Sore Legs, Heads and a Defeat
Yesterday’s highlight of the South Georgian footballing calendar was South Georgia Vs AE16. Playing on what must be one of the worlds remotest football pitches to a capacity crowd of two plus a few disinterested Fur seals. The “Stadium” is set in the grounds of Grytviken Whaling station and was used by the whalers who once worked here. The West stand is the towering mountain range of Orca Peak (278m) overlooking Grytviken, the North stand was The Whalers Church, the South stand was a fast flowing river and the East stand was the remnants of the old whaling station oil tanks. Judging by the state of the pitch there must be an open vacancy for groundsman, when not having to contest for the ball from the calf deep mud, the gravel covered goalmouth gave the Goalkeeper cause for concern. The bog like wing of the pitch was marked by a rope that has seen better days maybe being laid when Shackleton visited South Georgia prior to his 1914 expedition. Paul “Shady” Lane discovered that he was to be the referee on the basis that he was in possession of the referee’s vuvuzela; which code the ref was operating to, was the question as he invited the teams to line-out and form a scrum.
The match report will follow, written by Shady……..
Finally the day of reckoning arrived as these two behemoths of the Southern Ocean met, after at least twelve hours of banter, facing off at the South Georgian National Stadium to a capacity crowd of two humans and twelve thousand bored fur seals, ready for this much anticipated cataclysmic clash. As is traditional, the teams warmed up prior to the match. The visitors were treated to meringue cake, chocolate biscuits and tea at the museum; whilst the home side in true Southern Hemisphere style relied on standing over and taunting the visitors before engaging in unsportsmanlike stretching and dynamic exercise, a typical subterfuge that we have come to expect of Southern Hemisphere teams J.
Fortunately the referee was on hand and alive to such underhand tactics. Resplendent and easily identifiable in his Panama hat and smoking briar pipe, complemented with his red oilskin jacket, he held his badge of office, the football referee’s vuvuzela with a zealous pride. What code the referee was operating to was something of a debate, as calls of “Line out to the skins” or “Scrum to the shirts” raised an eyebrow or two. The Ref invited the team captains to the centre circle for a tot of rum, to discuss the rules of engagement and toss off for who kicks off.
The shirts (our team) won the kick off and attacked the opposition’s half in the spirit of the game, commensurate with their gentlemanly and British manner rather than the letter and finer details of the Laws of Association Football that the opposition preferred. Just like the Ashes this quickly became a test rather a game; a test of our Sothern Hemisphere cousins manners and sportsmanship. Consequently they were able to slip at least two sneeky goals past the visitors’ gallant defence in the first half; not however before the referee had to penalise the home side’s soccerroo ringer for manhandling our midfielder in a most intimate and underhand manner.
At half time the referee invited the team to the centre circle for the traditional tot of rum to fortify the players against the worst excesses of the South Georgian weather; followed by dignified small talk, mainly surrounding……… the weather. The home team however insisted on their dastardly tactics with a team talk.
Swapping ends did nothing to improve our intrepid visitors’ chances, despite the location of the pitch’s bog. The home team pressed their advantage and used it expeditiously to fox the visitors at every opportunity. Despite the gallant efforts of the visitors in pressing home every break in the flow to their favour they just couldn’t get passed the superglue hands of the home side’s goalie who proved that only having sight in one eye is not an impediment, although his rig of hard hat, foulies and safety boots threw those unaccustomed off their game, perhaps another underhand Southern Hemisphere tactic?? Despite or because of this his Man of the Match title was well earned.
Special mention however must be reserved for the visitors second half goalie Donald Angus, confused the opposition’s attacking centre forward with a dazzling display of panic grasps for the ball, despite being fouled ; sadly this did not fool his opponent who calmly slipped another goal over our heroic goalies head. The referee conceded afterwards that it should have been a free kick, but he was transfixed by the dazzling display of acrobatics that he just wanted to see what would happen next. The triple blast of the vuvuzela marked the end of this clash and a return to the centre circle for more rum and cheesy photographs. The only downer was the absence of the visitors’ most vocal supporter Molly who remained behind to furnish the Xplore heroes with warming scran.
The evening meal was prepared by our galley lodger Molly who remained on the yacht during the football match, so, who knows what was consumed in our absence, the only evidence being a bottle of red wine “used” for the delicious Chilli con Carne. Much to our surprise the local government and BAS scientists invited us to their bar; considering they had opened the bar on a school night it was considered rude to refuse. The bar is a relic from the days of when the military were based here at the now demolished Shackleton House; the remains have all but disappeared and returned to grassland now occupied by a colony of penguins and Fur Seals. Quite poignantly there are memorial crosses each in memory of the three servicemen who died whilst serving here. The evening was enjoyed by all with very reasonable prices, which probably haven’t changed since Tim Winter joined the RN, 43p for a bottle of lager!!! The evening progressed well and ended with a game of furthest bottle. The game consists of one person in the press up position whilst the team-mate climbs on the back and scrambles as far forward as possible with a bottle and places it on the floor. The trick then is to return to the start position with said bottle and then pull your team-mate up in to the standing position. All easy until you add alcohol!
The next morning we awoke to the news that we are planning a hike to visit some sites around Grytviken Bay; so those involved with washing down and watering the yacht had to on completion quickly re-role to hiking mode. The intrepid explorers advanced South West around the bay, through Grytviken towards WW1 gun battery, where the gun still stands sentry over our refuge King Edward cove to this day. Once the team had tiptoed through the minefield of Elephant and fur seals, interspersed with random King penguins they took in the vantage that Horse Headland commanded.
Running the gauntlet of the dive-bombing Arctic Terns the team advanced towards the more recent wreckage of an Argentinean Super Puma helicopter, which at the time of its forced landing was within 24 hours of flying again; sadly thirty four years and repeated target practise by the resident battalion have reduced it to a shadow of its former self.
An alfresco lunch of tuna salad at the summit of an adjacent vantage point offered outstanding views, whilst our communications specialist, Dan grappled with the satellite connection in order to keep the team in touch with the rest of the world and most importantly the Six Nations results.
After lunch the team pressed on over the dam that now provides King Edward Point with hydro-electricity towards the saddle between the two peaks Mount Hodges and Mount Duse that offered an impressive view of the two lakes in the Bore Valley, where many seal pups reside, that lead down to Maiviken Bay.
On our return to Xplore the team dropped into the museum for coffee and another chat, but more importantly to drop off litter they found on the trek left by irresponsible visitors and complete the whale spotting and expediton logs maintained by the museum.Picture 1 – helicopter remains from 1982
Picture 2 – The interior of Grytviken church