2017 Beijing Viking Cup – Tour Report
Wednesday – Off we go…
After months of waiting, it was finally departure day. We met at the airport and Hoggy showed us a video of his latest spit roast and kindly shared the spoils. Several hungry Raiders gladly tucked into his juicy leftover mutton alongside the first beers of the tour. It didn’t take long for the conversation to end up in the gutter and Ben proclaimed, “I only shit in five star hotels”. Youngest Raider on tour Sipho was carrying a hip injury due to the toll of carrying his fat arse for years he would be leading the boys into battle as The Gaffer.
With it being such a late departure we took it easy, knowing that we had an exciting yet gruelling few days ahead of us. Most of us boarded with no issues, however, Pat and 5* decided to give the rest of us a scare, almost missing the flight to have a last-minute fag.
Thursday – Sightseeing
The flight passed with no further mishaps and we arrived in Beijing at 6am ready for bed, but bed was not where we were going. We checked into the Westin Chaoyang at around 7.30am and met Danny Vo, Andy and honourary raider Stu. It was at this point Pat retired to his room alone to have some personal time and relax alone in his hotel room with a big TV in a way only he knows best.
Greedy Gary our tour guide was probably expecting an easy ride to the Mutianyu section of The Great Wall when he saw how exhausted we all were, 5* had other plans. He wanted to dig a little deeper into the psyche of the average Chinaman and interrogated poor Gary on sensitive issues such as Tibet and Chinese foreign policy, which almost immediately had the rest of us in a deep slumber.
Upon arrival at the wall, Danny Vo announced that he had decided not to bring the Vietnamese conical hats with him to China. A rather crucial part of the costume for the fancy dress night was missing. Nevermind, at least he had his own baseball cap on. Combined with the fact Danny arrived in Beijing a day earlier than the rest of us and sent a message to the group asking where we were, it had not been a strong start for Danny Vo.
As you can imagine the Wall itself and the view were pretty breathtaking, although Aaaaron wasn’t impressed and bemoaned that it wasn’t photogenic enough for his lofty standards. Captain Jerry led the way as the real men made up a brutally steep vertical climb to check out the view from upon high, almost dying in the process. Whilst Hoggy, Pete and Stu decided to take the easy option and protect their little calfy muscles for the football the following day, deciding to stay put and have a chat with Gary instead, pathetic.
After such a monumental climb without breakfast – apart from that which a few thieves indulged in prior to check in – a feast was in order and Gary took us to just the place. We sat around the biggest Lazy Susan in all of China and had an absolute field day, demolishing plate after plate of the finest Kung Pao Chicken we’d ever tasted, The Gaffer was ecstatic and duly stuffed his face.
Before heading back to the city we needed to make amends for Danny’s decision making and pick up some more conical hats. After getting the seller down to a tenth of her original price, The Gaffer thought he had secured a bargain which ‘Arry Redknapp would be proud of. The trouble was that the crafty old bint saw him coming and pulled the old switcheroo, sneakily swapping his 100RMB note for a fakey, pandemonium ensued. After a little bit of help from Gary, who had to stop The Gaffer from knocking her out, we left with pile of hats with wallets and pride relatively intact.
Once back on the bus Aaron declared, “I’m so happy I didn’t shit myself on the great wall of China, it was my biggest concern.” Well done Aaaron, old age hasn’t caught up with you just yet, eh? We dropped a few sleepy souls back at the hotel whilst the hardcore of Danny Vo, The Gaffer, 5*, Aaaaaaaaaron, Jerry and myself continued on The Forbidden City. We were in a bit of a race against the clock to get back for the Opening Night Gala that evening.
We arrived at the Forbidden City and embarked on swift job in order to catch an electric cart which would race through the crowds to get us in moments before last admission. We entered the City to be impressed by the scale and magnificence of the place, pleasantly surprised by the lack of other tourists. Gary regaled us with tales about the various emperors and their many, many concubines (sometimes up to 70 girls), who all lived on site and were often ‘managed’ by the emperor’s wife. Apparently, over the years there had not been too many fights to the death between various members of the emperor’s harem, but plenty of orgies. Sounds like it was a lovely place to live.
We ran into a little bit of trouble getting back to the Gala on time, whilst Hoggy was bombarding us with whiney messages, moaning we were embarrassing them by being late and that all the bigger boys were laughing at them and their empty table. All the while Andy and Stu knocking back the free booze, whilst Pete tried to comfort Pat and his sore wrist. By this time Mikey Clark had joined the party from elsewhere in China and was also getting nice and sauced, whilst Floyd wandered around doing his thing, leaving the hapless Hop to spend her time with the rest of the Raiders.
