In a highly anticipated final of the intramural indoor soccer tournament last week, the Mean Team beat the Superstars 9:8 in Shad in a dramatic match that will be remembered and talked about for a long time. Axel Bonnassies (NE) scored the golden goal on the last minute of the second overtime and sent the cheering crowd into ecstasy. The team members of the Mean Team embraced each other in the middle of the court and jumped around and up and chanted “we are the champs! we are the champs!” Long after the match was over, the fallen Superstars could still be found on the battlefield pondering what went wrong.
Nothing really went wrong and everything went as planned – the Mean Team had its sight on the championship since as early as fall of 2002.
Francois “The Captain” Dufour (NJ) illustrated to the HBS community what the best hiring practices must look like – identify the talent early and lock it up quickly. He hand-picked a diverse, global team of gifted soccer players and inspired them to be mean, and ruthless, and ten minutes early before each match. More importantly, he built a team that was much stronger than its individual parts. He was our Michel Platini, our Didier DesCHAMPS.
There’s a saying in soccer that goes something like this “The goalie is half the team.” That was definitely true for the Mean Team, whose Japanese draftee Yasu “I’ve never actually played soccer before” Oba-san (NJ) would put even the famed Fabien Barthez to shame. You had to witness the gracious dives, to see his blooded elbows, and to feel his courage every time he faced those 100 mph kicks to understand the kind of confidence he instilled in his teammates.
Speaking of confidence – and you can take this writer’s word for it – there’s nobody out there who can systematically decompose the opponent’s confidence in the way that Swiss-born Franco “The Animal” Hauri (NJ) can. When you see him approach you on the soccer field, my advice is – just give up the ball! Franco’s energy and roughness are a perfect contrast to Pierre “Bend it like Beckham” Pujol’s (NH) finesse and slick moves. The French-born, Moroccan-raised, American-educated and Spanish-McKinseyed Pierre has an amazing ability to score at least a couple of goals in every game he plays.
Goals are the essence of soccer. Who will ever forget the Roberto Carlos rocket shot from 40 meters, the Maradona dribble against the English in the ’86 World Cup, or the unbelievable, spectacular curl that Figo put on Barthez just several weeks ago? Well, the Mean Team has its own star, someone who scores consistently and beautifully, never more than with 2-3 touches, someone whose goals are hard to forget. His name is Hysam “The Egyptian Magician who admires Zidane” Galal (NJ). Mark this name and watch it next year.
The meat of any soccer team is in its midfield. This is where the most important battles of the game take place. Whoever controls the middle, usually wins the game. And here, the Mean Team was quite lucky to recruit its only American star – Brian “Beat me if you can” O’Connor (NA). From what I’ve seen around the campus, Brian can outrun and outlast any other player on the field. His physical and mental toughness is impeccable. He’s as fast as Owen, he can score goals like Baggio, and he’s as smart as Raul. Joining Brian in midfield was the French superchampion Axel “The one who scored The Goal” Bonnassies. This is the guy who, if he doesn’t smile, screams out some obscenities that can be understood by nobody but his French teammates. But seriously, Axel is the glue of the Mean Team, the player in the middle who holds it all together.
And, finally, your faithful story teller – Ali “Shoot it, Ali, Shoot it!!” Ashurov from Uzbekistan who got his nickname from his teammates because he loves to dribble so much that he often forgets to shoot on the goal. Ali, together with Yasu and Hysam, became the first representatives of their countries to ever win the HBS soccer tournament!
And so we went unbeaten this year. Not a single game lost – official or friendly. But even though this might seem impressive, the real accomplishment is that we went through this together, as a team. The real thrill is to have trusted each other on the field, to have played each game as if it were the last one, and to have cemented our friendships for years to come. Thank you guys!