Before visiting my cousin in Greenville, my great friend Neil Murphy and I had tried to get a game going in front of his house. Only 2 people had showed up.
Yesterday all the street came out ! 12 players ...3 teams of 4...calling themselves Unicorn FC, Khaki and the Trousers FC and Doubters FC.
We played in the middle of the road in front of Neil's place . A proper neighbourhood game. I was a bit worried at first because some of the players were so young and were playing against chaps aged 18 who had been in the same 5-a-side team for years.
My fears proved unfounded. Miles, Noah, Landon and Karic were hard as nails and took great pleasure in snapping at the ankles of the older lads. Karic in particular was ferocious in the tackle.
We had 3 teams of 4 and played 4 v 4. If a team scored they would continue to play...the beaten team being replaced by the 4 in waiting.
We started at 6pm and went on until almost 8pm, with total concentration by all from start to finish. Grayson was the star man early on, but he had to leave early. His dad Andy (huge tank-like chap) played on all night.
Khaki and the Trousers FC (the 18 year olds) were proving too strong, so we decided to have a deciding match...everyone versus these older fellas (8 v 4). The impressive Rachel pushed on for the 8 and scored the first goal. The match was tight. Andy was a determined, impenetrable force in nets for the 8; Eduardo, Hunter, Jay and Neil's son George were scrapping hard for the 4. Neil sat at the back for the 8 determined not to let his lad score.
The 8 moved into a 3-0 lead through sheer weight of numbers. There was no space for the 4 to make any headway so I joined their side for the final 10 minutes . They got it back to 3-3. Next goal's the winner.
It was life and death. Karic was trying everything to win. This little fella with the heart (and hair) of a lion was up for the headers, ploughing through tackles and carrying the fight for his team-mates. It was stalemate at 3-3 for a good 15 minutes until the ball finally broke to Neil's son George who put it away to seal victory for the 4 plus 1.
What a cracking night of footy and a brilliant way to end this part of the journey. For all the money in the world, no-one can ever own our game. From the magic streets of Havana to the breathtaking mountains of Costa Rica. From frantic city centre Medellin, Colombia to suburban South Carolina ....the game will always belong to us.