Thursday night – Opening Gala
So to the Gala, it was held in a huge function room full of rowdy Vikings awaiting the tournament draw. Saigon were first out of the hat meaning we had the earliest start, grim. Things got tougher, as we learned that we had the toughest group as we were up against each of the three first XIs in attendance. As some of us tucked into more of the fantastic buffet then others we contemplated the classic Viking Cup dilemma – to prioritise boozing or footballing. Having spent so much time and money getting here most of the team chose the latter, with Mikey Clark hitting the sack around 7.30pm, a lot was to be expected of him the following day.
Nano and Hoggy’s hard work and dedication paid off, they certainly did us proud considering the lack of support and time, their video got a few chuckles from the other teams. Alas, we were no match for some of the truly incredible efforts on show including a Superman parody by Shanghai. The winning video was a magnificent Transporter tribute by Kuala Lumpur which featured a Chilean Jason Statham lookalike and a car chase through a tunnel, shot at multiple angles which culminated in a huge explosion with the animations ripped straight from a Sega Mega Drive. The final scene of the video featured an underwater fight scene, truly impressive stuff by KL and they deservedly took the trophy for best video.
As the numbers whittled down, it was left to the two biggest guys in the team to carry the torch into the night as Jerry and I went for a couple of beers in Sanlitun. We didn’t last long as the exertions from the day set in and it was off back to the hotel via fried chicken shop.
Friday – Group Game 1 vs Bangkok
We reconvened at the breakfast table looking slightly worse for wear, so we wolfed down lots of muffin, some lovely banana bread and a little bit of fruit for good measure. We boarded the bus, late fines were distributed and we set off on the 20 minute ride to the pitch…. which took an hour. We got there minutes before kick off and got kitted up, fortunately for us Andy had brought his lucky pants. He led the way and started a gentle warm up, which for most of us was a 1km round trip to the shitter.
We lined up in The Gaffer’s 3-5-2 for the first game, Pat between the pipes, Pete, Jerry and I at the back, with Danny Vo left wing back, Aron on the right, Andy, Stu and Mikey in midfield with 5* and Hoggy upfront. Confidence and excitement were high, especially with our fearsome duo up top, all the signs were there for some good link up between the two, as Hoggy informed 5*, “Even if you’re open, nine times out of ten I’m shooting.”
The excitement didn’t last too long and like Wouter is with the girls on ladies night at Lush, Bangkok were all over us. They took full advantage of our lack of preparation and managed to put two past a sub-par Raiders who offered little in the way of resistance. Both goals came down their right flank via an ever-obliging lollipop lady who was happy to wave everybody past with a smile on his face. A player got MVP.
After the game Pat was incensed at our sluggish performance and threw a big tantrum, “I’m not going in goal if you’re all gonna be pussies out there, I didn’t come all the way from ‘Murica for this shit.” After a little bit of coaxing, a couple of cigarettes and a stroke of his straggly beard we managed to calm him down and convinced him that we truly did want a 5’5” goalie for our next game against Beijing 1sts.
Group Game 2 vs Beijing 1sts
Before taking to the field against Beijing 1sts we had plenty of time to scout our opponents/sleep off the hangover/take the piss out of Pat for throwing his toys out of the pram, until it was time for one of Andy’s infamously rigorous warm ups.
Once all the hopping, skipping and jumping was done we lined up ready to make amends against a team so good Colin Dixon couldn’t even force his way into it. We absolutely dominated this game but thanks to Andy’s 50p head and his pathetic finishing we allowed Beijing to scrape a 0-0 draw. Although the result wasn’t the best, we were buoyed by the performance and felt sure we’d win out next game after lunch. A player got MVP.
Group Game 3 vs Shanghai 1sts
Much to the relief of Pat we also had a new goalkeeper in town for the afternoon of football, as 13 year old Michele from Sexy FC stepped up and towered over our Yankee friend. What Michele had in height, he did not have in kicking accuracy, after several exasperating minutes of one-to-one pre-match kicking coaching from The Gaffer led to Mancunian shrieks of, “You can’t fucking kick it like that!”
