The sun sweltered down upon the patchy pitch of the storied Candler Park in Atlanta, GA as two formerly distinct (now matrimonially joined) families and their various friends gathered last Sunday morning for the first and only edition of the Eric and Natalie Betts Wedding Cup, a 15-on-15 small-goal-soccer match conceived and sprung forth from the mind of groom, husband, writer and general soccer enthusiast Eric Betts. After partaking of a brunch of delicious (but ultimately severely inhibiting) Flying Biscuit grits, eggs, and biscuits, the thirty candidates for eternal fame organized themselves into a circle to be sorted into teams.
In what could only be described as a wholly unique and absurdly creative logical leap, Eric (or someone who looked a lot like him…he has three brothers) proclaimed that we should go around the circle, everyone saying the numbers “one” and “two” in order, thereby splitting us up evenly (patent pending, so don’t get any ideas sports fans). Word was that Angela Merkel herself called Eric for advice after the game, such was the German-like efficiency of the device. After the two newly divided teams had introduced themselves to each other, and the strategy and tactics of the game were debated (both teams tried, unsuccessfully, to reach Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox for advice), a pink EuropassTM 2008 soccer ball of peerless quality was launched into the air, and the game began.
The sweat began pouring from the various bodies frantically crowding around the ball. To reduce the game into any manageable or logical format would be near on impossible, given the frenetic pace and physics-defying rigor of playing in the heat (such that the author of this post only remembers ideas and sensations), so instead I will simply describe (in brief, fear not) the five goals which were scored. First, let it suffice to say that yours truly and Adams Sibley (intelligent O87 contributer) were on one team, while Eric Betts was on the other. For the sake of clarity, we’ll imagine that mine and Adams’ team were Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto, while Eric’s was Emmanuel Adebayor’s Monaco. The first goal, about ten minutes into the game was scored when a midfielder for Monaco lost possession on the edge of their box (roughly defined). A young player (bride’s side) pounced on the ball, and in true poacher’s style threaded home despite the lunge of an on-rushing, Richard Dunne-like-attempted-saving-tackle.
Flush with their early success, FC Porto really threw themselves about the pitch, pressing with gusto. However, Monaco were able to thrust themselves back into the game mostly through a lot of long balls up top and good hold-up work from, among others, Mr. Eric Betts himself. At around the 20 minute mark, a defensive lapse from Porto allowed a quick one-two and suddenly Monaco found themselves on equal terms through one of Betts’ brothers, I think. The general struggle was complicated by a few factors: 1) with 30 people running around a more or less tiny space, there were inevitably five people always hovering around the goal, limiting scoring; 2) there was a direct relationship between time spent playing, and general desire to vomit from the combined effects of the (otherwise delicious) Flying Biscuit brunch and the 90+(F) degree heat (that’s around 30+ celsius, Europeans); 3) an incredibly lax substitution policy, by which players just kinda went on and off at their own choosing.
I don’t remember goals three and four very clearly, but I know one of them was scored by FC Porto and was controversial (if only Sepp had allowed us to use goal-line technology). Monaco claimed that the ball in fact hit the post whereas Porto maintained it just snuck inside (this was controversial because the goal frame was made up of the two Birkenstock sandals I showed up wearing). The but (that’s French, for goal. I was using the term too many times in this paragraph) was eventually allowed through everyone’s favorite method of refereeing and decision-making (mob rule) and play continued. Monaco would not be depressed for long, as they quickly scored again to make it 2-2.
By the later stages of the game, there was a consistent dull thudding in my head, I had developed tunnel vision, the Flying Biscuit was sloshing around in my stomach to the approximate rhythm and consistency of cement in a cement truck, and the only thing more swollen than the soles of my feet was my ego at having played a nice little inconsequential back heel pass that got “oohhs” and “ahhs” from our audience (a handful of wedding party guests). As such, I don’t remember much until after I had guzzled three or four bottles of water. But a fleeting memory suggests that Monaco managed to score a third goal, thereby appropriately giving the first and only Eric and Natalie Betts Wedding Cup to team Monaco, captained by Eric Betts. What a fitting finish to a fabulous weekend of fun and frivolity, seeing the newly married Betts accept the beautiful cup, flanked by the friends and family who played on his team, shaking it into the air, and riding off with it into the sunset (ahem, Puerto Rico) in a car with a bunch of tin cans tied to the bumper.