Another sunny day in Saigon and 16 of the top teams in the country stepped onto the field to do battle again for bragging rights going into the 2015-2016 SIFL (Saigon International Football League) Season. Starting at 8:30am and ending at 5pm meant that it was going to be a ferocious and action packed day for any team that wanted to win the title.
Of the 16 teams entering this year there were a some top ranked teams in African Team, Olympic, Place in Saigon, Hotshots, and Nam An. However the other 11 teams didn’t seem to care about the odds and all teams played to win on the day in every match.
Surprisingly through the group stage, we saw some teams that were not able to do quite as well as expected and this opened the door for one team in particular, with Saigon Fusion finishing the group stage ranked 2nd overall. However, and quite unexpectedly Nam An was in in the group of death and found its way into the lower division for the playoffs.
The Plate division was nothing to scoff at though, with top level play from all the teams, some of whom were unlucky in their earlier group stages. The action was intense and through the semi finals both Raiders and Nam An advanced to have a showdown in the final. The game was ultimately decided by some crafty play from the Nam An Squad though, winning the final by a score of 3 – 1. Both teams put out a great showing though and Raiders well earned the second place, just as Nam An earned their win.\
The Cup division was a bit more tense, due in part to the heat of the day, but also because many teams knew the competition could go to any of the teams. The quarterfinals were tough fought matches seeing Hotshots, Place in Saigon, African Team, and Saigon Fusion through to the semifinals. There, African Team was able to pull out a win over Hotshots with determination and physical dominance after a hard fought second half. Place in Saigon and Fusion went the full distance and a late yellow card sent a player off for Fusion that helped send the game into penalties. Place in Saigon advanced, but the match could have gone either way if not for some great goal keeping by both sides.
The 3rd place game saw Saigon Fusion and Hotshots battle it out for the last trophy. Both teams wanted it, but Fusion had exhausted a lot of energy playing in a game immediately proceeding this and fell a little short on players. Take nothing away from Hotshots though, they earned the trophy and worked hard all day with the help of the league MVP who made a late appearance.
The final was of course the battle royal that everyone had been waiting for. The first half saw tight and strong play with both teams showing strength at different points. However in the second half Place in Saigon went of top with about 5 minutes remaining. Then the unthinkable happened, and one of the African Team players was sent off for a hard tackle. However, the determination of the African Team players somehow saw them constantly attacking and with less than 1 minute to go they scored the equalizer and sent the game into overtime.
There it was again back and forth, both teams making mad dashes to get the golden goal that would end the tournament. Tournament MVP Keeper Michel even had a go at it, leaving the box and running nearly the length of the field in an attempt that almost went it.
In the end it went to penalties, and there Place in Saigon was able to put the first goal in. African team took the spot, and the ball was saved with some great timing by the keeper. Second shot, place in Saigon scored again. Now the pressure was on the African team to score, and as the kick was taking place the crowd was absolutely silent. The shot was a rocket, hitting the crossbar, bouncing down and on the line, and then out of the goal. The crowd went crazy, some in disbelief, some in joy, but it was over.
Place in Saigon had won the SIFL SUPER 7s CUP, and it was a well played game by both teams. If it had gone longer without penalties, it could have easily gone the other way. However, it was an exciting end to a great day of football, and the fans got what they came for at the end of it all!
The awards ceremony followed and most of the teams stayed around to find out about the special awards and league awards as well which were awarded by the SIFL Chairman Justin Colebrissi. After the event we caught up with Justin and he said, “What a day of football! This day was possible thanks in large part to all the teams that supported us today, but also the individuals and friendships that came together to help us through everything. We really appreciate all the hard work that went into making this happen.”
So there you have it. A great day of football and the SIFL season ended in great fashion again. We look forward to the summer of training, events, and SIFL 2015-2016 season which will get underway in September again!