When RAWK went up to lift the HJC Cup ...

Posted by Reeves on November 17, 2003, 04:15:35 PM

... we were there, we were there"

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign Cup 2003 - a RAWK perspective

I remember looking out from the veranda at our secret RAWK training camp high in the mountains of Switzerland and seeing Jon Hall, RAWK's official magic sponge carrier, rolling around on the grass, clutching a bottle of ale in his arms like it was the last drink left on Earth and God was calling last orders. I think in that moment he epitomised the spirit that legendary manager Rushian was trying to instill within the whole squad with the immortal words: "If Redstorm were playing in my back garden, I'd close the curtains.".

After Mr Hall had passed out and the remaining drops in the bottle had dribbled down the front of his jumper, Col, Steer and Steve B came outside to pick him up. "Team spirit" I thought. At last I was becoming sure that the RAWK squad had the desire and competitive edge to win the HJC Cup III. 

When half our squad turned up on the Saturday morning with blood-shot eyes and tales of the night before, I knew that the team was properly focused. A few RAWK supporters had already started to congregate around the bar as we turned up at L4's the Pitz complex, only a mile from Anfield. Those good supporters knew that preparation was key.

"Fail to prepare and prepare to fail" - those were manager Rushian's favourite words. It was he who'd begun the club's tradition of the pre-tournament night before vindaloo and this Friday night had been no different (in that he was missing yet again - some excuse involving Transylvania and a bottle of plum brandy filtered its way home via text message).

According to widespread reports Hillsborough Justice Campaign Cup Godfather Karl Baxter, the organiser of the prestigious and much coveted trophy, had in his quest for FIFA-esque expansion and worldwide appeal increased the number of teams to 16. New comers such as YNWA.tv and Koptalk alongside more established names such as Alfa's Harshtacklingredfanatics, Peewee's Old Men, Dutch Gold and Redstorm (never lost a game and the team everybody loves to hate) would mean that this year's tournament would be as fiery and as difficult to win as ever.

Some of the RAWKites were doubting whether they'd have the drinking stamina as the tournament expansion would mean more games and more drinking. Perhaps all those European away trips would come in handy after all? In line with the expansion RAWK had entered two teams, Team RAWK and Inter Stella.

Despite all our pre-tournament training in Weatherspoons it was clear that if this RAWK squad wanted to beat some of the legendary teams in the competition, some with their Champagne football and others with their immense physical endurance, passion and will to win, we'd need a spiritual leader. 

John Mushrow, long term stalwart of the squad and experienced defensive lynchpin of two past tournaments was revelling in his promotion to the position of Captain of Inter Stella. This was the less athletic squad of the two it had been rumoured. It was 11am when John burst through the doors and swayed into the bar area of L4's Pitz. He had a possible eight games of intense football ahead of him, but no-one was going to stop Captain Fantastic from reaching his goal. He made his way to the bar and ordered his first Stella of the day. You could see that the rest of the squad were all looking up to him in awe. This was a leader with spirituality Ghandi would have been proud of.

King Kenny, the eldest of the RAWK players was nobly the first to oblige when the younger fans requested autographs. New teenage sensation Duffy arrived separately from the rest of the squad. Turning up in his blacked out Limo, chauffeur driven, he stepped out and posed for photographs, the baying media frantically flashing their angled cameras as the tracksuited superstar jogged up the steps to join the squad. He had been a summer acquisition after being spotted by our Belgian scout Pheeny, through the bottom of a Leffe glass, at the previous tournament.

Pheeny was to be a late show on the day. A stickler for accuracy and perhaps epitomising the RAWK work ethic, Pheeny claimed he had just got off his plane from another scouting mission in Brussels and has rushed to see the fruits of his labour appear in the famous RAWK colours. Rumours that he was hungover and missed his taxi from his hotel in Liverpool were quickly denied but never disproved.

As the games got underway, it came as no surprise that after five minutes of play the opponents of Inter Stella had already suffered their first casualty. An opponent's kneecap was knocked out in David Busst fashion. Roddy the RAWK team doctor rushed to help with impressive speed - there would be no 6 hour wait in a draughty corridor under the RAWK Health Service. Rumours that an Inter Stella player was in some way to blame for this horrific injury was latterly attributed to rumour mongering from opponents. Inter Stella won their first game 2-1 and the day was hotting up.

On the other pitch, Team RAWK managed to score a lucky seven goals. This would later take its toll on the team who couldn't score in a brothel during the second stages. Dave White, Gareth and  Dan Lloyd, the Team RAWK captain and netminder, were in majestic form. Our would-be opponents were thwarted as the shots came raining in on our tubby keeper.

The goals were flying in at the proper end as Barrettski stood 3 yards out and poached all our goals. They were even hitting his arse and flying in. We were later to find two magpies, a bag of four leaf clovers and a dream catcher in his locker. And a false arse.

The previously rated bookies' underdogs Inter Stella, were progressing through their side of the tournament draw as some other fancied teams were beating each other in closely fought contests. A RAWK spokesman denied that the teams progression was solely down to having the girls' team, Pink Ladies, in their group. The dogs of war spirit of the people's team was paying dividends as they held off their female opponents 8-6 in scenes reminiscent of the Alamo. Just two members of Inter Stella remained on the pitch at the end to fend off the Amazonian hordes thanks to strict refereeing. Inter were to be later eliminated on goal difference just missing out on a semi-final place.

