided to spice it up by flying into a two footed challenge on their centre back. Daniel German was not impressed and ordered him subbed off immediately. It ended 1-1 but we stayed on.
Reshuffled for the final game we put on a real display. Chances were created throughout. I began funding Aron’s assault on the top scorer chart with crosses to the back post which he dispatched beautifully. Two carbon copy goals in 2 minutes put us well in control. Hoggy demanded a goal from Nano and he delivered with a long range shot that hit the keepers gloves with the force of a ping pong ball from a a vagina causing him to palm it into the goal. Unfortunately Coach Hoggy was on the phone at the time. Jerry then scored a header from my corner (free fantasy football points for everyone). Pat thought he was finally on the score sheet when he nut-megged a defender and cut inside but his pirouette as he shot may have put him off as the ball flew high and wide.
So we ended on a 4-0 win and a great afternoon of football. A relaxed atmosphere with three fair, but competitive teams and Daniel Vo.
A convoluted trip home via, taxi’s, motorbikes and Sky trains followed before we were all suited and booted for our big night out. And so we come full circle to the beginning of this tale. The rating system. Following an excellent meal Coach Hoggy suggested a new game. We would take turns to rate each players performance on a scale of 1-10. The average of the scores would then be multiplied by 5 and that was your allocated time to down a pint. Cue nervous glances and soul searching. You can predict how people delivered their ratings based upon their personality. Aron was charming, gave lots of praise and high scores (a deliberate tactic to solicit higher scores for himself). Pat was short, low scoring but brutally honest. Daniel Vo didn’t have a clue what was happening and gave a number. The scores began to come in and they began with people being nice and giving 6-7 for the first few. Then the drink began to kick in and it got more real. ‘Your body language is terrible’, ‘You had a Pogbaesque 0 goals and 0 assists’, ‘You can’t tackle’, ‘You just didn’t do it for me’, ‘Sometimes I think you might be deaf’. It was getting tense.
I was second last to be rated. I felt I had played well so was relatively calm. Pat started off with a surprisingly high score. Daniel and Nano then followed with 6s and 7s. A plague o’ both your houses. Vo blinked in the spotlight and said ‘8’. Good egg. Ben knew he had stolen a goal from me and gave a good score. Then it was Aron. I smiled inwardly. Surely a 10. I had gifted him top scorer. All he had to do for two goals was continue his forward momentum, close his eyes and let the quality of my pass and gravity do the rest. I saw doubt in his eyes. Motherfucker.
‘I would have given you an 11, but you expect a 10 so I’m giving you a 9.’
That kind of fucked up logic is how you end up with Trump as President. I mentally changed my hashtag to #teamnico.
Hoggy was last and was given 1/2s across the board for his failed experimental formation. All that was left was for us to down our beers in times ranging from 40s to 7s. The penalty for failure was a shot of Tequila. Ben felt his was making his tummy too cold so made a swift deposit to the Porcelain Bank.
The night descended into a sea of shots, dancing and smoke. Some South African girls that Hoggy put us in touch with showed us an awesome club that stayed open late and played tunes so good it made taking a toilet break painful. Nano found a dark goddess and was never seen again by beasts or men.
Now for the shocking revelation. During the course of the evening one of the Raiders made a love connection. Their eyes met across the room. Before they had time to even consider the implications of their actions, their lips met and they were kissing furiously in a semi-crowded Aussie bar. At the time he thought it was an Asian girl… it was only later when he brought ‘it’ home that the truth was revealed. As he sensually pulled her underwear down, there it was, staring him in the face. The shocking reality. His thoughts raced. How was he going to explain this to his friends back home? Would they understand? How hadn’t he realised sooner. In his defence he was very drunk, it was dark in the club and she was wearing a lot of makeup… but no matter how many times he rubbed his eyes the evidence remained…
A tan line.
That’s right boys. One of the Raiders went all the way to Thailand to sleep with a white girl. He will not be named (in print) but he did provide the most entertainment with his antics on the night (hand on arse photo is a personal favourite) and during the night for one unlucky room mate.
In the morning there was just enough time for us to catch the beginning of the McGreggor fight which was ruined by a loud and crass American. Daniel Vo for some reason was flying home a day late and in a strange way that made perfect sense.
Player of the Tournament: Ben Sharvell, hard running, great goal, top lad. However Buzzfeed have been in touch and asked my permission to add this to their next ‘Top 10 Sporting Injustices’ article. I declined. Can’t stand those click baiting bastards.
Turkey of the Tournament: Hoggy, despite attending with an injury and coaching the team, the experimental formation cost him.
‘He’s pretty fucking big’ – Pat trash talks like the best of them before the beer race
‘I just spent $5 on ping pong balls and you have lost them already’ – Jerry is unimpressed with our ball retention skills in the art gallery
‘I’m not fucking doing it. I’m not fucking doing it!’ – Hoggy definitely isn’t doing a body shot off a ladyboy
‘I’d fuck a ladyboy’ – Ben is less shy
‘Remember if you vote for Craig he wins player of the tournament twice in a row’ – Et tu Scotti
‘Just give me 45 minutes’ – Nano worships his goddess
‘I just sleep on the floor OK?’ – Daniel Vo offers a compromise
‘She was a bit loose’ – a description of THE lucky white girl
‘Are you taking the Pistorius?’ – I found out it’s still ‘too soon’ in a taxi with the South African girls
‘Pray for Sheva! Pray for Sheva!’ ‘Actually it’s Reva’ – Scott confirms that it’s ‘too soon’
‘I’ve been to Manila, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, everywhere I wear shorts. I’ll get in.’ – Daniel German, he wears what he wants.