Oleg Luzhny 5-a-side Charity Invitational Report – Gunners Town Exclusive

July 14
is an important date in history. It marks the fall of the Bastille at the start
of the French revolution, 1789. On July 14 in 1951, the first colour telecast
of a sporting event took place in America. This significant date also plays
host to Sunderland Winger Adam Johnson’s birth in 1987.

But in
reality, all these events pale in comparison to 2013. July the 14 can now lay
claim to an even more prestigious event: The Oleg Luzhny Invitational, in aid
of The Homeless FA.

The most
respected five-a-side tournament since the one where Arsenal invited some kids
to play on their pitch; The Oleg Luzhny Invitational saw dozens of teams
compete on the astroturf in Shoreditch, east London. With four groups of five-a-side
teams, the competition was tough on its players.

“The ‘keepers were
really good,” said Sam Oliver, from group C competitors Ho’way the Goon. “I think
they were on some kind of hormone steroids because they were all over the
place! It didn’t quite go as planned for us because we didn’t actually win of
the matches… but we had a good laugh.”

Photo: Tim Stillman (@LittleDutchVA)
tries to nip at the heels of Sam Oliver (@smoliver96)

David Blumstein, who had also entered the competition for a second consecutive
year, added: “I thought we did really well, everything was really good – apart
from the football.”

The final
group C standings meant that RL United finished top of the table with the
maximum 9 points and an impressive goal difference of +12. Twitternazionale joined
them in the quarter finals, finishing on 6 points. The other two teams,
Undisclosed FC and Ho’way the Goon were both knocked out at the group stage
having conceded 15 goals between them.

This year’s glitzy
event attracted athletes from far and wide; Josh Morgan from Ho’way the Goon
said au revoir to France and hello to London for his shot at the trophy shield,
while the Welsh Messi’s captain Kevin Rowe had travelled down from Norwich. Unfortunately,
his side were cruelly defeated by the would-be runners up, FC Copenbadly, in
the quarter-finals.

Photo: @Welsh_Gooner
a.k.a The Welsh Messi trying some fancy footwork in a group stage match.

But it was
not all tears before teatime for those knocked out in the group stages.

“We got the
goal of the tournament, easily,” The Subways frontman and Ho’way the Goon
player Billy Lunn claimed. “It came in off the keeper – our only goal – the
best celebration of the whole tournament.
I think the play has been Messi-esqe.”

Polar bears, Gonean Republic, Undisclosed FC, Lyme Farm Llamas and the Piebury
Corner team were all knocked out early on in the competition, but many stayed
to enjoy the good weather pitchside (and some to simply lie exhausted on the

Other notable
names on the squad sheet included comedian Rob Beckett, who was in the squad of
reigning champions the N5 Cosmos.

Photo: Comedian Rob Beckett (@robbeckettcomic)
keeps his eyes on the ball in battle.

“I think it
[performance] depends on how tempting the beer gets,” the stand-up comedian
said. “I’ve heard chats about disposable barbeques already at the park. There’s
not a lot of commitment.” Regrettably, Beckett’s comments rung true as the
title-holders were knocked out following a shock 2-0 loss to Sporting Abeergut
in the quarter-finals.

Liam Doyle,
Sporting Abeergut’s captain, proudly told us of the club’s origins: “I named it
after my beer gut.” His team could only go so far though, as, they recorded a
2-3 loss in the semi-finals despite an impressive 12 goals scored throughout
the tournament.

In spite of
the blazing heat and a rowdy crowd – who often interrupted the serious on-pitch
competition to ask “Is this on?” as they clamoured to try out the megaphone – two
teams rose above the rest to fight it out for the title of the Oleg Luzhny

Oleg’s Army,
named after the tournament’s namesake, began their road to the final by topping
group D on a goal difference of 9, after which they saw off the highly-fancied
Twitternazionale 4-3 in the quarters. They followed their performances up with another
3-2 victory versus Sporting Abeergut in the semis – all that remained in their
path were FC Copenbadly.

Though they
only finished as runners up of group B, FC Copenbadly bravely had made their
way through the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory against the Welsh Messi’s. RL
United were no match for them in the semi-finals as they went through to the
final with a solid 2-1 win.

But in the
end, the score line read 3-1 in favour of Oleg’s Army, who were crowned the new
champions of London’s most respected 5-a-side tournament.

“It’s the
best day of my life, it’s up there with the birth of my two children,” said the
suspiciously young-looking Capitan Elliot Dagul. “We fancied ourselves, so
credit to the lads, we carried on going and we are absolutely delighted,” his
teammate Joshua added. The boys had deployed their tactics of “play the player,
not the ball” to clinch the victory, saying that they had each given “110%” to
win each of their games.

Photo: The winners of The Oleg Luzhny
Invitational 2012: Oleg’s Army, captained by Elliot Dagul.

After the
winners had held their new shield aloft for the applauding crowd, the remaining
group of weary footballers made their way to Piebury Corner in Highbury, who
had kindly opened their shop late on Sunday evening to accommodate the hungry

As the
players eagerly tucked into their reward for the day, Chief Executive of the
Homeless FA Gareth Parker and event organiser Will Sparks discussed the
successful day: “About two and a half years ago I got approached to set up a
charity, a national organisation, managing all project and football clubs that
use football to engage and turn the lives around of homeless people,” Gareth

“It was my
idea,” Will remarked. “The idea from last year was that we carry it on and try
to raise a bit more money – more extras and have the same core teams come

“We have a
smaller one in February which raises quite a bit of money and that’s a kind of
taster for what’s coming in the summer. The teams can’t get as much game time
as they can in a smaller one but we do what we can with the allocated time and
how much money we can pay. We will definitely make it annual from now on.”

accomplishments of Oleg’s Army and their competitors will be greeted with enthusiasm
from those at the charity whose lives have been saved by football, as well as
those who enjoyed the sport on the day. In the meantime however, July the 14
will be firmly marked as the time to catch next year’s cream of the five-a-side
challengers compete once more.

A massive thanks to Will Sparks and Billy Kingsmill for organising the day. I’m sure they’ll work as hard as they did this year to ensure the same success next time round.


On top of Paula’s
fantastic report, I’d just like to thank everyone who came along and to
everyone who helped with the organisation of the tournament, especially Billy
Kingsmill! Also a huge thanks to Myles Burrell for being our photographer for
the day, and also to Shannon and Paula for being our media duo. I’d urge
everyone to try and get involved next year and support a great cause such as
The Homeless FA. The last two tournaments have raised over £1,000 for The
Homeless FA who use football as an initiative towards improving the lives of
homeless people. Thanks for reading and I hope to see most of you involved next
year. Thanks for hosting @GunnersTown !

Will Sparks

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