Saigon Raiders Club

Squad: Craig, Chi, Floyd, Steffan, Rayan, Harry, Kevin (Originals). Pete, Vo, Vu, Nam, Alex, Peter H, Coach Pat (Jonny Come Lately’s)

Friday evening, 9:30pm, Craig takes a last look at the squad list on his phone. The names of Khang and Quy shining out from the screen, he settles down to sleep, smug in the knowledge that we have a 10 man squad with a genuine chance of winning the trophy. 6:30am Saturday, Craig’s alarm drags him bleary eyed from a dream involving an albio lesbian midget. Flight mode is turned off… the messages begin to pour in. Khang and Quy can’t play. Fuck. Adam is injured. Fuck. Down to 7. In the taxi Craig being to feel his previous confidence turning into a ball of molten rage. Daniel Vo’s phone is off… Fuck. Khoa sends a message to let us know that he is now playing for Universal. Fuck. Down to 5 players. This is not looking good.

We arrived at the pitch to find Steffan, Floyd, Chi and Mr Hung waiting. The bad news was delivered and silverware suddenly seemed a long way away. Vo finally answered his phone and told us ‘I’m on my way’ (it turned out he was picking up his brother from Vung Tau). At the captains’ meeting Craig informed the other teams that we were attempting to be the first ever 6 man team to win a 7 a side tournament. A few chuckles then Sam from the Sa*nts kindly offered to give us a player, oh the shame. Upon hearing this Floyd immediately began donning his kit. ‘No fucking way’, was his response. Rayan turned up looking like Tyrion Lannister; hungover and accompanied by a confused looking Vietnamese girl. After discussions with Steven he agreed to give us a new player, Harry. Now, to be honest we thought he was giving us a dud. Harry looked like he would be more at home lying on a beach with a surf board than on a football pitch. But it turned out Harry was secretly bloody brilliant.

So despite the drama we finally had 7 players for the first game, although no subs and it was already baking. Lining up in a 2-3-1 formation, with Floyd as a target man we played JMBA, an aging Vietnamese team who were likely to be our easiest game of the day. We were in control until a quick counter attack allowed them to score a simple goal. At this point the ball of rage in Craig’s stomach was close to giving him an ulcer so he decided to go on a run from defense. Three quick one two’s in a row led to Floyd nodding it back into his path for him to calmly slide it past the Keeper when everyone was expecting a volley (imagine Wilshere’s goal against Norwich but better). In the second half we dominated the game with Steffan and Rayan providing crosses for Floyd to attack. Harry then stepped up with a long range shot that had so much spin the keeper spilled it into his own net. The game ended 2-1 and a very important win.

Beginning to feel cautiously optimistic we were then informed we had to play Olympique immediately after… oh and they were completely fresh. Fuck. They kindly allowed us 10 minutes rest before we trudged onto the pitch. Vo finally arrived but proceeded to spend the entire first half getting dressed and then stretching (Vietnamese time). It was immediately clear OS were going to pass the ball well. Two long range efforts for their CB left us two nil down before Rayan earned a penalty. There was no doubt in his mind as he blasted it into the top corner against his French compatriots. In the second half tiredness began to tell despite the introduction of Vo and his brother Vu. Kevin was subjected to an onslaught in goal and made some great saves to keep us in it before a long range free kick sneaked in between the wall and the near post. A 3-1 loss.

Finally reinforcements began to trickle in; Pete arrived, followed by Alex and then Chi’s brother Nam. Finally we were looking like a team again. Rehydration powder was passed out and discussions about passing the ball on the floor were had. Next up were the Sa*nts. Despite our chat we proceeded to concede two very cheap early goals. Long balls over the top were not being dealt with and Vo looked like he was still half asleep. At the other end we failed to break them down despite great running by Chi and Steffan. At half time we knew we needed to prevent the long balls. [Having already missed a header that led to a goal – Ed] Craig then earned the Wild Turkey award when he inexplicably let a ball bounce over him thinking the keeper would collect it only for a Sa*nts player to be loitering behind him for a tap in. 3-0, Floyd questioned Craig’s decision to leave the ball only to earn a response that cannot be printed here (the rage was still simmering). A fourth goal for the Sa*nts compounded our misery. Craig then unleashed all his rage into a knuckle ball free kick from 20 yards out for a late consolation goal.


The last group game was against Universal. Pete slotted into defense and commanded from the back. The game was end to end with Universal taking an early lead. Craig then equalised after a run from midfield was picked out superbly by Harry and his glancing header (collector’s item) gave the keeper no chance. Floyd then provided another assist as Rayan exchanged quick passes with him from the wing before a calm finish. Unfortunately we lost Harry to a turned ankle but throughout the day he had done more than enough to convince us we wanted him to be a Raider. Universal equalised to take us in 2-2 at half time. A long shot from Universal created a minor forcefield around the ball preventing Kevin from closing his hands on it to put them 3-2 up. Pete stepped up to take a free kick putting his 100% record on the line and narrowly missed the top corner (1:2 now Pete). Alex was a handful up front and was showing some great hold up play. Floyd then got another assist when he headed down for Steffan to rifle home an equaliser. Using Floyd as a lighthouse up front was proving surprisingly effective despite him playing in walking boots. The game ended in a 3-4 loss.

DaiViet beerSimilar to Germany’s World Cup Squad we had DaiViet beer and Dominos pizza for our lunch time refreshment. Despite the adversity we had forged a strong team spirit and had remained positive throughout the morning. Coach Pat was full of praise and told us to carry on passing the ball around at the back.