Feeling more at ease now he was no longer the baby-faced one of the bunch, The Gaffer sensed it was time to take things up a notch, pulled us all together for an inspiring team talk. The Gaffer had clearly watched Any Given Sunday far too many times in the build up to the Viking Cup and launched into a lengthy rhetoric, quoting Churchill, questioning our pride, our legacies and what our families would think of us if we were to finish bottom of the group. He made it crystal clear that “THERE IS NO TOMORROW!”, if we didn’t turn up for this game.
We went onto the field to take on Shanghai 1sts with the adrenaline flowing. Pat was in a euphoric mood now that he had been freed to play his dream position of left wing back. The game started a frenetic pace and Hoggy’s hustling up front led to him breaking through the Shanghai defence and squaring for 5* to bumble the ball home from four yards. 5* somehow managed to turn what was an open goal into a shot that the keeper should have saved. They all count and we finally had our first goal of the tournament, up and running at last!
As the game wore on Shanghai started to apply some pressure and managed to win a throw-in deep in our territory, note to Jerry – if the ball is about to roll out for a goal kick it is best not to intervene and kick it out for a throw in to the opposition next to our corner flag. From the resulting throw-in Wadders kindly left his man who then thumped a volley past our pre-pubescent goalie and into the side of the net, half-time 1-1.
In the second half we pushed on in search of victory, for The Gaffer and his Big Fat Arse who once again reminded us about a potential lack of tomorrowness. Following some fine work down the left Hoggy was released into the channel and somehow crashed a volley into the far corner from a rather acute angle, nice one Egghead. Taking over goal kick responsibility from Michele, who had shanked several of them out of play, I indulged in plenty of time wasting to run down the clock. Danny Vo followed my lead with a fantastic bit of play-acting throwing a Pat-esque tantrum over a throw-in. His acting was so good it he even hoodwinked some of us. The whistle finally blew and we had held out to clinch the first Raiders Viking Cup victory for a number of years and left the field elated and exhausted, we had one match to play before we could head back to the hotel. A player got MVP.
Group Game 4 vs Singapore 1sts
With our small squad size, hangovers and aging bodies, there was only so much the kilos of hydration salts we smuggled through customs could do for us to aid our recovery before the final game of the day. Myself and Aaaron took advantage of the free sports massages on offer, whilst 5* took the opportunity to give Andy’s legs a good rub, up and down, up and down, it looked incredibly sensual. Danny Vo had himself a little snooze in the shade, Jerry soothed his strawberry-red face, most of the boys relaxed, all the while Stu perved on the GWOAT (Greatest WAG Of All Time) who was married to a very lucky member of the Bangkok team. Sweet Jesus, she was fantastic.
Our final game of the day was against Singapore and we did not have the energy to do much at all, Jerry’s legs were hanging off, Andy could not locate his legs, Mikey Clark was on his arse and Stu and a few others had sore necks from staring at the GWOAT for too long. Oh my, she was incredible. I digress, there wasn’t much to say about this game, being bigger boys they managed to punish us at a corner with a free man heading home, leading to an on the pitch inquest. “Who the fuck was marking him?!”, barked Pete. Nobody owned up, “I had my man”, was the response from most of the players, leaving us none the wiser as to the culprit, that was until Danny Vo came out with, “He my man, he too fast”. Fair enough Danny, we’ve all been there before.
Unfortunately, we did not learn our lesson and Singapore scored an identical goal moments later, causing Pat to throw his second paddy of the day and storm off. The Gaffer brought on The Traffic Cones to enable us to rest some weary legs for the next day and the game petered out as our minds switched focus to our first of many tasty beverages. When learning he had been named MVP Mikey Clark asked, “What the fuck for?!”. Coincidentally, this is exactly what the rest of us were thinking. Fortunately, we managed to avoid the wooden spoon and would be battling for the plate the following day. We boarded the bus beers in hand and ready for a reinvigorating ice bath back at the hotel.
Friday night – team night out
Friday night was the team night out and a very special mention must go to the person who booked a table for us at a tasty Peking Duck restaurant. Mistaking this invitation for a tennis competition, Hoggy had to redress a certain Vietnamese man, who came to the meal looking very dapper indeed. After a little taxi trouble we all chowed down together ready to enjoy some tasty duck and kung pao chicken. Before ordering, Pete had a very important question, “If we all order duck, who gets the bill?”
