Holland 12-15 Sept 2014
Harwell Laboratories Recreational Association (HLRA)
(a.k.a. JET FC)
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The Team - 10 players
Back row left to right
Alan Potter, Geraint Apps, Tom Turner, Richard Findlay, Chris Hoy, Darrell Barrett and Geoff Broughton
Front row left to right
Bob Brooks, Andy Steer and Dave Cookson
There was approximately 180 players from 10 labs and 6 countries.
This was JET FCís first tour to Holland. Ten spritely footballers were off to the veteranís seven-a-side tournament by the seaside. The journey seemed simple enough: leave very early and drive to the Eurotunnel terminal, negotiate the jams in Antwerp, arrive in time for some beers on the beach and the opening ceremony.
Tom picked up Geoff at 5:30, followed by Geraint and Darrell just as the sun was rising over Oxford. Then breakfast at the service station near the terminal. Everything was going to plan.
Sadly Dave with Chris, Bob, Richard, Alan and Andy had made other arrangements. Start 90 minutes later, then drop off the van Dave used to move home the day before and wait until the depot opened. While Tomís car sped across Flanders, Dave missed the check-in by 40 minutes and waited two hours for a train. The full JET squad have never arrived on time!
Meanwhile, the early birds were basking in the autumnal sunshine and quaffing some beers at Egmond aan Zee.
Carsten Ohms, the Dutch organiser, had booked a beachside restaurant for the 200 participants.
Tom selected some vegetarian from the buffet while the vegan Darrell browsed the edible foliage. We tucked in as darkness descended across the North Sea.
A quick flurry of text messages alerted the restaurant to reopen the kitchen for the hungry Englishmen. The disappointment of missing the welcoming speeches was washed away by free beer until 11pm. An endless supply was brought to our table.
The Dutch hosts minmised the walking by the waitresses by placing the Brits next to the Belgians.
Food, drink, food and more free drinks.
The restaurant closed at 11 pm but the night was just beginning. Geoff, Alan and Bob wandered to a bar with our Belgian chums to discuss the finer merits of English and Belgian beers. This was followed by an international darts match at the hotel bar.
Yes, Bob did wear the straw hat throughout the tour. Too much sunshine on previous tours has sent him berserk.
We were gutted that we had missed the tribute bands at the hotel. Perhaps this really was our lucky tour.
Darrell, our loyal supporter made a valiant effort to raise our spirts.
The survivors slowly assembled for breakfast.
A quick coach trip to the stadium to watch the local kidís team in the morning dew. Geoff was keen to present the pre-match whiskeys. Dave made an instant assessment of our match fitness after the excesses of the night before.
Geoff assembled with the other team leaders for a group hug.
Darrell was assigned refereeing duties since he was underage and not match fit. He was recovering from a broken leg and still made it to Holland! There were no feeble excuses from this stalwart.
First match went well. No one told the Polish first timers to bring a pre-match gift. They had a smart new kit, matching jackets, a girl marked by Richard and the national gurning champion. Two goals for Cookie.
ISPRA, the Italian team, were next. 0-1, Andy Steer 1-1, Chris Hoy 2-1 then 2-2 draw. Good result against the finalists.
Tour would not be a JET tour without some crippling injury. Richard was trodden on.
Meanwhile, the aged Russian team had found a star in the Siberian wastelands. She scored a hat trick in the game Darrell reffed. Then at least another two goals. This equalled Daveís final tally and they progressed against tougher opposition.
Bob commandeered the football clubís flag pole to hoist the Cross of St George. Hurrah! JET FC had formally arrived.
The Dutch hosts buzzed the matches with a drone normally used for monitoring nuclear incidents. The video cameras proved faulty since none of our spectacular matches were filmed.
The Belgians swapped beer for our traditional budget whisky. They had studied the form book and decided against fielding the heavy cavalry.
0-3 down then Dave made the score 1-3.
One win, one draw and one loss. JET still had a chance of making the cut until the Hungarians dashed our hopes.
0-1, Bob levelled the score 1-1, but JET crashed 1-3.
The sun was still shining so Alan took a dip in the North Sea. Some others relaxed in the hotel pool followed by the sauna.
Saturday evening was free. The choice was a coach to watch the Alkmaar premiership game or a coach to the bars in Alkmaar. JET chose the bars while everyone else seemed to disappear.
The coach was late and our host, Carsten, being Carsten was concerned. However JET chilled out with Heineken cans from the cafť and made acquaintance with two men from the Karlsruhe beach volley ball team. No sign of the Karlsruhe ladies.
