BUCKHURST HILL  -V- ENFIELD


BUCKHURST HILL  -V- ENFIELD

FA Vase – Second Qualifying Round, September 11, 2021, 3pm

Today I saw two teams at opposing spectrums of football history. For the home team Buckhurst, this was its first ever FA Vase game and the biggest game in its history. Meanwhile, their opponent Enfield is one of the most famous and successful amateur football clubs in England. On paper, Enfield was the overwhelming favourite to win this game as it has more experienced players and plays at a higher level.

THE COMPETITION

The FA Vase is a knockout cup competition for clubs at Steps 5 and 6 of the non-league football pyramid (the two lowest levels on the pyramid after the FA reorganised it). It is an FA Cup equivalent for teams at this level and the cup’s final is played at Wembley Stadium.

THE TEAMS

Buckhurst Hill

Buckhurst Hill is a club going places. It has won league titles three seasons in succession after winning Division 1 of the Essex Olympian League (EOL) in 2018, followed by winning the Premier Division two successive times. In 2019, it won the EOL’s Premier Division (at the first attempt after being promoted from Division 1) by an incredible 25 points, then retained the title in 2021 by another wide margin of 21 points (the 2020 season was declared void due to Covid). Buckhurst also won the Essex Premier Cup in 2018 and 2019 (including an 8-0 demolition of Shenfield in the 2019 final). After three years of success, suffice to say, Buckhurst had nothing left to prove in the Essex Olympian League. This season it obtained promotion to the Eastern Counties League (Step 6 of the non-league football pyramid). This is the highest level of football that Buckhurst has ever played at, and made it eligible to enter the VA Vase for the first time. Buckhurst took to the Eastern Counties League like ducks to water and has lost only 1 of their 7 league matches so far.

Enfield

Enfield is one of those “from the ashes” non-league clubs that went from glory, went into bankruptcy, then in 2007 was reborn in a new guise as “Enfield 1893”. During its glory days in the 1970s-1980s, Enfield won the FA Amateur Cup (the predecessor to the FA Vase) twice, and the Football Conference (the predecessor to today’s National League) and Isthmian League titles multiple times. It is a mark of how far that Enfield has fallen in the 21st century that Enfield Town (which was formed by disaffected Enfield supporters only 20 years ago) now plays in the Isthmian League Premier Division (Step 3) – which is 2 levels above Enfield; who play in the Essex Senior League (Step 5). 

Apart from hosting its first FA Vase game, today was also a big day for Buckhurst’s progression as the chairman of Epping Forest District Council opened a new 100-seat stand at the club’s stadium. Due to the difference in the levels the teams play at, I was expecting Buckhurst Hill to put up a brave fight against Enfield, but lose gallantly/go down fighting. 

THE GAME

There was still a long queue of people trying to get into the stadium by the time the game kicked off. The long gravelled car park was full and double parked in some places. Given the warm, beautiful, and bright sunshine, and the enormity of the occasion, the game was well attended. Many kids from Buckhurst’s youth football teams also attended, and made it seem like a family affair as their parents watched and cheered on Buckhurst.

The first 20 minutes of the game were quite even with and Enfield looked dangerous on the counter-attack. For most of the first half, one could not tell that this was a game between two teams who only a few seasons ago, were three levels apart on the non-league pyramid. Yet Nathan Sollosi put the underdogs Buckhurst ahead after about 30 minutes and the score remained 1-0 at half-time. 

I expected Enfield to mount a second half onslaught and lay siege to Buckhurst’s goal. After 60 minutes, Enfield’s Olly Miles hit a fierce long range drive that smashed against the under-side of the Buckhurst crossbar. From the rebound Buckhurst’s goalkeeper Daniel Blockley dived to his left to save a shot from Enfield’s Dwade James, jumped up his feet and a few seconds later, again dived to his left to divert another goal bound effort by Miles. It was excellent goalkeeping and a key moment in the match. I kept waiting for the inevitable Enfield siege and for their presumably greater fitness to show, but instead Buckhurst went 2-0 up in the 75th minute when Tyler Dolan ran through and side footed the ball into the left hand corner of Enfield’s net. Enfield’s players spent much of the second half arguing with each other and calling each other out for the way things were going. Then in the dying minutes of the game Josh Banfield ran through to put Buckhurst 3-0 up with a very similar goal to the one Dolan scored.