From here we followed our Sexy FC tour guides to Kokomo bar, lured by the prospect of some attractive local scenery to ogle. Pat informed the single members of the group that he had secured an in with a couple of sexy señoritas, we skipped my way back to the group, excited to meet the guapitas. Pat clearly had our best interests at heart here, however, the girls he had managed to procure were decimals. Unimpressed by his efforts we managed to move them on in a subtle manner as someone shouted, “Pat, what the fuck are those?!”, they scarpered. We had a big day of football ahead and another early start so we retreated back to the hotel, with a couple of boys deciding to head to the Viking Bar for a nightcap, with our captain treating the crowd to some Jerryoke.
Saturday – Plate Semi-Final vs Hong Kong
Saturday morning was here and we lined up against a rather portly Hong Kong side. The Gaffer was thrilled to have an overflowing bench on this bright and breezy morning with several more recruits from our feeder club Sexy FC. We also had our third goalkeeper of the tour thanks to Edwin who linked us up with one of his friends from his Beijing days.
The stage was set for The Raiders to finally wipe the floor with someone and we immediately broke through their flabby defence with Hoggy charging down the right flank, he looked up and saw Andy unmarked, Hoggy knocked it past the goalkeeper and straight into an onrushing attacker’s path. The attack was Andy and from approximately 6cm out from an open goal he managed to pull it wide, missing the target by about 10 feet, much to the amusement of the crowd of Vikings along the sideline.
The game continued in this manner for rest the first half and we absolutely battered them, it was 4-0 at half-time. The Gaffer made full use of his bench, bringing on The Cones to defend the flanks and new recruits Jeff and PB taking up positions in defence and midfield. The Raiders returned to play the second half took in a more relaxed state of mind, Pete rolled back the years in centre midfield with a few nice passes before raging at Danny Vo for passing to one of the cones rather than him. Pete was a little on edge that morning due to a lack of sleep. The two RMIT boys were sharing a room, Pete was after a “sensible” roomie, what he didn’t realise is that his “sensible” roomie had no mute button and will talk about anything and everything all night long.
A wily old Raider and Viking Cup legend took to the field smelling blood. He was after another goal to add to the hundreds he had (apparently) scored before. After some great play down the right flank the ball was drilled into the six yard box and Floyd not-so-deftly two-footed the ball home. He wheeled away arms aloft with a beaming smile on his face, he was experiencing elation which only Pete could relate to, as he felt a similarly euphoric feeling when Sipho finally stopped talking each night.
The game finished with us getting a five goal haul and the opposition scoring a couple of soft goals late on, as Edwin’s friend happened to be scared of both communicating with defenders and footballs turned out to be a recipe for disaster. We had some time to grab some refreshments and have a rest before La Plata Finale. A player got MVP.
The Plate Final vs Shanghai 1sts
Prior to the final kicking off we were asked whether we wanted to play 25 minute halves. Shanghai pushed for 15 minutes each way and smelling blood The Gaffer showed no mercy and we ignored their requests for a paltry 30 minute face off. Did they not know this was the Plate Final?! The Gaffer had been dreaming of this moment for weeks! He stuck to what he knew best, lining us up in our customary 3-5-2 formation to take on Shanghai 1st team. Andy warmed us up with yet more skipping, jumping and holding hands.
Once more we dominated opening proceedings creating several early chances. 5* and Mikey Clark had switched roles with Mikey causing havoc up front and 5* disrupting the play in the middle, if either of these two could control a ball they’d be lethal. Stu continued his outstanding work in protecting the now-weary defence and providing vocal support to the team. Aaaaaron maintained his impressive form in his new right back role and didn’t let anything past him, declaring himself the true Great Wall of China. The same could not be said of our American on the opposite flank who after getting skinned, decided to bring down his opposite man and then initiated some argy-bargy. Both of these bickering babies were yellow carded and would take no further part in the final, on came Danny Vo in his place.
Shanghai were knackered and rarely troubled our defence and nervous goalkeeper until late on in the game, Jerry pulled his groin whilst stretching for a slide tackle – which he missed. Sensing tiredness setting in The Gaffer rung the changes with the ringers PB and Wasp coming on to freshen things up in central midfield. Shanghai had barely left their half and we couldn’t break them down, time ticked away and the game finished 0-0.
Extra time continued in much the same fashion as the rest of the game as we continued to push forward. Shanghai were getting sloppy and gave away a free kick close to halfway on our left wing. The big lads piled forward and Danny Vo whipped in an absoutle worldy of a free kick and picked out Andy’s 50p head, it pinged off his receding hairline, down into the floor, past the goalie and in! Joyous Raiders piled on the pitch and joined in the wild celebrations. A beautiful tale of redemption for Danny Vo, from zero to hero in 24 hours. What a guy.
