TOP 6 FINISH AT SEASAC FOR GIS SENIOR GIRLS FOOTBALLERS
After only eight weeks of training, in a combination of the cool early Mont Kiara mornings and the unrelenting heat of the afternoons, the GIS senior girls football team arrived on the international stage at the annual SEASAC football tournament, as ready as they would ever be to take on the regions best.
Tanglin Trust School, Singapore provided the backdrop to one of the highlights of the year’s sporting calendar. A two and a half day festival of football, a true feast for all players, coaches, spectators and neutrals alike.
It was goals all round as GIS got off to an amazing start thrashing a disorganized but spritely team from the Canadian International School, Hong Kong 6-1! Molly Smith and Nadhirah Mizan both got a brace and were supplemented by neat finishes by senior newcomer Isabel Bien and veteran Athena Zabidi, who slotted home from close range after great work from team captain Fareeha Khan.
The girls could hardly believe it! Never had they opened a competition so positively or scored so many goals at the first time of asking. It was the perfect confidence booster as the girls faced UWC school’s new branch, UWC East. The embryonic stages of a team that will no doubt become far stronger in time to come, showed as the newcomers went down 5-0 to a GIS side brimming with confidence. Fareeha Khan got her first goals of the season with a brace and Molly Smith popped up again as did Isabel Bien, only for confusion in the East defence, to give an added own goal to round things off.
A long wait and incredibly hot conditions saw fatigue and lethargy set in amongst some of the players, something GIS could’ve done well without as they faced Alice Smith for the last group game of day one. A flawless string of results wasn’t to be, as a determined, organized Alice team overpowered GIS to win 3-0. It was disappointing to lose so convincingly to a team that GIS had beaten 1-0 on the two previous meetings between the two sides. Psychological advantage Alice Smith. GIS simply didn’t show up and sat far too deep, allowing wave after wave of attack. An uncharacteristic parry by goalkeeper Tara Kanayalal into the path of an oncoming attacker, allowed Alice to draw first blood. A second somewhat lucky shot from wide right looped into the net and GIS were done. A third goal added insult to injury and it served up an important lesson going into day two.
In truth this was the only blot on an otherwise near perfect copybook for goalkeeper Tara Kanayalal, who produced some unbelievable saves to keep GIS in games throughout. She fearlessly supported the defence making some great clearances and was supported equally brilliantly by Hannah Worrall. It was to be Hannah’s first and sadly last taste of senior football on such a stage but Hannah brought with her great character, lovely temperament and a level of maturity as well as super safe hands.
The day finished with GIS in second place (in pool A of six teams), nestling just behind reigning champions New International School, Thailand (NIST). The champions would be a fitting end to the group stage, prior to that GIS had to battle for the spoils against local rivals Mont Kiara International School (MKIS). GIS took the lead twice only to see strong replies from the American school. A last gasp winner from Tasha Jayabalan proved critical from close range as GIS took another step towards a top two finish.
NIST spent much of the game in their own half and looked anything but reigning champions. GIS hit the post, forced a number of saves from the goalkeeper before Molly Smith finished clinically from a set piece. It was becoming a trademark of Molly’s and teams were increasingly aware of the danger she posed from dead ball situations, anywhere inside the opposing half. A late NIST equalizer turned things on their head for GIS and saw them eventually finish 3rd in the group as a result of a ‘head to head’ rule coming before goal difference. This was harsh for GIS as neutrals and tournament officials had commented over the two days that GIS were certainly a top four side and deserved to battle things out in the Cup competition at the knock out stage. It was perhaps typical that GIS would give up 2nd place in the group to Alice Smith, who had not been firing on all cyclinders, but managed to perform when it counted, when the teams went head to head.
GIS met Ruamrudee International School, Thailand (RIS) in a semi-final that would see the victors go into the Plate final. RIS put up a good fight and it was end to end action all the way. The game was tied at 2-2 at the end of normal time and it was fitting that Molly Smith would provide the edge from another set piece to score in golden goal extra time, sending GIS into the Plate final ensuring GIS’ highest SEASAC girls finish since the competition began.
A physically and strong British International School, Jakarta (BISJ) awaited GIS on the Sunday morning for the last game of the competition. They worked hard and broke quickly but were denied time after time by excellent defensive battling from Gabbi Head-Gray, Priya Mohan and Georgina Perry. The latter, one of the youngest players at SEASAC as a tender year 8 student but nevertheless provided some of the most fearless tackling of the whole competition. Georgina tracked players throughout and made last ditch tackles that certainly contributed to GIS’ competition progress. Although only a slight frame, she mixed it up with the biggest and toughest and more often than not, came out on top. This starlet is one for the future and will certainly benefit from this experience as she steps down to her rightful age group as U13 girls team captain.
BISJ didn’t come out quite as strongly as anticipated and GIS took a first half lead through Isabel Bien. GIS maintained this lead well into the second half only to see ex-GIS footballer, Chloe McCombie lash a shot home from distance on the right wing. Desperately unlucky, but GIS battled on courageously in pursuit of a golden goal in extra time. The ball broke lose on the edge of the box and with the last kick of the game, Gabbi Head-Gray laced a shot goalward only to see it sail just above the cross-bar. Penalties would follow.
BISJ buried their first kick only for skipper Fareeha Khan to rifle her spot kick towards the top corner and all watched almost in slow motions, as it agonizingly rebounded off the stantion and across the goal without crossing the line. It was a cruel end to a distinguished player’s GIS career as she bows out as a year 13 student. Fareeha has lead brilliantly on and off the pitch and served as a fantastic role model and ambassador for girls football at GIS alongside her comrade and friend Athena Zabidi. Thank you girls for your years of diligent service, hard work and unrelenting desire for success.
BISJ buried a second penalty and GIS replied with aplomb as Isabel Bien, slotted the ball calmly into the bottom corner to put the pressure on the last kicker. BISJ would fire the ball straight at the keeper leaving Molly Smith, GIS’ dead ball specialist, to force sudden death. This is a situation that many footballers have found themselves in and regardless of the frequency, the job is if anything harder every time. Molly uncharacteristically fired the ball down the middle and a rooted keeper ensured that the Plate trophy went home with Jakarta and GIS would finish a very respectable 6th (four places higher than their last SEASAC placing).
Penalties are a cruel way for any team to lose but we all enter such a lottery knowing that one team has to win and the other not so. When considering the bigger picture, GIS had proved themselves to be one of the best teams in the competition, playing disruptive, counter-attacking football as well as a neat passing, side to side switching game, that resulted in nineteen goals in seven matches, in the regions biggest competition.
GIS only lost one game out of seven in open play and produced moments that the players, coaches and supporters will take away and cherish for a very long time.
As the coach of the team, I am proud and honoured to have taken such an amazing and talented, hard working group of students to such a great tournament. They have shown joy in victory, grace in defeat and have hopefully learnt plenty along the way about their friends, their team mates and themselves. Well done to you all!
I would like to thank all the travelling parents and supporters for all their encouragement and support, it was crucial to the teams achievements. To Mr. Bien for taking copious amounts of wonderful pictures, to Mr. and Mrs. Smith from shuttling between the boys and girls tournament, to Mrs. Wells for her support and celebratory hug and to the rock of the coaching staff- Ms. Wen Xi Chan, without whom I would lose all my belongings, my head and my sanity. I couldn’t do it without you. Thank you so, so much.
Mr Kyle Friendship.