FULL-TIME: Buckhurst Hill 3 -v- Enfield 0

Goals: Sollosi, Dolan, and Banfield

Buckhurst players celebrating their third goal

POSTSCRIPT

After the game, Enfield’s (probably irate) coaching team gathered the players in the centre of the pitch for an inquest on the result. I overheard a disappointed veteran fan (who was at least 70-75 years old) comment in disbelief at Enfield’s performance “and they’re getting paid!”.

A few post-match thoughts… This is a huge upset. For a team that was playing local park football at Step 8 only a few seasons ago to defeat a team at Step 5 with a big reputation and history like Enfield, is very significant. I kept wondering why Enfield did not make its superior experience count, and why the supposed extra fitness of its players did not materialise into game dominance (as it usually does as this level). Maybe Enfield were too…experienced! I noticed in the first half that when an Enfield player was called across to take a throw-in, he had a stomach of a size one does not often see at this level of football. He also looked “gassed” by the time he got to the side of the pitch to take the throw in and did not look happy that his team-mates had asked him to cover extra ground by running across the pitch to take the throw in. Enfield also had 1-2 players who were very good on the ball, but not very mobile (probably veterans who have slowed down due to age and injuries). In contrast, Buckhurst Hill’s players were younger and seemed to have more energy. I think they surprised Enfield with how spritely they were. At times, Enfield did not have the legs to cope with the constant running of Buckhurst’s youthful players. I was impressed by the good decision making of Buckhurst’s Louis Wynter. He is not the fastest player, but clearly has a good football brain. 

Congratulations to Buckhurst on the biggest win its history. The club will also install new floodlights at its stadium in the near future. This is a sign that they plan to push for promotion to Step 5 and have already started putting facilities in place to meet the requirements at the higher level. A few years ago, I recall someone saying on a podcast that Buckhurst Hill is capable of playing a few levels higher. How right they were.

STARTING XIs:

Buckhurst Hill:

  1. Daniel Blockley
  2. Liam Foster
  3. Keaton Moore
  4. Alfie Harris
  5. Henry Day
  6. Louis Wynter
  7. Tyler Dolan
  8. Josh Banfield
  9. Sonny Shilling
  10. Suleyman Zuhdu
  11. Nathan Sollosi

Enfield: Jack Wilmott, Jack Folan, Alex Warman, Jack Johnson, Ryan Ramsay, Reece Conway (c), Olly Miles, Callum Ibe, Vinny Murphy, Dave Cowley, Dwade James

#FACup: @EnfieldTownFC -v- @DerehamTown


Enfield Town v Dereham Town

FA Cup, 1st Qualifying Round, Saturday September 4, 2021

Queen Elizabeth II Stadium

Premier League teams will not start competing in the FA Cup until next year. However, the FA Cup is already well under way for many other teams lower down the football pyramid. Amateur teams have already begun playing in the FA Cup’s qualifying round matches.

I decided to see Enfield Town v Dereham Town in the 1st qualifying round. Enfield Town is a splinter club from Enfield FC; one of the best and most well-known amateur football clubs in England, and multiple time former winners of the Football Conference (the predecessor to today’s National League). Ironically Enfield Town (which was formed by disaffected Enfield supporters only 20 years ago) now plays in the Isthmian League Premier Division (Step 3) – which is 2 levels above Enfield; who play in the Essex Senior League (Step 5).

Enfield Town’s opponents Dereham Town play in the Isthmian League North Division (Step 4) and are based in Norfolk (close to Norwich). They made the 100 mile/2 hour road journey south to play Enfield Town. After watching a very entertaining and high standard Step 5 game between St Panteleimon and Wokingham & Emmbrook last week, I was looking forward to this match-up between these two teams who play at higher levels (Steps 3 and 4).