The RAWK supporters were in fine voice all day. All the old classics such as "The RAWK are coming up the hill" and "We are the famous RAWKites" were bellowing round the ground. Everyone was in high spirits until just after the second group stage when all of a sudden someone pointed out that RAWK had drawn Redstorm, the bookies favourites and undefeated champions in the last two tournaments, in the semis. This was our Everest.

The sky turned black. The rain came lashing down and forks of lightening split the darkened sky. Redstorm captain Denno cackled with laughter. "Mwooooohahahahah, we will never be defeated, NEVER, Mwooooohahahahahahah".

RAWK technical wizard Ben Scott needed to be held back, his tension fraught face, spitting with venom, he was clearly losing his cool. "I'd love it, I'd love it if we beat them" screamed Ben. Clenched fists. Keyboard thrown asunder (thus scuppering live match reports on the site). The rest of the world nodded in agreement. It was game on.

The terraces were packed long before kick off. The game kicked off and Denno scored an early goal. 1-0  to Redstorm and the lightening over the nearby hills struck once more. His pact with the Devil was obviously still good for another Cup. Perhaps this was a game too far for those brave men of RAWK?

7 and a half minutes later and those proud men of RAWK found themselves 3-1 down. It was half time. Faced with an uphill struggle of titanic proportions, the RAWK supporters feared the worst. Battle scarred players, a keeper with a now broken finger, Aidan with a swollen knee, the thunder and lightening struck again. Acocky grin on the faces of the Redstorm team. The Premiership Trophy inscriber picked up the Hillsborough Justice Cup and began carving the capital letter of R, for Redstorm. He?d done this many times before.

And then suddenly, out of nowhere, as if come over by some mystical force, the RAWK supporters began to raise their voice. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" they screamed and bellowed down from the stands. They'd had enough of this Redstorm dominance, they believed in us and they wanted their "FREEEEEEEDOM". The cries started to ring around the ground. The players looked up and saw the belief in the supporters' eyes. They knew that this was the moment, this was their destiny and the knew that they'd never get another chance to win the famous trophy.

The RAWK players came out for the second half like a rocket. "Attack, Attack, Attack Attack Attack" screamed the fans as the RAWK players were beckoned forward in tidal wave after tidal wave of dominance, sweeping the Redstorm players away with their every move. The Redstorm defence started to crumble. One quick goal and then in the last minute the clouds opened briefly and a rogue ray of sunshine beamed down onto one of the RAWK players. "Whoooosh" was the noise as the ball sped goalwards. As the divine ray of sunshine hit his broad shoulders Aidan had unleashed a piledriver from the halfway line and the Redstorm onion bagged bulged. 3-3!!!! The crowd went crazy.

The match went to penalties. The most nail-biting and tension fraught moments in footballing history were to follow until at 3-3 on penalties, with Redstorm having missed 2 and having not used their keeper like the rules stated, our keeper, the slab of immovable granite at the back, Captain Dan, stood up and faced the music. It was a true Rocky moment, eye of the tiger stuff; as though the other side had been fighting with shards of glass glued to the ends of their fists like in Bloodsport; or like the moment the moment when Gladiator had his vengeance. Dan stepped up, his body moving in slow motion, carrying the hopes of millions, picture frame after picture frame, the mouths of the spectators wide open, the silence deafening, as the world watched and waited as the keeper stepped up .... GOOOAAAAALLLLL ?  Have some of that!!!!! Getttttt In!!!!!!!!! YYYYeeeeeeeeeeSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!  C?MMMMMOOOOONNNNN.

The skies now lifted fully. The rain stopped, the sun came out and the final beckoned.

Two great LFC websites contested the final. A close fought affair and one played with much dignity and pride. YNWA.tv were in their first tournament and had made it all the way out of their group-of-death and into the final much to their own surprise. There were to be no losers here.

In the end it was RAWK who lifted the trophy and the two RAWK & Inter Stella teams gathered around in the bar with their supporters to celebrate. Photographic evidence of the motley crew was deemed necessary:


The teams, supporters and organisers then all retired from the Pitz to upstairs at the Sandon for the aftermatch presentations, celebrations and fundraising auction/raffle. Not only did RAWK pick up the HJC Cup but Barrettski was voted player of the tournament. The football tournament was a huge success on and off the pitch as the teams fought against the bitter elements to produce some magnificent performances despite the awful playing conditions. The big crowd was full of humour, as the intersite "banter" showed, and this carried on into the evening's festivities.

Special thanks must go to Karl, Lou and Craig for ensuring everything was in place and for organising the whole event so superbly once again. Karl revealed that over £3000 had been raised for the Hillsborough Justice Campaign on the night and since then further pledges and donations have pushed that total to nearer £4500.

RAWK would like to thank all the teams, supporters and organisers for what was a truly special and memorable day. It is a privilege to be involved in such an event for a cause which remains so vital and close to all of us. The fact that the Cup is growing in size and recognition (John Aldridge has offered to put a team in next time), can only help the quest for justice.



© Reeves 2003

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