Monday, 4 July 2011

The 2011 Island Games: Isle of Man v Åland

The back of Cowes Sports' stand.
It's July 1st on the Isle of Wight - the last day of the Island Games. There are finals going on in various sports all over the island. Some competitors will be going home with nice new shiny medals to show their friends and family, whilst others will simply be leaving with tired limbs and a colourful plastic bucket full of memories.
The flag of Åland flutters in the breeze outside the ground.
There are six medals up for grabs in the two football competitions - bronzes in the third-place play-offs; golds and silvers in the finals. Greenland's women's team had already won their island's first-ever football medal by the time the women's final kicked off at midday - they would be flying back to Nuuk as national heroes after their 1-0 victory over the goal-shy Western Isles (six goalless games in seven attempts by their two teams).
And here's the Isle of Man flag inside the ground.
The two finalists were the two highest scorers in the women's competition: the Isle of Man (16 goals in three matches) and Åland (18 in four). The only other unbeaten team were the unlucky Isle of Wight, and they came along to heckle the Isle of Man.
A secret football pitch behind the covered standing area.
Other athletes in the stadium included the Isle of Man men's football team, who sat in the stand and cheered their women on in their Mark Cavendish-semi-Scouse-like accents. Also in attendance were a phalanx of Scandinavians, both from Åland and the Norwegian island of Hitra. They seemed to take the Isle of Man's fans' chanting as a challenge - anything they could do, the Scandinavian Barmy Army could do louder - much much louder - with their raucous Swedish/Norwegian tonsils and Natwest-sponsored whacking balloons (possibly coming to a stadium near you this coming have been warned!). The official crowd was 185, but they were ten times louder than the ten-times bigger crowd at the men's final later on in the afternoon - think Fratton Park v the Highbury Library, and you get the picture.
Åland on the ball.
Not only was this the most vocal crowd of the week, but they were also treated to the best football that I saw. Åland's tiki-taki passing game on the bowling lawn of a pitch at Cowes was splendid to watch. The Isle of Man were good - they even took the lead after five minutes - but they were eventually outclassed by the brilliant Ålanders.
A tremendous save by the Åland keeper.
The short passing game of the Scandinavians bamboozled the Isle of Man, and they soon began to look tired (as well they might after the week's heavy schedule - most teams were playing four or five matches in six days - some with extra time). Åland were able to score almost at will, despite their opponent's best efforts.
"Give us an Å! Give us an L..." By far the noisiest crowd of the entire tournament.
The final whistle blew with the score at 5-1 to Åland, and I got the impression that they had throttled back in the second-half, after going in 4-1 to the good at half-time. They hugged and received their medals, and no doubt had a whale of a time at the closing ceremony in Cowes later that evening, where they could take their hairbands out, have a glass of wine or two and talk about the 23 goals they had scored this week.
We did it! Åland have won the gold medal!
Meanwhile, I took a bus to Newport, along with the Hitra football team, ready for the men's final at 3pm...

No comments:

Post a Comment