On March 27st, 2017 BEFC took part in the Footy Japan Competitions Charity 7s competition at YC&AC in Yamate, Yokohama. The tournament raises money for Refugees International Japan who fund projects for emergency situations, provides assistance to meet basic survival needs, supports pilot schemes and distributes grants for training and education.
The competition consisted of 12 teams in 3 groups. The top 8 across the groups going into a Cup competition and the remaining 4 into a Plate competition.
For BEFC it was a chance to enter 2 teams in their quest to enter a 2nd BEFC team into the Tokyo Metropolis League next season.
So BEFC fielded BEFC Red, made up of the current squad, and BEFC White consisting of the players who want to be part of the newly formed team.
BEFC Red quickly noticed they had been placed in the obligatory 'Group of Death', which FCJ Tournament's regularly place them in. In this group were back to back winners and Division1 team Pumas FC as well as long time BEFC rivals Division 1 Sala FC. If you are going to win something you might as well do it the hard way, and that BEFC did.
Conversley BEFC White had a softer group, however any newly formed team who had never played together, let alone 7s together was going to have familiar challenge of having to pull teamwork out of thin air against opposition who had been playing the tournament the last few years. This was the introduction to what was previously felt to be the 'BEFC Experience' -- one experienced by many long-term members.
And the BEFC Classic Experience didn't disappoint, as despite a spritely start BEFC White's opponent slowly got to grips with the game and got the first goal. This then gave the opposition confidence and further dismantled White's, who then pushing to seek parity eventual got exposed and conceded more. The 'finding your feet game' resulting in a pretty chastening, albeit not unusual in context, defeat.
Despite Red's confidence the opening match was against Sala FC. A team that in memory BEFC have not beaten for over 3 years - often with some trivial or unlikely moment causing BEFC's downfall. Well the opening match didn't disappoint with Sala producing a miracle long-range looping shot, and with BEFC facing the sunlight, it dropped fortuitously into the top right corner of the goal. Despite some strong BEFC pressure and numerous chances in succession that somehow stayed out the curse of Sala continued and BEFC Red went down 0 - 1.
Meanwhile White faced off against FCJ Legends with new resolve. Unfortunately this resolve caught them out when FCJ's Sid Lloyd popped a shot from kick off, over the keeper and into the net. If that was a way to take the wind out of BEFC White's sails it certainly was a good one. Although in context, that sort of thing is expected in the Classic BEFC Experience of old. White rallied and the team slowly began finding the connections and plays in a more familiar team, but unfortunately were caught on the break as Legends increased their lead. White then began to find their mojo with a sustained spell of better play, recovering two goals and putting a comeback on the cards but it was just too late as Legends came out on top 3 -2.
Back in the group of death it was the big game against current current champions Pumas. With new BEFC keeper Sei Katori arrived Red had their full strength line up ready to do battle. It started brightly with a shock attack from Ben Palmer, combining with Alo Saekk in a run from defence, to then cut back onto Saekk's through ball just poking it around the keeper in a sprint race. Not only were Pumas shocked to be 1 - 0 so early but also looked like many of the BEFC squad didn't expect that kind of goal from an 11s center back. The match was as intense as predicted with pressure and chances either side and BEFC went 2 - 0 with some fine play and finish from Takahashi. However Pumas then started their comeback overloading the defence and soon it was 2 - 2. Pumas had the initiative and BEFC Red started to have less energy than their youthful opponent who continued to run at them, and in the last few minutes got the victory 3 - 2.
So despite all their good play against probably the two tournament favourites things were not looking good for BEFC Red. Worse news was to come when keeper Sei Katori informed his team mates that in that game he actually had broken his finger on a Puma player's head. This meant he had bravely continued playing at 2 - 1 without a workable middle finger! Sadly it really was damaged badly and he could no longer continue in the competition.
For BEFC Red there was a big danger of ending up in the Plate Competition, which would also mean facing off against BEFC White. What Red needed was a win by 3 goals, because it would earn a bonus point which would most likely be enough to get into the cup. And that they did, with a Jorge Marenco master class in striking netting two early goals before Takahashi and Oomichi came on from the bench to slam in a seemingly pre-planned corner set piece. This put BEFC in the Cup and on a revenge trip to the final.
