Pretty In Pink

Isthmian League, Division One South – Corinthian Casuals FC v Dulwich Hamlet FC
Tuesday, 9th October 2012, 7.45pm
King George’s Field
Distance 3 miles, Attendance 156
With my wife out at The Breast Cancer Care Show last week, I got thinking about the charity (and football of course). Curious to know whether any British football team would be wearing pink to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month I fired off a few tweets for assistance, after all, the month is commemorated widely in many US sports, so I felt sure there must be a few over here too.
Taking a thoroughly subjective view I’d like to think Watford would be doing something (maybe they are) but sadly I only got two responses; Port Vale and Preston North End. Try as I might I couldn’t find any information on the former’s “Awareness” but, PNE are donating £5 from every shirt sold to St Catherine’s Hospice. Though pleased I’d found something, I was left somewhat feeling the pinch between curiosity and light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a similar feeling one experiences when driving in the dark towards King George’s Field; hemmed in between the A3 and the railway line but then through the tunnel there’s the heart-warming sight of floodlights.
Inside, with moments to kick-off, I bought a “golden goal” ticket (which incidentally I never win) (anywhere), collected a team sheet from the kindly boardroom, chatted with some familiar faces and took a seat in the front of the stand.
While Stuart had promised “a feast of football” the programme assured me that “form matters little in these derby games”. With assurances such as these you’d think it couldn’t go wrong but, for me success lay purely in the kit; it had to be pink. You see, to make my own gesture to awareness I’d hatched a plan (again whilst my wife was out) to donate £3 for every goal I saw scored this month, by teams wearing pink. Granted tonight’s two clubs wear pink all the time, but this game was on the back of four pink goals I’d seen on Saturday, and it’s the thought that counts isn’t it. And then they ran out…

Now I’m quite fond of both these teams and their history; they have that “when I’m old and crotchety I’ll take comfort in grumbling from their terraces” kind of feel, and tonight – if they were on the same page as me – an action-packed three-all draw would hopefully be played out before my neutral eyes and thus boost the charity coffers. Clearly Casuals – resplendent in pink and chocolate – were doing their best but, Hamlet – in something far less appropriate – weren’t playing ball at all. Immediately (for the sake of charity of course) I was praying for a total rout. COME ON THE PINKS!!! (a chant not heard in 1920s America)
Running through a few ditties, Hamlet’s fans were hanging about behind the stand awaiting the coin toss. “It’s too noisy out there… Its bang out of order” piped up a man behind, making me smirk a little too loudly. Then they were off, hush fell, the whistle went, players started shouting and fans (by now at the right ends) broke out in song.
The action was fast with not a little skill displayed. Hamlet had the edge for the first ten minutes but, having failed to capitalise Casuals dragged the game back to parity, whilst the ref kept yelling “keep ’em down… Well done! Well done!” (no, nor me). It was clear Hamlet’s Erhun Oztumer was – despite his diminutive stature – a pretty tricky character to play against, and that up the other end David Ocquaye held the ball up well, but really by the break clearly both teams needed to take their banjos and head back to the barn door.
When Casuals were on target the visitors’ left back Ahmed Deen bemoaned the lack of talking but, slack defending was more to blame from my vantage point. His forwards on the other hand looked fast and effective (until they were in range of the goal) whilst the home team relied on breaking at pace through Steve Goddard and Jamie Byatt.
As the teams fought for supremacy on the pitch, the fans songs declared it from behind the nets. Standing before a Brazilian flag, Casuals’ support were again chanting at passing trains; Hamlet’s when not screaming LEFT and RIGHT at the home team’s defensive walls, followed something about being South London’s number one in “pink and blue” with a lot of well-to-do ooos and ahs.

Just when I was thinking how evenly entertaining the half had been, Goddard sprinted forward, holding off two defenders and set up a totally unmarked, yard out, Byatt. If he’d fallen on the ball it would’ve gone in; he missed, so off we rushed to the growing tea bar queue.
The second half was much the same with excellent early chances falling to both sides. By now I was sure the Breast Cancer Awareness folk would be well, very aware, and getting a little cheesed off with the lack of accuracy. Furious attacks petered out, headers were miscued, shots flew wide, and free-kicks went over walls and crossbars, and sometimes over other walls too. High balls in the Casuals box were again dealt with superbly by Danny Bracken, and goalmouth scrambles were thwarted.
So many visiting players were doing well without doing really well – Nyren Clunis, Ryan James and Oztumer all deserve mentions – but Casuals found the target more often so if anyone was to score… With ten minutes left Byatt (who’d missed a great volley earlier) ran on to a high through ball, glanced his header over the onrushing keeper and ran off screaming with delight to the very camera Stuart had been cursing his luck with for most of the night. And with that, the game was as good as over. Hamlet’s fans trudged off, whilst the handful of Casuals held scarves aloft (well we all love a good derby win don’t we?).
So I hadn’t seen a goalfest or Caroline laughing, and it hadn’t rained all day, and my Breast Cancer donation was still wallowing on 5 goals, but when all is said and done it’s not often one gets see an evenly contested match between London’s finest boys in pink. Nor is it often one sees a player wearing shin pads the size of margarine lids who goes off injured when an opponent kicks one.
Contented, I left wondering where the next pink team will turn up on my travels, what the odds were of South Park v Sheffield United in the FA Cup 1st Round, whether Molly Ringwald would take in Non League Day whilst she’s over here, and what Psychedelic Furs actually thought of the film.

Yep… Another day, Another game followed by bizarre questions.
Welcome to my world.
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