European Masters Tournament Lignano Sabbiadoro 2016

Foreword: The tongue needs to be inserted firmly in the cheek before reading this and no offence is intended towards anybody :)

Thursday 31.03.16

Well here we go, the first wave of players arrived at Gatwick only to find the wrong cars had been registered to the wrong drivers and £20 notes were changing hands to cover the extra cost that would be required to cover the additional day when collecting the cars. Had this set the scene for the next 5 days? Only time would tell.

£24.99 for an evening meal (+ 1 free drink) and unlimited breakfast the next morning….. who’s in and who’s out? What are you doing? I dunno what are you doing? How much is it? What time is it? That’s too early, what about the others what time are they getting here? Do we need to book? Why can’t we just turn up? Let’s just book in I need a beer! It was evident that that trying to organise 17 fifty plus menopausal walking footballers (and Iain) was going to be a big ask.

The beer was a priority and JD Wetherspoons in the South Terminal was calling loudly. Lakhi & Harry lead the way and it was at this point we realised that Harry was not as tight as rumour would have it. Out came his big wad and we knew we were going to be in for a good weekend. The beers went down quickly, too quickly some might say, and we started to learn a bit more about our fellow Amblers. Three wives and eight kids you’re having a laugh! No, said Harry I used to work in the NHS, it’s a great place for pulling the women and I was a catch in my younger days!?

My round said Paul, who was just beginning to show us his hidden ability to consume lager at the same rate as Bunker, Lakhi are you sure you should? Wouldn’t you be better off joining Bally & John in the coffee shop? No boss, another San Miguel for me, said Lakhi, I’m on my holidays now.

Time to get back for phase one of the £24.99 extravaganza. I need the little boys room babbled Lakhi, as the obvious effects of his 10 pints become evident. Eventually he returns with a young Sikh lad, not another unexpected revelation surely? Look what I found in the gents, it’s my cousin and he is looking for a small holding. The mind boggles.

Late for dinner and still in shock at bumping into his “cousin” Lakhi eventually sat down for dinner and his 1 free drink. The relative calm of the dinner table was disrupted by stories of the young man and what he was doing in the South terminal, none of which were totally believable, but I’m sure will be the subject of further discussion on a Friday night. Dinner complete time to join the wave two lads in the bar, hold on, who is that on the floor, oh dear the chair has collapsed and it could only have been one person.

The full Ambler contingent was assembled in the bar waiting for news of the two squads, what time we had to go to bed, what time we had to be up and what we had to wear. Unfortunately, team news was not forthcoming, there were things Micky G needed to sleep on, the psychological and mental state of some of the players was playing heavy on his mind and some of the reports emanating from the South terminal bar were giving him some serious concerns.

Friday 01.04.16

Alarm at 5 o’bloody clock, are you sure Micky G wasn’t playing an April fool joke on us? Nope 5.30 for breakfast, blue tour tops and black track suit bottoms and don’t forget the receipts from last night’s dinner for the second half of your £24.99 special. There were a few quiet bodies around the breakfast bar including one with a very red face and sunglasses, no prizes for putting a name on that one. Vacate the rooms and down here for 6.30, squads will be announced.

Yellows will be Bunker, Roy, Harry, Dobby, Lakhi, Hong Kong Fuey Dave, Alan, Paul and John Handel.

Blues will be Mickey G, Mickey H, Barry M, Bally, Walshy, Colin, Ray and Mel.

Amblers refereeing assistant Iain C.

Right boys you need to start thinking seriously about what we are going to Italy for this weekend. It’s going to be a tough tournament and we don’t want to embarrass ourselves. The mood changed almost instantaneously, had everybody remembered their heart tablets? Have I got my beta-blockers? Have we got enough pain killers to go round? Questions were being asked.

Where do we go now, where do we check in? you’re already checked-in, you can go straight through, but where is Mick going? He has got the kit and that has to be checked-in, normal service had been resumed. The intelligence test was failed by a number of people as the liquids amnesty area uncovered a few chancers who were looking to flout the rules. Mel lost his 200ml invisible grease-free, spray-on sun block, Walshy was complaining about losing his favourite moisturiser and Alan couldn’t understand why he couldn’t take a 500ml carton of milk through.

It’s been delayed, good I need the loo. Who does she remind you of? Look at the state of that one! Although the bar was only arms-length from where everybody was sitting the players were already heeding Mick’s earlier warning and showed great restraint by resisting the temptation. It’s up, Gate 14, that’s right down the other end. Let’s go, who’s bag is that? Where has Colin gone?

Gate 14, and Baz was busy chatting with an acquaintance from some previous job, that’s nice we thought, little did we know what that job was and what lay ahead of us.

Can you move over, I want the aisle seat, with my knee and my hip you can’t expect me to sit in the middle. Mick H was playing the old soldier card and the younger team members had no option but to fall into line.

What the hell is going on back there what’s all that screaming and shouting about? Is he having a heart attack or is he just a nut case? Why are those people sitting on him? Are those handcuffs? How many people are with him? Throw the rascal off, I don’t want to have to listen to that all the way to Italy. Can’t they put gaffer tape over his mouth? No someone died before when they did that. It was becoming evident that Baz knew more about this situation than he was letting on.