Saturday – Drinking Competition, words by Pat (play this song while reading https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLfCnGVeL4 )
The drinking competition at the Viking Cup is the most coveted trophy in all of southeast Asia. A prestigious beer mug engraved with the winners of the last twenty years is presented to the team who can down 5 pints the fastest. The rules are simple: classic boat race, no spillage, no starting early, once you finish your beer you must tip it upside down on your head to prove it’s emptiness then put it down on the table.
As two time defending champ with a 100% victory rate in the Viking Cup I took it upon myself to pick the team. After a quick trial in the VC bar (free beer and cocktails) the team set out as Stuart, Andy, Floyd, Hoggy, and Pat. We would drink in that order and do our best to retain the trophy for a second year in a row. Ten minutes before go time we find ourselves in a bit of a drama. Hoggy needs to leave the ceremony due to some personal reasons. This leaves one empty spot. Sipho kindly stepped in as he was the next fastest drinker. After watching Singapore and Bangkok post strong sub 35 second times, the Raiders took the stage. They knew they had to beat 35 second and have no spillage. The race started off well and then slowly decreased in speed and quality. The fourth drinker (not naming names) took a good 23 seconds to finish and the last drinker (definitely not naming names) spilled some beer on his beard. The final time for the Raiders was 38 seconds (including a two second penalty) which did not qualify them for the finals. In the end I think Singapore won, which will make it all the better when we take the trophy back next year in their own city!
Saturday – Gala Night through an older gentleman’s eyes, words by Pete
A familiar ache tugged at his calf and thigh muscles. It had been a day that would live long in the memories and the boys were letting their hair down. He was feeling the effects of the drink by now, though not as much as some of the junior members, who had already succumbed and lay in various states of sleep around the dance floor.
The seven-piece band struck up again. This was music from his era and it cheered his soul. He danced along, arms aloft, smiling in recognition. True, his dancing had lost some energy and coordination over the years, but he had still “got it”, as he might once have said.
The Saigon Raiders were Saigon Vikings today and dressed in the breezy pyjamas of old Saigonese women. That had been a smart decision, he thought, gracefully picking a route through discarded costumes and sweaty, lacklustre Shanghai Vikings, the only other team left dancing.
He was interrupted by whatsisname from Shanghai, who had lost the power of speech but stuck faithfully to his task of forcing everyone to drink from the beer tower he’d been carrying through ten or 15 refills. He took his turn, manfully drinking a little more than he wanted in respect to Viking tradition.
At the edge of the hall he paused, taking in the unraveling gala. The captain was wrestling an oversized teddy bear from a Shanghai player and another Raider was putting a Saigonese hat on the lead singer’s head. What a tournament it had been. Another may have won the MVP award, but few could deny that this was his day. Next year he would insist on more practice for the drinking team, especially for the over confident American.
His thoughts are interrupted by a sharp pain to the ankle and he looks down to see a teammate, Scott, in the process of hacking him down with a slide tackle. An intolerable lack of respect. And Scott’s grinning? Down to one knee, he pins Scott on his back and asks what the f*ck he is doing. But he has no time to hear an answer, as from his periphery he sees Sipho charge in and leap onto his shoulders.
With his strength already sapping from the day’s activities and the evening’s drinking, he somehow catches Sipho’s flight and slams him to the ground. Still reeling from the indignity, Floyd stands back up and sweeps away. Looking back he sees Scott slide tackle Mike Clarke and Sipho rugby tackle Andy into the stage, while Pat, Peter and Ben sit laughing uncontrollably. What a day, he smiles.
Sunday – Time to say goodbye 🙁
So after all the fun and games it was time to say goodbye. It was an absolutely incredible weekend and I loved every minute of it. Thanks to all of you for making it so memorable and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, even if it was like a Danny Vo tackle and ever-so-slightly late. I’d like to say further thanks to the club for subsidising our trip, we came back a happy bunch with two pieces of silverware, the plate and one of our players was awarded MVP of the tournament, well done to him.
A big shout out to honourary Raider Stu who seamlessly settled into the group and was integral on the pitch, there have been rumours of a permanent swap deal for Andy, I for one would support this. I’m sure the Viking Cup next year in Singapore will be bigger and better, hopefully we can take a larger squad with us and bring back even more silverware.