Both teams were very fit and the game was played at a lively and intense pace. Enfield Town had a very impressive front trio of Andre Coker, Adam Cunnington, and Muhammadu Faal (a cousin of Liverpool’s Joe Gomez). The 6 feet 5 inch tall Faal was previously on the books at EFL team Bolton Wanderers. Physically, he has the tall and slender physique of a Nwankwo Kanu, but in playing style is a slick speedster. Despite having quick and skilful players like Faal and Coker on the pitch, I was disappointed by the unduly lengthy amount of time the ball spent in the air. Unlike St Panteleimon who last week, played a lovely passing game on the ground, both of Enfield and Dereham hit the ball very direct from back to front, and often bypassed their midfields. To be fair to Enfield, they have the player personnel to do this. Their center forward Adam Cunnington is a prototypical English “target man” striker type: tall, powerfully built, good in the air, holds the ball up, no pace. Enfield’s game plan was to hit high balls for Cunnington to head or flick on to the pacy duo of Coker and Faal.

However, Dereham started the brighter and in the first 10 minutes, forced two good saves from the Enfield goalkeeper Nathan McDonald. In the 43rd minute, Enfield got a throw in. As the unmarked Percy Kiangbeni received the ball from the throw in, I said to someone nearby: “the Dereham manager will go crazy if Enfield score from this”. Dereham did not close down Kiangbeni, and allowed him to float a long cross into the Dereham box. It was as if Dereham left Kiangbeni unmarked in an effort to see what would happen next. Lo and behold, Andre Coker controlled the ball and fired into the net to put Enfield in front just before half time. Side note about Kiangbeni: he was a member of the extremely successful New Salamis FC team that reached the semi-final of the FA Sunday Cup in 2017 (having won it the prior year).

Coker doubled Enfield’s lead in the second half (61 minutes) and at that stage, it looked like one way traffic. However, as I said last week, English teams rarely give up – even when losing by multiple goals. Dereham rallied and Toby Hilliard pulled a goal back for them in the 72nd minute. After then, Dereham went on the offensive. Despite Dereham spending uch of the remainder of the game attacking, and getting good spells of possession, Enfield’s defence held them at bay and held on for the win.

Above: Enfield players celebrating Andre Coker’s second goal.


FINAL SCORE: Enfield Town 2 v Dereham Town 1

Attendance: 405

Football Match Report: St Panteleimon -v- Wokingham & Emmbrook


St Panteleimon -v- Wokingham & Emmbrook

Saturday August 28, 2021, 3pm

Many of you know that football is my “other” love. 

Beneath the glamour and wealth of the Premier League lies the world of semi-professional football. England has probably the most organised “pyramid” system of football from the heights of the Premier League – down to the group of amateur local guys playing for fun in their local park. Semi-professional football lies somewhere in between. It is played in “proper” stadiums; albeit not gargantuan ones like Old Trafford or Wembley, but not the glorified cabbage patches that local amateur players are forced to play on in council parks.

St Panteleimon FC

On this front, I took an interest in local north London football club St Panteleimon FC (a former Sunday league team that switched to the FA official non-league pyramid). North London’s Greek Orthodox Christian Community established the club in 2015. The club started life as a Sunday league team in Division 2 of the KOPA Cypriot Sunday league, and won the Division 2 league and cup double in their first year of existence. After 2 successful years in the KOPA League, the club left Sunday football and switched to “official” Saturday pyramid football in 2017 and joined Division 1 (Central and East) of the Middlesex County League. They won Division 1 as undefeated champions at the first attempt, and were unbeaten all season. After also winning the Premier Division the following season at the first attempt an going undefeated for over 2 years, their undefeated record finally ended on the final day of the 2018-2019 season (after they had already won the league) when they lost to Indian Gymkhana Club. Another promotion followed to the Spartan South Midlands League (SSML).  