Stooooop….. Stooooop…….. Stoooooop……. I’m not safe…. Stooooop….. Stooooooop driver….. Stoooop………. 50 bloody minutes of this before the record changed and the deportee suggested he would like to have sex with our mothers and our sisters. Guys we have some ladies sitting at the back that feel very threatened by what is going on, would you be so kind as to change seats. Six brave Amblers reluctantly obliged and the 4 ladies and 2 gentlemen swapped seats. It carried on and there were various suggestions about how we could address the situation. Knock the rascal out, we should all give him a right hander that would shut him up suggested Roy. It’s alright said Baz as soon as we take-off he will quieten down, trying to reassure everybody that we were not going to have to endure another hour and forty minutes of that noise and abuse. Thank god for iPods and headphones.

Well he did eventually shut up and the rest of the flight passed by in relative peace, but it does beg the question why do normal people (Amblers excluded) have to put up with that when they are paying hard earned money for their flight.

Having arrived safely in Venice and manged to master the electronic passport machines the Amblers trekked to the coach park, this was the start of what was to be a lot of walking over the weekend.

An hour and twenty minutes later we arrived at the Ge Tur complex in Lignano Sabbiadoro. The town looked as though it was deserted and we were not far wrong, as we later discovered the holiday season doesn’t start until May.

We were given our wrist bands, luncheon vouchers for meals and allocated our rooms… time to explore the environment. Where is the beach? Must be over there? Why must it be over there? I can hear seagulls! You can hear seagulls in Hillingdon but that doesn’t mean there’s a beach there! Yep fair point Micky H.

500 yards and there are the pitches, nicely marked out with Samba goals. We can play on that, of course we can, we can play anywhere. Where is the beach? it’s that way. Another 200 yards and we come across the fantastic beach of Lignano Sabbiadoro. There was not a sole on it but you could imagine what it would look like in the height of summer.

700 yards walking and most people had worked up a thirst, some intrepid Amblers (Lakhi and Hong Kong Fuey Dave) aimed for the pier while the majority headed 700 yards back to the bar. A couple of hours and a few beers later the Cove team arrived, a few pleasantries were exchanged and they encouraged us to carry on drinking the low calorie lager we were getting used to. We obliged knowing the importance of keeping oneself hydrated in the searing Italian heat, all 17 degrees of it.

By this time the fantastic four of Colin, Walshy, Bally and Ray had been taken in by the beauty queen looks of the barmaid Mary and the levels of flirting had reached new heights. Must be my round said Ray, no you got the last one must be mine replied Colin, take the empties back the woman is rushed off her feet poor thing. These were levels of flirting that Anne and Ruth back in Uxbridge could only dream about. More chips (crisps to you and I) boys she asked in her best English, it was now becoming very clear what their game was.

Time to redeem the first of the luncheon vouchers, lentil soup, rigatoni pasta in tomato sauce, some kind of fish and something in a thick yellow sauce. Umm soup and a roll and the pasta look to be the safest bet, can’t afford any stomach upsets before tomorrow’s first round of games. Well I’m off out, I can’t eat any of that. Obviously the offering was not to every bodies taste, but after a long day most people just took what was on offer and after a couple of nightcaps headed for bed.

Saturday 02.04.16

Well here we are, the big day had arrived Blues kicking off in the morning, Yellows in the afternoon. What was for breakfast though, sausage, bacon, fried eggs anticipation was high as the Amblers came down two by two. Oh! cheese and ham some kind of omelette/scrambled egg combo and of course the fresh rolls. Earl grey or green tea Paul asked Alan? Micky Harvey was looking particularly smug as he tore the top off of the English breakfast tea that had been borrowed from the Premier Inn, smuggled, not very successfully, through airport security and customs and was now awaiting the addition of hot water for his enjoyment.

What’s that? I’ll have one of them. The very well put together tournament guides were being distributed around the breakfast tables and it wasn’t long before the head waiter recognised a star in his mist. He picked out Micky G from the picture and said he seen him many times before but was not sure where. You are a star the head waiter commented to Mick, yep that’s right a porn star, made hundreds of films. That’s right I have seen most of them replied the waiter, you are big in Italy. I’m big everywhere Mick shyly replied.

News of the importance of one of their guests soon spread to the waitresses and the kitchen staff and heads were popping around the swing door at a rate of knots. We have to make sure you keep your energy levels up said the waiter, I will make sure you have big portion for the rest of your stay. Enough said.

Blue team outside 9.15 fully kitted out I want a word, Mick had now put his football head back on and was preparing for battle. He was not best pleased with the late arrival of one of the players who seemed to be suffering with some kind of red knee syndrome. What the hell is going on with those knees, what have you been doing with them? Sorry I’m late Mick, I’ve had a bit of a problem with my Boots own brand rub.

The team talk was calm but we were under no illusions as to what was required.

Southampton Strollers – Match report to follow

Cove B - Next up was an experienced Cove B side that contained the Sherriff of Nottingham look alike. They didn’t quite get the joke until it was explained to them. More info required

Norwich - Last up was an eventful match against the Norwich A team. Micky H taking a dig to the ribs and then threatening retribution. Lots of whinging and moaning from Shrek and after being 4-1 up ran out 4-2 winners.

Lunch was again another offering of soup, rigatoni pasta in tomato sauce, fish and something that resembled pork but tasted nothing like it, but after the mornings exploits anything was welcome.

Paul was having a pre-tournament nap, but Alan was most concerned about his welfare. I think he’s dead said Alan, give him a poke no you poke him, I’m not doing that he might hit me.