Memory Lane - Eastern Tigers downed in Lungi Featured

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Matchwinner, Paul Kai Matchwinner, Paul Kai

The following is an account from a Mighty Blackpool fan of a trip to Lungi in 2019. LUNGI-February 16 Kindly remember this is blog article and not a new item!

So the day started badly. I planned to get on the 11am ferry to Lungi for the Blackpool game. I made plans with three other Blackpool brethren and one of our sisters. All canceled at the last minute.
I will reveal their names if they fail to go to Kenema. Anyway in my disappointment I settled for the 2pm ferry crossing. Proudly going unto the ferry with my Blackpool Away Jersey I was literally attacked with banter from some East End Puss supporters and one FC Fishmonger fan in First Class. It was also good hearted fun though.

Whilst other Blackpool fans were congregating outside on the parking lot adjacent to the ferry, I rushed back to go greet them. It was not a sense of confidence that I met. Trepidation and a subdued anger rather. Visibly we were not together. Mumbling about the players that did nor did not travel, the way the team had played and members of the executive that should not be near them team, etc... it wasn't really a cozy atmosphere. O yes and of course, at least five people that wanted to buy Blackpool Jerseys. Ar tire.

I made my way back to First Class soon enough and dived right back into glorious debates with "opposing counsel". They talked about the fact that Eastern Tigers failed to sign two of the best Lungi-Based players, Sulaiman Beckham and Abedi. None of those players are signed up right now to any team so I really wonder if they are any good. Any ways off we went. Did I mention that the Ferry Captain spent 20mins telling our supporters to clear the passageways on the ferry? Yes we were delayed by some of our supporters.

The ferry "slammed" and as supporters got out, again it was in pockets. No togetherness. I found an "Okada" to take me to the field, slowly. Took advantage for some sight-seeing before heading to the field.

Got to the field about 20 minutes before Blackpool arrived. First issue was that the team Bus was not allowed in the stadium. The East End Tigers Team Owner said "You can do what you like but here no team bus in entering the grounds". It was really posturing because in all honesty when the East End Tigers team came, packed like sardines in an FJ Cruiser and some other cars, they also had to walk into the "enclosure", so it wasn't a big deal.

What was a big deal to the fans, were some missing players. No Tiago, and no Small Rooney were the contenders. Visibly some stressed their happiness in not seeing Tatao. This was my first argument with one of them. I believe that Tatao is good playing behind a striker in the 10 position. He his not in my view a 9. He was played as a point Striker in the first two games and started on the right wing in the third game against FC Fishmonger, aka FC Kallon. As a 10 he would be perfect. But then again we seem to favour a direct approach really negating the effectiveness of a solid 10. I can't type some the responses, needless to say some fans did not want to see Tatao play for Blackpool that day but not all of them.

The "Stadium" was also terribly empty. Extremely empty. For Blackpool, this was gonna be a home game. We filled the grounds. East End Tigers clearly has not been welcomed by the Lungi Community. They would probably have more support in Waterloo or Freetown for that matter. I later heard that there was a gala being organised at the same time. Again, signs that the community has not truly embraced the East End Tigers Team.

During the warm up, I went over to where the majority of the Blackpool fans seemed to be congregating; the benches towards the southeastern part of the pitch. Very few smiles. Many threats.
"Why so n so nor dey"
"Wetin happen to Short Abu ba"
"Leh short Abu nor mass you again"
"You get swear heh"

I decided to watch the game away from them, to opposite side of the halfway line, nearest to the Lungi Airport. There again some East End Puss supporters were on hand to support East End Tigers. It was on. Everybody knows me, that’s a challenge that I relish. Also being up close and personal with the players, the Team Owner was going to be fun. Another reason I sat there was because there was no Port Loko 55 being burnt there. I can't say that about other parts of the Stadium.
The game got underway with the East End Tigers in their yellow kits and and the Mighty Orange ready for battle. The three wise men were in Blue Jerseys and signature black shorts.
The game got underway with a new look Blackpool attack. Santos leading the line. This man has great movement. Unlike Tatao, Santos is a pure Striker . He visibly beat the offside trap three times with his clever movement. However twice his right foot failed him and he produced terrible finishes. Abysmal. The other time the linesman put his flag up for an offside. The linesman's only visible mistake in the game. Nar mortal man.

Blackpool created a lot of pressure. I counted at least 8 corners in the first half and 5 goal scoring opportunities. The game should have been over in the first half. "We get swear ba"
Meanwhile East End Tigers had at least three players that I feel impressed me. Their left-back. This guy had speed and was neat and professional in his play. He is one for the future.

Malian was very industrious in the first half, terrorising on the left wing. Inexplicably he was switched to the right wing in the later stages of the first half. I could not understand why? Malian was the cause of so much pressure on that left-wing and clearly had the better of those defenders. On the right wing, he would not be able to deliver the service that the Strikers needed as his right-footed play leaves a lot to be desired.