After two Covid disrupted seasons in the SSML (during which time it was often top of the league before it was voided), the club secured its fourth promotion in 6 years; this time to the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League (Step 5 of the non-league pyramid). The club now plays its home games at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium (home of Enfield FC).

St Panteleimon’s opponents in its third league game of this season was Wokingham and Emmbrook FC (WEFC) from Berkshire. Unlike St Panteleimon which is only 6 yeard old, WEFC has been a football club for over 140 years! The club changed its name in 2004 following a merger between two clubs: Wokingham Town and Emmbrook Sports.

The Match

The two teams started the game with contrasting formations. WEFC lined up 4-4-1-1 and St Panteleimon (the “Saints” as they are nicknamed) played in a very fluid 4-3-3 formation (although it took some time to decipher this – such was the fluidity of their midfield and attacking players’ movement and inter-changing of positions). We were also treated to the unusual sight of a player wearing number 20 (Roberto Katsikas) playing in central defence for St Panteleimon.

St Panteleimon’s players are very comfortable on the ball and happy to pass it on the ground. They often passed the ball out from defence with slick 1 and 2 touch passing and they were very technically adept. It was refreshing to see a team at this level insist on passing no matter which area of the pitch the ball is in, and not relying on “play the percentages”, “hit the channels” or other such tired clichés. Surprisingly, they looked more composed than a match I saw last week between FC Romania and Welwyn Garden City in the FA Cup (both of those teams play at Step 4 – at a standard that is supposed to be above that which St Panteleimon plays at). 

St Panteleimon was the better team in the first half and WEFC did well to keep it scoreless at half-time. 

HALF TIME SCORE 0-0

Second Half

IMG-20210828-STP v WEFC1

WEFC showed commendable spirit and character to come back into game and put St Panteleimon on the back foot. St Panteleimon also made it much harder than they needed to by taking their foot off the gas and by misplacing passes. A flurry of 3 substitutions in quick succession also unsettled its team, as after those substitutions, they never looked as composed and fluid as they did in the first half. As WEFC pushed for an equaliser, they left gaps in defence. Javonne Molloy crossed from the right hand side, and the unfortunate Callum Eagle of WEFC accidentally knocked the ball into his own net.

In the second half, the Saints started much as they had finished the first half. Their players were technically adroit: with lots of studs on the ball, drag backs, and languid technique. St Panteleimon finally took a deserved lead in the 55th minute when Ayub Albadri fired a left footed shot into the roof of the net. 10 minutes later, Guilherme Monti doubled the lead from the penalty spot. I expected an avalanche of St Panteleimon goals, but an idiosyncrasy of British football is that teams rarely give up. Even when things are going against the, most teams like to go down fighting. Despite being 0-2 down WEFC would not lie down and started pressurising the Saints. With only 10 minutes of the game remaining, WEFC got their own penalty. Joshua Harris hit the ball to the  goalkeeper’s left, and even though he got a hand to it, the ball squirmed under his body and over the line.

FINAL SCORE: St Panteleimon -v- Wokingham & Emmbrook

Attendance: 28

St Panteleimon is a team on the up. In just over half a decade of existence it has moved from local Sunday league football, shot up from Step 8 to Step 5 of the non-league pyramid, and now finds itself at a level where it can compete in the FA Cup.

“No snowflakes here!”

The drama did not end at the final whistle though. St Panteleimon’s manager George Frangeskou is a demanding man. He clearly knows how to handle himself too as 12 few years ago, he chased down two muggers who had stolen money from an elderly man, caught them, and forced them to return the money they stole to the victim. After his team won this game, he gave them instant post-match feedback by the side of the pitch. The very impressive Ahmed Doukhi reacted badly to being substituted in the second half and took issue with Frangeskou’s feedback. As the two argued, Frangeskou point-blank told the player “I do not need your disrespect” and told him to get changed and leave. Frangeskou did not simmer down after the argument with Doukhi, and told another player that he had made an “unacceptable” mistake during the game, based on which “I wouldn’t pick you for my Sunday team”. Another spectator overheard these exchanges and jokingly told me: 

“No snowflakes here!”

