Amongst groups of friends we all find ways to interact with the beautiful game. Some do it by playing, some do it by painting giant banners and lighting things on fire, some do it by endlessly arguing statistics and formations. In my office we do it by playing the XBOX FIFA. We started with 12, moved to 13 and then 14, and have pre-ordered 15. We’ve played it to learn it, in some cases for people to learn the game, to learn teams, to replay Champions League matches, World Cup matches, Cascadia Cup matches, damn near any excuse to play lunch time and 4pm games. For several weeks we had a long running tournament of a random selection of 1 star teams that we called “The Twatnament” that largely consisted of us screaming “Come on you fucking twat!” at the screen while our players shanked shots so badly they went out for throws, bounced clearances off their own goalies, fell over in every possible way, pulled hamstrings, painfully chugged across the screen like the pub-league players they probably are in real life. We never finished the tournament because we were asked by HR to stop shouting “twat” and one simply cannot play “The Twatnament” without being able to refer to its most important defining characteristic. We also play “The Crippler” where you turn both teams injury likelihood to 100 and watch the carnage. Sprints shred hamstrings, standing tackles break bones, slide tackles cripple both players. It is hilarity of the highest order. We have merrily woven it into our office routine and it supplants the need to care about actual results in actual games which is a mercy for both myself and for the Manchester United supporting Englishman in the office. In short, we don’t take it seriously.
Lately though two of our FIFA crew are off in other parts of the world on other projects leaving only myself and a visual designer who I will only to refer to as Churu (disclaimer: that’s actually his name) to play. His team is Chelsea. Not because he’s actually a Chelsea fan, I’ve actually converted him to a somewhat apathetic Timbers fan, but that he has mastered the high lob from John Terry to Fernando Torres or Samuel Eto’o. He has mastered it to infuriating perfection. The ball goes in the back, sticks like a magnet to Cech or Cahill who tap to Terry who hoofs it all the way to Torres or Eto’o who, chased by the entire backline, slot home. Every. Fucking. Time. A solid week and a half went by in which Churu’s Chelsea utterly dominated me. Arsenal, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid; all fell. I tried man-marking, a 5-3-2, a 5-4-1, playing with a sweeper, ultra-defensive, nothing worked. The camera would follow the chipped pass as it fell perfectly to the striker. The digital net billowed. Alan Smith said whatever inane thing he always says. I swore and stared at my controller.
One day in a fit of post-lunch pique I hit “random team” and wound up with the Young Boys BSC of the Swiss Super League. “Are you sure?” Churu asked, “you’re gonna get murdered.” “Who cares?”, I replied. I was sure he was right. Instead, the Young Boys centerbacks seemed to stay home and actually mark Torres, and their forwards, well they simply hammered Cech. Michael Frey hit a 30 yarder apropos of nothing and added a simple tap-in a few minutes later. Alain Rochat, of former Vancouver Whitecaps fame, nodded in a header off of a corner. The high lob went up from Terry and was headed safely out or landed in the arms of the keeper again and again and again. I ran around the office yelling “Young Boys! Young Boys! Young Boys!” which raised a few eyebrows among the unknowing. The whiteboard above the TV bore a quick sketch of the triumphant Young Boys with their jersey sponsor cheekily swapped for the more appropriate “NAMBLA”. I figured it was a fluke. So we played again the next day. Young Boys 2, Chelsea 1. We played again, Young Boys 3, Chelsea 0. I got cheeky and switched it for IFK Goteborg: 2-1 winners over the mighty Chelsea. Portland Timbers 3, Chelsea 2. Hibernian 2, Chelsea 0. AFC Wimbledon 2, Chelsea 2, the minnows winning on penalties. Inverness Caledonia Thistle, All Boys of Argentina, Pohang Steelers, I’m near invincible. But, let’s be clear, I owe it all to the Young Boys BSC of Bern, Switzerland. Though I know basically nothing of the Swiss League or of the franchise itself, were I to ever need a team in the Swiss League it would be Young Boys, without question. Insert “I like Young Boys” crack here, I won’t mind, they’ve stolen my heart.