On an overcast Sunday in November 2021, the defending champions Old Stars met the league leaders Gunners FC in what proved to be the mother of old clichés.
The Gunners FC, led by talisman and leading scorer Paulo Rocci, entered the finals undefeated in the season and twice victors over the Old Stars. The light drizzle and overcast skies over the Upper Groveway Park’s synthetic pitch made the setting for a very entertaining match.
The Old Stars were there early with what seemed like a squad of 30 while the Gunners trickled in with a squad 12 at kickoff with a couple of others joining in later. The Old Stars, led my long time Atlanta soccer character Tom Elias, seemed eager to get started while Sean Alexanders’ Gunners were relaxed with a noticeable aire of confidence.
The skeptics in the stands wondered how the Old Stars were able to adjust to having such a large bench and being down. Many were saying that if Tom Elias was to begin any kind of rotation, the team would fall apart. However, Tom did not make the wholesale changes that many predicted…instead he made very little changes.
The first half was a back and forth battle with the Gunners having the majority of possession and more opportunities. It looked like it would be 0-0 at half time when the Gunners got a goal at the end of the first half. The second half started much like the first half with the gunners scoring a second goal. At this point, it looked like the Gunners were cruising for an easy victory.
Around 5 minutes into the second half someone looked over to the Gunners bench and noticed that a trophy had appeared on the bench. A few minutes later, the trophy had moved to the front and people realized what was going on. Unbelievable!!! The Gunners had just invoked one of the biggest jinxes known to humanity.
The fans in the stands were all saying that the outcome of the match was a certainty when a small little boy that had been quiet the whole game exclaimed, “Daddy, didn’t you tell me that the most dangerous lead in all of sports is 2-0?” As soon as his father was done laughing, the Old Stars scored a goal and before long, the tide began to change.
The Gunners were unfazed and relaxed. However, they were wounded and wanted to get a goal quickly. This was where the Gunners began to push forward and commit more and more players into the attack. In their urgency, they began to commit unforced errors and pass to the other team. The Old Stars defended patiently and counterattacked. The Old Stars found a hole in the left side of the defence and exploited it. Many wondered why the Gunners had their midfielder Leo in the back and Chris Fernandes (their normal left back) in the midfield.
The jinx began to activate and in no time, the score was tied 2-2… leaving the Gunners rattled and wondering what had happened. This is where the little boy asked where the trophy was because it had disappeared. It was too late! The jinx was activated and there was no going back. The son’s father held the boy close to him, looked into his eyes and said “Son, You simply cannot undo such a powerful jinx. It is scientifically impossible!”
With the score tied 2-2, the Gunners attacked and found themselves with an easy tap-in (one foot away from the goal) that would have sent them to the lead and possibly the championship. Instead, inexplicably, their striker blasted the ball over the bar from one foot away. The jinx was indeed working its magic.
Before the ball was retrieved from the woods, the skeptics in the stands were predicting either a penalty or a red card would befall on the Gunners…because everybody knows that 2-0 meltdown is followed by one of the two calamities.
As fate has it, the Old Stars were awarded a penalty one minute after the goal to complete the meltdown and fulfill the jinx.
The Old Stars held down the defence with keeper Brent Docker’s steady hands adding confidence to his side.
Gunners were gutted and the Old Stars rejuvenated. As the Gunners pushed forward, the Old Stars made it 3-2…then 4-2 and finally 5-2 to defend their title.
Skipper Tom Elias coached a masterclass and the Gunners jinxed themselves as the Old Stars were crowned 2021 Champs.