#Nigeria’s Nostalgia for the #British Empire


#Nigeria is one of the few countries in the world where people actually think of colonialism as a golden age” – why is this so?

Click here for a podcast discussion that @TheAfricaReport hosted with me, Barnaby Philips, and Funmi Adebayo regarding the legacy of colonialism in Nigeria.

If you prefer other platforms, you can also access the podcast on:


Follow me on Twitter

#Nigeria’s Military: A Problem and a Potential Solution?


This is an article I wrote in Foreign Policy magazine regarding how Nigeria’s military is ironically a cause of the country’s problems and also a potential solution for them.

Follow me on Twitter

Huge Rejection of #Nigeria’s Unity


The week before last I posted a poll: “If #Nigeria held a referendum on national unity today, how would you vote?” The results were not great for those who believe in Nigerian unity. A whopping 80% of responses voted for a fundamental change to Nigeria. 35% want the country to break-up, and 44.6% of people voted for Nigeria to be turned into a confederation.

The vote result was a massive rejection of Nigeria’s current structure. Only 20% of people want Nigeria to continue as currently structured The fact that more than a third of people want Nigeria to end is deeply worrying.

The British Empire in West Africa (Podcast)



Podcast interview with Dan Snow of on-demand History Channel History Hit regarding a part of the British Empire that rarely gets attention (West Africa/Nigeria). This podcast is a precis of how and why despite originally being called “The White Man’s Grave”, Britain conquered territories in that part of the world.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-britain-did-to-nigeria/id1042631089?i=1000516240291

Why do London Teams Perform So Poorly in the FA Sunday Cup?


The FA’s recent announcement that the 2019-2020 FA Sunday Cup tournament is likely to be completed is welcome news. The competition was at its semi-final stage when Covid struck and prematurely ended the season. For the first time in four years a team from London (Portland FC) is in the semi-final. London has strangely under-achieved in the FA Sunday Cup. Only two teams from London have won the FA Sunday Cup in the last 26 years. Despite being Britain’s capital and having a massive footballing population – boasting more teams and players than any other city or county, London lags far behind the teams from northern England (especially Liverpool) who have almost turned the cup into their personal possession. 11 of the last 15 FA Sunday Cup winners were from either Liverpool or Durham County areas.

In this year’s tournament, the London champions Lambeth All Stars were knocked out after losing 0-3 to St Joseph’s from Luton, and highly heralded “YouTube Team” Baiteze Squad lost in round 2 after losing 1-2 to Shire United from the Thames Valley Sunday League.

So why do London teams under-perform in this competition?

1) Lack of Motivation. Northern teams (especially those from Liverpool) treat the FA Sunday Cup as their top priority every season. For Sunday footballers from that region, this cup is their Champions League and is the most glamorous competition they can play in. It is common to see virtually every team from the top two divisions of the Liverpool Business Houses League enter this cup.

Yet, London teams do not seem to bother with this competition! For example, only 4 of the 127 entrants in the 2019-2020 competition were from London. Yet about 25-30 teams from the Liverpool area enter this cup every year. However, London, with its nine million citizens, entered only 4 teams. Even Portland who are “flying the flag for London” are technically from Surrey since the club has its roots in Croydon (on the south London-Surrey border). New Salamis (who won this cup in 2016) were the last London team to make this cup a priority and entered it every season until they left Sunday football to become a Saturday team in 2018. Since then, London has relapsed to the usual under-achievement in this cup. Despite having hundreds of teams and thousands of eligible players, over 98% of London teams never enter the cup. Why are London teams so apathetic about this cup?

2) Ground Grading Requirements. The competition’s rules require games to be played on a separate roped off pitch, and for the home team to provide hospitality facilities for both sets of players and spectators. Those are pipe dreams for most London Sunday teams. In busy and congested London, many teams play on council parks with several pitches/games going on side by side.

