Red is the colour of the year, Kuwait or Spain, UAE or Ireland. Alvin Thomas meets another bunch of boys who proudly wore the popular national football colours in Barcelona and came back home with flying colours.
Team Red may have made us all proud in Kuwait following their historic win against the United Arab Emirates in the 23rd Gulf Cup. But there’s another group of boys – again, clad in red – who travelled continents to uphold the name of the Sultanate – and have emerged victorious.
The team, which go by the name ‘CBD Boys’, represented Oman in the prestigious Euro Fives tournament in Barcelona, and created history by winning the trophy. The team went up against 32 teams from countries around the world, including England, France, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, Latvia, Denmark and Switzerland.
The five-a-side team, consisting of Arjun Nanda, Daley Mathias, Deepesh Mehta, Rubik Menezes and David Gallego, had a rather shaky start. They were drawn in the same group as the previous tournament winners and other strong debutants.
They lost their first match by one goal and the second by two – thereby dipping their hopes of progressing to the knockout round. But the boys soon got to grips with the cold climate and the pitch to pull off a stunning draw against the Leek High Boys from Ireland, and then two wins against Prospe FC (Spain) and Sigurdsson’s Advice Bureau (Iceland).
“I must admit that our team morale hit an all-time low, as it put us in a tricky situation to qualify for the knockout rounds. Nevertheless, having multiple experiences of being in such a position as a team and recovering together in the past at tournaments in the Sultanate provided us with the motivation to give it our maximum effort till the last minute of the final group game,” said the striker, Daley Mathias, in an exclusive interview with Y.
“A ‘never give up’ attitude is key as a team, since football is a sport filled with upsets and comebacks throughout its history, be it on the international, domestic or grass root stage,” he added.
A place in the knockout stage was still far away, though. But then the unthinkable happened: The strong Danish team dropped points in their last group game, leaving the Omani team within a shy of the next round.
“A wise man once quoted that ‘luck favours the brave’ and fortunately we were handed with a golden ticket by the Danish team that failed to win their final two games. Goal difference and a win in our last game was all we needed to qualify, and we were not going to let this opportunity slip.
“The rest is history,” he remarked.
Now, all they had to do was beat the previous champions, Deportivo Dooradoyle, from Switzerland. And guess what? Daley Mathias and Rubik Menezes rose to the occasion, scoring a goal apiece, to seal victory.
Oman’s next target (in the quarterfinals) was the CAP FC boys from the United States. They recreated scenes from the previous game, scoring two vital goals, to take the country into the semi-finals.
There, it was the team’s defence power that kept the English from scoring any goals. David Gallego, Oman’s Spanish-born keeper, was crucial in keeping a clean slate throughout the knock-off stages. In the end, however, it was Daley Mathias’ golden goal in extra time that took Oman to the final.
“We conceded silly goals in our opening games since we tried to attack from the first minute, which led to opening gaps in our defence. From our third game, we took a step back and let the opposition teams have the ball.”
“Our aim was to hit them on the counter the moment they faltered. Given the pace Rubik Menezes and I possessed, it became easier too. Another additional point was the chemistry we both had developed over the years as attackers playing together since high school.”
Now all that laid ahead of these victory-hungry boys was the Leek High Boys team from Ireland – a team that the CBD Boys had earlier drawn with.
Following kick-off, the boys from the Sultanate had to keep their defence tight. But the formidable team led by Tommy Coates pushed – and pushed hard. But, David Gallego, Deepesh Mehta and Arjun Nanda sweat it out to keep all advances away.
“Most importantly, our defence Deepesh Mehta and Arjun Nanda was second to none. They were absolutely phenomenal clocking in clean sheet after clean sheet. It was an absolute joy to be playing ahead of them as I was confident that our goal was protected on all fronts.”
But a win was still far, far away, or so they thought.
Rubik Menezes from the CBD Boys soon lobbed the ball into the far corner of the net, and the win was sealed when Daley Mathias added a second and a third goal to finally create history for Oman in the tournament.
October 14 marked a new piece of tournament history in the 12 years of Euro Fives as the team from Oman were crowned the first winners from the Middle East.