After lunch we found ourselves in the plate competition and our semi-final was against the Sa*nts. Craig was beginning to feel foolish bigging up Chi who had so far failed to score. This wasn’t helped when the Sa*nts players singled him out as the danger man at kick off. Determined to make amends for the earlier loss the Raiders attacked from the kick off and were rewarded when Floyd’s shot was helped on its way into the bottom corner by a panicked defender. In a hard-fought but fair contest the referee was, for once, on the Raiders’ team which was beginning to frustrate the Sa*nts. However they equalised with another long ball hoof which wasn’t dealt with. However, Craig decided to enable Messi mode. Winning the ball in midfield he then mentally pressed R1 before dribbling through 3 Sa*nts players and unleashing a rocket into the top corner. Cue an over celebration the length of the pitch followed by a sheepish roll of the hands for a sub 2 minutes later. The goal gave the Raiders the lead going into the break and the second half became a backs to the walls job as the Sa*nts threw constant long balls into our box. Pete was winning headers (not a typo)! The REAL Vo had finally turned up and the Sa*nts were feeling the effects. Smashing into tackles he was immense. However unfortunately for Rayan one of their players had enough and thinking he was Vo decided to wrestle him to the ground. A final tense 2 minutes and the Raiders held on. We were in the final!

Our opponents in the final were Olympique. Despite the earlier loss we were feeling confident. Legs were beginning to go, the three beers each at lunch were looking in retrospect as an error and Floyd by this point was a Rehydration sachet junkie. The winners would be the team who wanted it the most with desire out weighing skill. The game started and it soon became apparent (and this may be the first time this has ever been written) that the Raiders were looking the fitter team! We were harassing them all over the pitch. It was at this point that Daniel Vo took charge. Collecting the ball from Kevin he set off on an adventure. He steamed through the midfield where OS parted like the red sea, as he reached the edge of the box he blasted a left footed shot into the top corner that Podolski would’ve been proud of! He even smiled to celebrate. Kevin was having a stormer, saving long shots and holding everthing that was thrown at him on the rare occasions OS attacked. Chi then decided to finally begin living up to Craig’s hype, scoring a long range shot. Steffan then decided to get in on the action to leave us 3-0 up at half time. With memories of Japan still fresh in our minds, all the talk was of keeping it tight. Almost instantly that was forgotten as Craig surged down the left and crossed for Chi to add a second. Steffan then got on the end of another Floyd knock down and made it 5-0 with a great finish. Dreamland! Pete and Kevin were furious to concede to a long ball which cost us our first clean sheet of the day. Pete then stepped up for a late free kick determined to get on the score sheet only to selflessly spot Chi loitering unmarked at the back post for a tap in and a hatrick in the final (I never doubted him). The whistle blew and the Raiders had finally won a trophy!


The Raiders were presented with their Vase Trophy and settled down for some hard-earned beers. If you had told us at the beginning of the day this was how it would end we wouldn’t have believed you. But the whole team pulled together and showed great spirit. There was no arguing or aggression throughout and we fought for ever ball as a team which was our aim for the season. Craig became the first player to win both the Turkey of the Tournament and Player of the Tournament.

More importantly we have two new Raiders who are fantastic additions on and off the pitch in Harry and Chi. Floyd rolled back the years. Vo showed what a beast he is at 7 a side when he finally woke up. Steffan, Rayan and Peter H were tireless on the wings. Craig finally stepped up and scored in big games. Pete won headers! Alex had some lovely touches and could be our big man up front this season. Kevin redeemed himself in the final with some outstanding saves  to keep us ahead. All the players should feel very proud.


Turkey of the Tournament: Craig – Gifting the Sa*nts a goal, Inexcusable

Player of the Tournament: Craig – Despite scoring 4 of the best goals of my career, still only the 2nd best 4some of the year.

Honourable mention: Floyd – Rolled back the years with 4 assists in walking boots!


Craig – 4

Steffan – 3

Chi -3

Vo – 1

Floyd -1 (I’ll give it to you)

Harry – 1


‘Why don’t we play 3-3-1?’ Rayan makes the classic Manila mistake.

‘I’m on my way.’ Daniel Vo, 2 hours later still no sign of him.

‘He’s my sister.’ Daniel Vo introduces a male relative.

‘It took me 3 games but I finally found my best team.’ Coach Pat

‘That was actually a great goal.’ Grudging respect from a Saint following Craig’s goal.

‘He hasn’t even tied his boots!’ Floyd is unimpressed by Chi’s brother’s cameo.

‘I don’t believe it. 5 years and I fucking miss this because of a work conference.’ Luke is unimpressed.

‘Did you drink all the beer?’ Daniel is more concerned about his beer sponsor (no one tell him).


Coach Pat’s verdict


  • Craig’s four goals were all terrific, best four goal combination I have seen… ever?
  • Two at the back, Peter and Daniel both did a great job keeping the other teams in check.  Peter’s communication and Daniel’s tenacity led the day.
  • Floyd’s play up front -provided us with a big target and was close to double digit assists on the day.
  • Recruiting -we had the most fun, we won the trophy, and we got a few new players who will be joining us as a result.
  • Limited communication with the referee.
  • Our fitness- yeah I said it!
  • Free beer.
  • None!
Become a Saigon Raider

Become a Saigon Raider