Facilities and stadia improve as one moves further away from London (because in a built up city like London there are few spaces to have even a basic football pitch). Most matches in the London Sunday Challenge Cup (London’s premier Sunday cup competition) are played on pitches that would not be accepted even at a step 7 Saturday league! (the lowest level in Saturday football) Some Sunday teams play on pitches that are not fit to walk a dog on, let alone play football. For example, games on Sunday mornings at Hackney Marshes in east London resemble gigantic scrums with hundreds of players playing on pitches only a few feet away from adjacent games and pitches. This geographic imbalance in facilities gives northern teams an advantage as they can more easily hire grounds that meet the FA’s ground grading rules.

For a London team, good quality facilities mean that they have to travel far to play even their home games. Hence a “home” game for a London team in the FA Sunday Cup may involve travelling to another county like Essex or Middlesex. For example, when New Salamis FC (from north London) were a Sunday team they usually played their home games at Cheshunt in Hertfordshire or Enfield in Middlesex. The fact they had to travel to other counties to play “home” games demonstrates the challenge of good football facilities in London.

The Orpington & Bromley District Sunday League (OBDSFL) is a notable exception. Many OBDSFL teams are based in south London or Kent. Unusually for a Sunday league, the OBDSFL has ground grading requirements for teams in its top 2 divisions (which are probably stricter than step 7 pitch requirements). As a result, several OBDSFL clubs play at some of the best grounds one can find in amateur football. For example SE Dons play at Cray Wanderers’ Flamingo Park in Kent, and Kenningwell United play their home games at King’s College’s plush facilities. Yet neither team entered the FA Sunday Cup despite having the facilities to do so.

The reluctance of London teams to enter has led to some mockery and “banter” from northern teams who ridicule London teams for always boasting about how good they are, but never actually bother to prove it by competing in the premier Sunday football competition in the country. The advertising and sponsorship income that YouTube teams such as Baiteze Squad, SE Dons, and Rising Ballers generate mean that they can afford to enter this competition and the associated costs of travel and playing around the country.

Moreover, the competition would be enriched by having more London teams in it. In boxing it is often said that “styles make fights”. That is also true of football with its geography based variations in playing style. Northern teams tend to be very organised, physical, and defensively solid. Conversely, London teams have more flair, take greater risks, and play a more rapid passing game.

YouTube teams from London have done very well to raise the profile of Sunday football. Yet they will never earn the respect of northern teams (as New Salamis did) until they win this cup.

Book Opening Video – #WhatBritainDidtoNigeria


If you want to “try out” the new book What Britain Did to Nigeria, you can do so via the video kindly produced by reader Adekunle Shotubo. He produced this excellent video that previews the book’s cover, print quality, jacket, imagery, and text. Feel free to take a look at this preview of #WBDTN.

The Return of Sunday Football: the Good, Bad, and Ugly



There are three footballing matters to discuss this week: first is the suspension of non-elite football in England, second is the 2019-20 FA Sunday Cup, and the third is the challenge of how to finish the uncompleted Sunday league games.

On Monday, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the “roadmap” timetable for the UK’s route out of the Covid related lockdown restrictions. While football leagues from the National League North and South (two divisions below the professional football league) have been declared void for a second successive season, grassroots football fans will have reason to celebrate. Sunday football leagues (which had been on hiatus for the last 4 months) will be happy to hear that they may resume playing from March 29, 2021.

My opinion is that it was a mistake to void the last football season (2019-2020) when the majority of games had already been played. The FA should either have completed the season using points per game average, or allowed the outstanding season fixtures to be played between August-November 2020. That would have avoided the scenario of two consecutive null and void seasons. Two consecutive void seasons will also cause all sorts of injustice. For example, some clubs had almost unassailable leads at the top of their divisions in the 2019-20 season and were certain to be promoted.  Good examples are St Panteleimon and New Salamis who were first and second of the Spartan South Midlands League and were set for promotion until the season was cancelled. They basically won all those games/did all that hard work for nothing. Two seasons later, some teams who were in promotion positions have lost players while rival teams have strengthened. This will mean that without the attraction of promotion, they may be “stuck” in their current division (which they should have been promoted out of – 2 seasons ago!).

