A ‘Close’ Call In The Nordoff Robbins Cup 2018

Sport requests a great deal of sacrifice from its participants. The eternal winter nights enduring hill sprints in tempestuous rain opposed to nights in with the family, the quinoa and lentils instead of quattro formaggi pizzas, the extra £50 for those boots with a jazzy ankle sock instead of heating and electricity. Yet when its rewards are as resplendent and prestigious as the Nordoff Robbins Cup, such sacrifices seem as trivial as Melania Trump’s, well, anything.

Selhurst Park, the scene for the Cup’s showdown, was at its finest. While the obstinate overcast conditions attempted to freeze the fingers and toes of our tireless volunteers and supporters, they provided ideal football conditions. Thus, the stage was set, all it needed now was its performers.

Throughout the group games, electric performances of ‘liquid football’ [Partridge, 1994] were omnipresent across the two 7-a-side pitches, most notably of which was the inexplicable handstand from Nordoff Robbins’ senior caretaker-cum-goalkeeper extraordinaire after a particularly heroic save, instigating petrified looks from our first-aiders.

The competition was ferocious, with both groups hanging on the tenterhooks of their respective final games to see who would progress to the semis. Despite valiant efforts from Blou Construction (including a golden boot winning performance from “Handsome Ben” AKA “The Ben that’s not Ben Knowles”), Marsh & Parsons, Connor Broadley, and even Nordoff Robbins themselves…triggering fears from tournament organisers that were they to win the tournament they would become embroiled in the Russia and Qatar corruption scandals, the four victorious teams to progress were BW Workplace Experts, The O2, Hard Rock Café, and last year’s champions Close Brothers.

After altering the pitch to accomodate full sized 11-a-side semi finals & finals, and following delays resulting from Hard Rock Café controversial pre-game superstitions of requiring a full buffet before their semi-final, we were underway for a couple of bona fide crackers.

BW and Close Brothers’ clash was everything football should be: tense, pugnacious and gorgeously punctual. BW’s clinical display was rewarded with an opening goal before our perfunctory officials played a crucial role, firstly denying Close Brother’s equaliser with an offside call, to later award them a penalty that will have BW debating in those fancy new offices for years to come. The penalty was calmly slotted to tie the game, which concluded in the only reasonable way thinkable to separate this Galatian battle: an old fashioned shootout. The penalties were excruciatingly nerve-wracking, the tension before the final shot such that the only noise to be heard was the sound of various hamstrings screaming, imploring their recalcitrant owners to at least attempt a warm-up and/or down. But it would be title-defending Close Brothers to arise victorious, with a noteworthy goalkeeping display from Tom Ralph so brilliant he’s consequently earned an England call up and is currently flying to Russia with Gareth Southgate laughing at Joe Hart memes.

The second semi-final was a more straightforward affair, with the nefarious Hard Rock Café, fuelled from a buffet-filled rest, taking to The O2 with veracity that could not be matched. Their 2-0 victory set up an exhilarating final with Close Brothers that stoked up the pantomime like crowd to feverish excitement.

The final’s opening ten minutes were painstakingly cautious, with neither side willing to bargain an inch. This would all change when Close Brothers’ left wing Enrico Smith controlled a delicious ball via a sneaky faux-free kick that burrowed its way underneath a jumping Hard Rock Café wall. The ball was slotted with cucumber-esque coolness into the top corner to unabashed elation from the crowd; Smith even taking to straddling a wholly unbiased Nordoff Robbins assistant (to the) director of football in celebration while surrounded by the ecstatic Close Brothers squad. Following a few tense, blood-pressure rocketing, hour-like-minutes with Hard Rock Café desperately negotiating any form of reply, a second Close Brothers attacking gambit saw them 2-0 up, instigating an inevitable head-dropping from their hardy opponents. From there it was a smooth cruise towards Close Brothers’ title retention, making it two notches on the Nordoff Robbins bedpost in as many years.

In addition to the brilliant footballing displays, most importantly the tournament’s fundraising targets were smashed, meaning thousands of the most vulnerable and isolated people are able to receive life-changing music therapy and experience the incommunicable joy of playing music, so a massive thank you is extended to everyone that helped and took part.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the constant help and support from Crystal Palace FC and Nordoff Robbins’ volunteers (particular shoutout to Jo from The O2 who lent an extra pair of freezing hands for pitchside help). Massive thanks also go to the legend that is Mark Bright who came down to support and hand out all the prizes and trophy at the end.

Thank you to all that competed we hope you had a great time, and we can’t wait to see you all next year to find out if anyone can topple the Close Brothers dynasty.


See our incredible highlights video here, with massive thanks to Jan Bednarz of Buzz Films for the world class video-ing and editing