By coming in from the bottom Red were going to be playing against a seeded winner of a group at random. They got FC Shunsuke who had thrashed everyone in their pool and also had previously won other 7s competitions. The theory that this easy group would not have them prepared may have had some truth as BEFC tore them open with a super 'ole ole' full pitch passing sequence and smooth finish. BEFC continued to cause Shunsuke problems, and they responded in a physical way that turned up the heat in the match, finally getting them an equaliser as an unmarked striker arrived to the backpost for a cut back. Shunsuke's squad were very vocal towards the ref and even up to their players petitioning the referee to card BEFC Red's players. This to many is a shameful act of poor sportsmanship, and the maybe the football gods thought so too. Just as Shunsuke were trying to tell the ref to yellow card a BEFC player, BEFC responded with a quick counter attack slamming in the winning goal and shutting Shunsuke up for good. There was certainly no finding of manners or grace in defeat either as 70% of FC Shunsuke walked off the pitch and refused to shake hands. So they pretty much deserved to lose for that alone.
After handing Shunsuke the 'FCJ Bad Sportsman Award', BEFC got their revenge trip with a semi-final against Sala! Always intense games, it was time to lift the curse. Keeping to their winning formation and tactics BEFC blazed open with early scoring again, going 1 - 0 up with a well worked move. Sala countered with their trade-mark build up place and around the box pressure, often looking to overload Tsukasa Katase on the right flank, but defence held firm. However BEFC looking for the kill pushed forward a little too much allowing Sala's striker a run through on goal. In a 50/50 with BEFC's stand-in keeper Sala poked past the equaliser but not before having his legs battered in the stand up collision. BEFC regrouped and began sustaining strong pressure but couldn't find the finishing touch. Sala continued their own menace and pushed forward themselves for the win. This is where they came unstuck and a ball back out from a counter attack found it's way across to Takahashi and with some link up play crashed off the shot to put BEFC into the final and rid them of the curse of Sala!
All this set up BEFC Red for the FCJ 7s Final in another revenge match from the opening stages against champions Pumas FC. This was the furthest BEFC had come in the 7s competition for as long as anyone there could remember. The match again started well as BEFC opened the scoring, and soon again went 2 - 0 up. However Pumas were fit and relentless in their attacks being able to play on the ground, in the air and have a familiar monster throw-in artist of absent BEFC Vice Captain Kaz Fushimi. Pumas main threat however was having absolutely no fear in launching long range strikes. With full size goals on a smaller pitch and the number of bodies in front when a shot goes off, it becomes immensely dangerous if they are allowed to pull the trigger. Pumas central player managed to get free and launch a dipping strike which bouncing just before the keeper, could only be deflected to the side. Unfortunately it was two Pumas strikers waiting alone for that lucky break and they cooly slotted home.
The equaliser came out of nowhere again, as Pumas dribbled and clung to possession on the left side of the pitch. However being able to turn the winger spotted a shooting gap, and launched a curler into the top right corner of the BEFC goal. With that kind of shot, there was little BEFC could have done about it, with players who already had put their bodies in front of plenty of similar Puma longshot attempts. At 2 - 2 BEFC were not without their own chances going forward and getting incredibly close, with attempts cleared off the line and shots just a fraction off from glory. It was a match of tiny margins.
Then Pumas once more struck again, getting loose on the left side to fire off a shot, the stand-in keeper could only get finger tips to at full stretch. It was a freakish repeat of the group stage match with one final twist!!! After a BEFC attack Saekk launched a long throwin into the goal mouth. As the players all jumped with it surrounding the keeper it ended up in the net. BEFC appeals for a goal went up as to them the keeper clearly had tipped it to prevent one of them getting their head on it. Silence awaited the ref's decision who decide not to give it, and in doing so giving Pumas the 3 - 2 and FCJ Cup!
BEFC Red were obviously disappointed, but it was an epic final against a very good team who scored some remarkable goals. Red also felt that perhaps if Pumas hadn't broken their goalies finger earlier in the day, the extra subsitute and properly trained goalie might have just made the final much harder for them! However BEFC Red were happy to pick up the Runner's Up Trophy and show their continued improvement in FCJ 7s competitions in a lot of really good football matches!!
You can check out some photos of the Tournament in the Facebook Page Album on this link >