BAHRAIN witnessed a friendly football tryst as an 84-year-old tradition was renewed on New Year’s Day.
A flurry of fervent fans and families cheered on as the ‘Reds’ took on the ‘Blues’ – with the former turning the tides and emerging victorious after a six-year interlude at the Awali Football Club.
The ‘Auld Encounter,’ organised by the Awali Football Club (AFC) with support from Bahrain Caledonian Society, has been staged every year on January 1, since 1937.
Teams of 10 or 11 per side, sporting the ‘England’ and ‘Scotland’ colours, play each other for the John Kerr Memorial Quaich.
This year, after an extremely close game, the ‘England’ red-shirts emerged triumphant, winning 4-3 against the ‘Scotland’ blue-shirts.
“It was a very evenly matched game and we are just thrilled to win after such a long gap,” the ‘England’ team captain Brett Garrett told GulfWeekly.
“Either team could have won, but our players really kept up the fight and we were able to break Scotland’s winning streak.”
The game started early in the day, and players who used to normally still be recovering from their New Year’s Eve revelries, had an extra kick in their step, perhaps owing to the muted New Years celebrations on the island this year.
Scotland’s Igor Bosoi was the first player to score a goal, with a quick retort a few minutes later by Nurlan Shairov.
While the teams have sometimes struggled to stick to the 11-a-side numbers, this year, England even had some substituting options.
In years past, whenever one team was short, the other has been quick to lend them a player.
As the game progressed with plenty of shots on goals, neither of the teams’ forwards were able to get past England’s Narendra Naidu or Scotland’s Stuart Lauder.
The first half closed with a 1-1 drawn score.
After a heated strategic session amongst the Scotland team, the blue shirts returned with a fury, putting up a goal quickly once the game resumed, courtesy of David Morrow.
But England could not be kept down, as Kieran Williams came back to outmanoeuvre Lauder and net the team its second goal.
England’s Hari Rao picked up a yellow card before a penalty kick by Morrow pulled Scotland back in the lead.
Once again, the blue shirts were unable to hold onto their lead, as Nordin Yahya helped England even their score.
With exhaustion amongst the players showing, Scotland captain Jonathan Jaworski, who has led the team to successive wins in the last couple of years, and Micky Duff were handed yellow cards, as the referee Nick Davis was not given the chance to throw up the red card and doom a player to 10 minutes in the ‘sin bin.’
Chris Young scored the match-winning goal for England, with the blue shirts unable to respond in kind.
As players knocked elbows and fists in place of shaking hands, everyone walked away satisfied by a thoroughly entertaining bout.
“It was a really close game, but I guess we weren’t able to keep up, perhaps because of the great night we had last night,” Jaworski commented with a wink.
“But it was great to see everyone again. Because of Covid, some of us have not seen each other in a while and keeping this tradition alive also helped us reconnect.”
Families and footballers retired to the Bapco club after the match, where the John Kerr Memorial Quaich was conferred upon winning captain Garrett.
He recognised Morrow as Scotland’s man of the match while Yahya’s silky smooth passes earned him the title of England’s man of the match.