United Koreans in Japan 0 Kabylia 0 (CONIFA World Cup)

United Koreans in Japan 0 Kabylia 0 (2nd June 2018)

“어떻게 우승하지 않았을까요?” is, according to Google translate, Korean for “How did we not win that?” which will no doubt be the overriding emotion for the United Koreans in Japan team after this one-sided, but ultimately scoreless encounter.

They’d arrived at Bracknell after another frustrating 0-0, against Western Armenia, but facing a Kabylia side that were thrashed 0-8 by Panjab, they must have fancied their chances.

Kabylia, a region of Algeria, were backed by a fair-sized contingent of noisy and colourful fans who made their way to the sunny delights of Bracknell Town’s remodelled ground, and clearly saw the earlier 0-8 defeat as nothing that should stop the party.

Bracknell’s Larges Lane used to be a very ramshackle place, but in a way that didn’t evoke any feelings of charm. Therefore, when it was announced that virtually the entire site was to be bulldozed, there was even fewer tears shed than when most of the nearby 60s-built town centre fell to the same fate a few years back.

While the Larges Lane rebuild had a rather lower price tag than the new shopping centre, the sale of a chunk of land for housing has enabled the club to construct a smart set-up, almost unrecognisable from what was there before. No more rusting corrugated iron or scaffolding poles. No more flaky paint or nettles poking though the fence. It’s now a tidy little place.

One drawback, and it quite a big drawback, is the sale of the land has resulted in a ground so tight that there’s not room for anything more than a footpath on three sides. If the club wishes to progress up the divisions, it’s going to have a lot of problems.

None of these factors were an issue for both teams here today, or their fans, who seemed to self-segregate, with Kabylia’s noisy flag-waving contingent taking one end of the seated stand, and the much more calm Koreans claiming the other.

After the national anthems, the Korean’s one slow to start and barely audible after a few PA struggles, the game kicked off. It quickly settled into what would be a game-long pattern of UKiJ working the ball out to the wings, where they’d either get free kick, win a corner, or put in a cross that would be missed by whoever was up front at the time. Perhaps the only variant on this theme was whenever UKiJ played a through ball, which was quite often to be fair, and it would invariably result in them being called offside. The linesman at the end would have a right arm like Popeye after the vigorous work-out it got all afternoon.

The only deviation from that, in the first half, was a 10 minute stoppage for a head injury. A Kabylia played launched himself bodily and awkwardly at a Korean player who just gone up for a header, but in figuratively “taking him out of the game” he collected the back of the Korean’s head into own with a sickening dull thud. I think he was out cold before he hit the turf (or plastic with rubber chips, in Bracknell’s case).

He looked to be unconscious for a goof five minutes at least. When you hear one of the officials talking on his phone, saying “well…he is breathing” it’s a clue it’s not a run on the mill knock. Surprisingly the game was allowed to carry on with him still on a stretcher, at the side of the pitch. Somehow it took a full hour before an ambulance turned up.

That ambulance arrived during a 2nd half were the atmosphere in the two “camps” was becoming markedly different. A sense of desperation was creeping into UKiJ’s play, as the prospect of dropping two points in this banker of a game loomed ever larger. They were still dominating play, and getting cross after cross in, but they seldom looked like scoring. They were really struggling to turn good positions into shots.

In contrast, the Kabylia fans were getting noisier, helped to a large degree by seeming to have access to the PA system, to sing songs over for most of the 2nd half. They were getting excited. Not only were they not going to lose 0-8 again, they might not even lose.

UKiJ did get a little closer towards the end. A few blocked shots, one save from distance, and one ball cut back just over the bar, but that was as good as it got. Kabylia even had the odd foray towards the UKiJ goal, but the offside flag typically ended any hopes before they’d really come alive.

So it finished goalless, and while the Kabylia players didn’t celebrate as if it was a victory, their fans did, although they were so jubilant all game you felt they’d have celebrated winning a corner or getting the correct change at the tea bar. They were definitely easy pleased, and clearly delighted with their team, despite it still having a F0 A8 record. They were clearly just delighted at having a team from Kabylia to cheer for. Results? They could come later.


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