Although England is unusual for separately grading its football based on the day of the week it is played, the suspension of the semi-professional leagues from the National League North and South downwards (who play primarily on Saturdays) and the continuation of Sunday leagues, are related. Although many Saturday semi-professional footballers look down their nose at Sunday football for being “inferior”, they may soon have to embrace the game they so disdain. Since they will not have any competitive football to play for another 6 months, joining and playing Sunday football is the most viable option for them to maintain their fitness and play football. Given that Sunday football generally has less travel than Saturday football, that could be a very attractive option for them. They can work on Saturdays and earn money to replace their lost income from not playing for their regular Saturday teams, and play on Sundays without the hassle of having to travel long distances for away games. However, joining Sunday league clubs will come with its own complications.

Firstly, if more semi-pro players start joining Sunday clubs, it could distort the balance of power and competition in Sunday leagues. Money and funding impacts football even at this amateur level. Very good Saturday players will want to play for bigger Sunday clubs who are well funded enough not to charge their players “subs” (subscription fees which Sunday clubs charge their players to cover the club’s expenses). Or the “trophy hunters” among them will want to play for the most successful Sunday clubs where they have the best chance of winning trophies. In other words, the already strong teams are likely to get even stronger.

Conversely, teams who have already been knocked out of their cup competitions or who have little chance of promotion or winning their leagues, may not be the most attractive option. In fact such clubs may lose players who do not want to play meaningless matches. In other words, the already weak teams are likely to get even weaker. Either way this could have a disruptive effect on team harmony as regular players may feel resentful if they are dropped or replaced by a semi-professional player who is joining the club temporarily.

There is also the operational challenge of how to complete the outstanding Sunday fixtures in only three months. Some clubs such as the current London Sunday champions Lambeth All Stars played only 5 league games before the Sunday league season was suspended. To complete their outstanding league and cup fixtures will require such clubs to play the dreaded “double headers” (two successive matches on the same day), and/or play midweek games. Getting players for midweek games is always a challenge as some players have work commitments during the week.

On the upside this does mean that we are likely to see a large volume of games condensed into a very short time frame.

FA SUNDAY CUP

The FA Sunday Cup is Sunday football’s answer to the FA Cup. It is a nationwide cup competition for English Sunday football clubs. Due to Covid the FA cancelled 2020-2021 edition of this competition. This was not surprising since the 2019-2020 competition has not been completed. It was suspended last year at the semi-final stage.

Of the four semi-finalists, Portland FC from south London will be flying the flag for London against St Joseph’s from Luton, Peterlee Catholic Club from Durham, and Campfield from Liverpool. Portland have been in existence for over 40 years but face a massive challenge in the semi-final. To reach the final they must beat St Joseph’s who have reached the final of this competition 5 times before. St Joseph’s can also claim to be “London slayers” as they have already eliminated two excellent clubs from London in earlier rounds. They beat London champions Lambeth All Stars (who are widely hailed as one of the best Sunday teams in the south-east of the UK) in round 3, and in round 4 they also beat the highly rated Sporting Club de Mundial from the Hackney & Leyton League.


The second semi-final will feature Campfield; who were the 2015 FA Sunday Cup winners, and two time former champions of the Liverpool Business Houses League (which is probably the strongest Sunday league in the entire UK, and in which several other FA Sunday Cup winners have played in). Campfield’s semi-final opponents Peterlee Catholic Club represent a social club in County Durham and are the reigning champions of the Peterlee & District Sunday League (which they won in the 2019-20 season after winning every single game). In fact they have won their league two times in the last three seasons. They are also currently top of their league this season, and are again undefeated with a 100% record.

The FA intends to complete the competition by June. It is great to have Sunday football back, and I am very much looking forward to see various competitions restart, and who will be crowned Sunday champions of England.