Anyhow we went into half-time with the game tied. Crossing the field at half-time to the vicinity of the Blackpool bench... O my goodness. There was too much tension between some supporters as to what should be done at half-time. Too many were trying to give their personal messages to the coaches. I remember one supporter trying to draw Ble Ble's hand in an attempt to get a message to him. Some on the other hand were in good spirits. After all " Nar Goal nor answer".

Others were more spiritual, " We need for go baig d one dem way bin do good for dis team".
I would have hung around more but you see the southeast corner of the Stadium was sponsored by Port Loko 55. Including members of our national security apparatus visibly burning!
The second half began with Tigers on the front foot much more confident. Donkor began troubling us on the right wing. Malian was replaced to my disappointment because I really wished he was switched back to the left wing. The only reason why Donkor began to really shine in the second half was because he was not busy helping his right-back against Malian. He now had the opportunity to race forward.

Then it happened. The controversy of the game. A speculative lob was made into the box. Two opposing players went up for the ball. Budu and the Tiger's Striker. On their way down the Striker seemed to have touched the ball and from where I was sitting, Budu seemed to have held back the Striker's arm, in the box! The referee did not budge and M.O. played the ball swiftly down the left-wing. A loud clamour went up from the lungi crowd who had hitherto been quiet.

Was it a penalty and a possible red card? I certainly felt so. The ref was less than 5 metres from the incident and based on his decisions throughout the match, I would give him the benefit of doubt that he got that one correct. Victor Lewis was not happy.

With that incident, two things happened. Tigers became confident. They felt that they could beat Blackpool now. They believed they had Blackpool on the ropes. They sent more players forward, took more risks, yet never forced the Blackpool Goalkeepers into a single save. Secondly, this new found confidence gave Blackpool more space in attack and also saw some blistering counter-attacks. Sahr Gehgehma Morsay was introduced and Santos withdrawn for speed merchant Paul Kai.

The changes in the game allowed three one-on-ones in quick succession after nice combinations in counter attacks. Paul Kai let himself down in one of them. Clearly through on goal with no defender near him, he capitulated, with no composure as he clear had too much time and confused himself. I cannot begin to comprehend why he tried to do what he tried to do. This man had so much time that he turned his back on goal and still with no defender near him tried a combination of a back-flip and a scissor kick, commonly called "32" at the same time which he missed and the ball landed comfortably into Banglar's hands. O... The Blackpool Supporters behind that goal were furious. You could hear the inevectives directed at Kai. Unbelievable.

Kei Kamara once said in an interview that the secret weapon of a Striker when he has such calamities, is no memory. Forget about it that instance and focus on your next opportunity. Unfortunately that was not the case for Paul. He lost his confidence. It was visible in the next few times that the ball was played in his direction. He did not want the ball.

Sahr in the meantime, proved to be a revelation. He got his mojo back. A player referred to by fans as a "has been", a "celebrity", "washi master", etc.... Hey, coming in with 20 mins left he should his class. Maybe not as fast as he once was but Lord Have Mercy, he touches and control were excellent. Creating space for the attacking play as Blackpool now took over the game. He also was sent through with what looked to be a one-on-one with the keeper, though there was an evidently pacier defender glaring down him. He had to, given the circumstances attempting a shot; and it was a nice attempted lob from about 25 yards out but Banglar stood firm. Blackpool now had total control of the game once again with Donkor back defending.

Then it happened. A lob cross from our-left back who had space and time after a now tired Donkor, failed to close him down. Paul Kai clearly faster than the defender went towards the ball at the apex of the six yard box. The defender, much taller than anyone in the Lungi area, allowed Paul to cut across him. Banglar in goal made the crucial mistake of taking a few steps to the ball clearly misjudging its directory. Paul was magically able to beat Goliath in the air with a leap reminiscent of Oman Biyick in the 1990 World Cup. With Banglar caught in no man's land the ball entered the unprotected net. 87 minutes on the clock.

I went wild. The Blackpool fans went wild. The players were wild. Paul jumped over the perimeter fence, then jumped over the bench were supporters were seated, took his jersey off and started waving it with tears coming down his face. You could sense the relief. His unbelievable and spectacular capitulation just minutes ago was forgotten, joy and pride rising through the Blackpool support only interrupted by the referee giving him a yellow. A selection of Tiss Tass supporters stormed unto the pitch jubilating. With Blackpool officials doing their utmost to have "others" believe that they were trying to usher their supporters off the field of play so the game could promptly restart.

The hitherto disgruntled Blackpool support was now singing. Loud and confident. There was no danger from the Tigers untill the final whistle. For me it was a relief. I did not need to use a speedboat to go back. I could now wait patiently for the ferry and go back.

We stormed unto the pitch hugging and giving our boys high-fives. The toxic atmosphere at half-time had disappeared. Officials hugging supporters, singing dancing jubilating!!!! Selfie after selfie.

There was an internal sense of relief. We squandered too many chances to lose this game. We could still salvage our season. Ports on Wednesday, three more points. It was settled on the Ferry! On the ferry, the dancing and jubilation never stopped. The players got out of the bus and were with us the fans. Selfie after selfie, song after song. This was our team and we won. We are Mighty Blackpool!!!!!!!

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