Despite the football score lines, there was some good news. Geoff announced that the kitty was already flourishing because the tour price was 140 euros lower than expected. Dave appointed himself the kitty monitor with this new found wealth.
Alkmaar had a noisy event in the Cheese market square which we declined to pay to enter.
So after a quick excursion down the alley in the Achterdam red light district we entered a Greek restaurant.
Meat with chips while Darrell and Tom negotiated vegtables with the waiter.
Then a bar with a patio on an unstable barge that heaved under Bobís shifting weight.
One former JET treasurer kept a watchful eye on the kitty.
12:15 was our deadline for the coach home, so there was just enough time to find another bar. The host was standing on the street ready to shut and quickly enticed us into the empty bar. More beer and a game of darts.
Regulation beer pouring is evidently a serious business.
Carsten, who had spent the day performing the day job, welcomed the JET tourists and just two others onto the coach at just after midnight. Perhaps the residents of Alkmaar could now sleep easy.
JET was destined to compete for the minor places. Time to deploy the JET youth contingent.
JET warmed up for the final day with the customary pratting about with the ball competition.
Tom was obviously confused by the rules and Geraint demonstrated a typical defensive clearance.
Andy retained the annual award showing dexterity, poise and grace. Where did he learn these skills?
Petten, the hosts, were first up. Rich did not start, Darrell played valiantly and Tom walked off with stamped on little toe. JET lost 0-1.
The final match was against Berlin. JET went behind 0-1 before Geraint scored the equaliser. A rare European goal for Geraint which will soon be forgotten.
However Geraint being skinned by the Berlin girl is now part of JET tour folklore.
To round off the dismal performance on the pitch, JET had to endure the penalty shootout against Berlin. Geoff missed everything. Dave and Chris scored but Andy was saved. JET lost 2-3.
The flag of St George was lowered on another JET tour. Then beer and sandwiches while watching the finals. ISPRA won Ė but need to check the offical stats when published.
JET wandered back to the hotel. Geoff traded the remaining whisky for Belgium beers and a lift in their mini-bus.
We had some ice creams on beach and Darrell found a vegan lolly. Alan, Andy, Bob and Alan gaily tossed their balls about in the surf.
Then another swim in the luxurious hotel pool. Bob trounced Geraint and Andy in the 10m ultra short sprint.
This was followed by a quick ogle in the sauna. Pity the young Dutch bar maid whose duties included policing the sauna.
The hotelís psychedelic bowling alley beckoned. Dave was busy elsewhere so his bowls were not wasted.
Geraint easily won the poser of the tour award. He was saving this for the match winning hat trick.
The evening reception was at the 17,000 seat Alkmaar football stadium the home of sporting legends and kung fu brawls.
A large buffet and yet more free beers.
The extraordinarily generous gift from JET to the Dutch organisers. Also, a souvenir ball point with matching gift case from the Belgium Belgoprocess team.
The undoubted highlight of the tour was surely the history lesson. Little did we know that the event marked the 50th Anniversary of the Ball Sports Club founded in 1964 as the Football and Volleyball Club for the JRC-Petten staff and their families.
50 years of history compressed into 20 minutes proved a little too long for Andyís attention span. Andy was more animated while heckling.
Next came the awards. Dave is standing third from the left because we were third from bottom.
Another tray of free beers please!
The evening climaxed with the man-of-the-tour award. Geraint 1, Andy 1, Dave 2 and Geoff 6.
The last time the goalkeeper won anything was when JET came next to bottom in the Sunday league. Much the same as the Holland tour.
Coach back. Bob to bar.
The breakfast distribution of the gifts and awards.
Dave the top scorer with 5 goals, the ďthank you for letting Chris go on tourĒ gift, Darrell for outstanding refereeing, Geoff the man-of-tour and Alan the pennant collector.
Returning home is a lot less stressful. Dave started early and caught a train 1 hour ahead of schedule. Tomís transit was 30 minutes early. Perhaps we will arrive on time for the Belgium 2015 tour.
The route from Holland passed through Belgium where Bob received a traditional warm greeting.
Despite drinking stupendous volumes of beer, the kitty remained healthy with 30 euros to begin next yearís campaign. There has never been unlimited free beer on the Friday and Sunday nights. Perhaps this was a cunning plan to knobble the English. It worked.
Final Result 8th out of 10
Contact me Geoff.Broughton@hotmail.co.uk