Action from the Standard Chartered Trophy match between Bangladesh's Grameenphone and Hong Kong's SFALO Limited at Anfield on Tuesday morning. PHOTO: COURTESY
The hallowed turf at Anfield turned into a moving panorama Tuesday morning just before the kickoff of the Standard Chartered Trophy 2014 finals. 96 players from 14 different countries including seven from Bangladesh sporting jerseys of different colours walked onto the famous green turf to show their football skills in the five-a-side tournament.
The introduction of the players onto pitch was dramatic to say the least. With the famous Liverpool chant 'You Will Never Walk Alone' blaring from the infield sound system, teams came out through the historic tunnel of one of the best venues in the world one after another. It certainly gave nearly a hundred spectators the feeling that they were attending the opening ceremony of a major soccer event.
Bangladesh lost their opening game against Pakistan 2-0. Goalkeeper Junaid's first touch of the ball was fatal as he let go a low shot from mid-pitch through his legs. The second goal, which the Grameenphone amateurs conceded against a Pakistani side that looked fitter and well-drilled for the occasion, came a couple of minutes later from a concerted attack down the flank. And what was expected to be a blood-and-thunder contest ended as a lop-sided affair. The battered GP boys however took some solace from the fact that their rivals lost their next game against Malaysia 6-0.
Placed in Group B the GP team got the opportunity to play six games. For records, they lost all their games; 3-0 against Indonesia, 6-0 against Malaysia, who scored their first goal within a minute after the kickoff.
Zainal Abidin, the self-proclaimed gaffer of the team, told yours truly that he had instructed his boys to score five.
"My target was five and I couldn't control anything beyond that,” Abidin confessed after the game. The GP boys actually conceded a seventh, which was cancelled as it came seconds after the final whistle of an eight-minute-at-a-stretch duration game on the rectangular green top which accommodated four games at a time.
A 7-0 defeat against Vietnam, followed by two more 6-0 losses at the hands of Europe and Hong Kong completed the GP journey. The only serious contribution from GP, one of two purely amateur sides in a competition where most countries presented strong academy teams, in the contest was four shots against the bar.
But the results were immaterial for the excited GP team members like many others who chose to relish their big moment of playing at Anfield for the rest of their lives.
After the group games, an all-Asian semifinals involving Thailand v Vietnam and Hong Kong v Singapore were guaranteed. Vietnam dispatched holders Thailand in the semis and then won the final against Singapore to crown themselves as the SC Trophy 2014 winners with their own Luis Suarez (the player sported the number 7 shirt) hammering the all-important goal.
Vietnam might have claimed the silverware after a not-stop daylong action, it was actually those 140 mere mortals who are the eventual victors after a never-experienced-before full of dreams come true moments starting with a much-sought-after match ticket of Liverpool-Newcastle game in hand, enjoying the spill and thrills of those 90 odd minutes at Anfield on Sunday; getting the opportunity to sit on more than a century-old wooden benches inside the famed Anfield locker room the next day and then spreading their hands like wings in extreme delight while standing or kicking a ball on that sacred pitch at Anfield where dreams are made. Thank you Standard Chartered Bank, the proud sponsors of the Liverpool kits. Thank you Liverpool FC for giving these lads a chance to live the dream. Long live the bond between the two.