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Tuesday 9th January 2018 ko 20.15

London FA Junior Cup 4th Round

ALTIS 1 (Aalit 62) McCausland sent off (DOGSO) 90

UNITED LONDON 1 (Texeira 10)

No extra time, United London won 4-2 on penalties

Att 86 @ London Marathon Community Track

Entry & Programme £3

“Altis” ; Greek def. “The Sanctuary of the Gods.”

The thanks for this should go to Talksport radio presenter Tony Incenzo. It was he that spotted that former warm-up track for the 2012 London Olympics had been converted for use as a mini stadium and his suggestion was how Altis came to move there. He then encouraged the club to play one of their games midweek under lights and to produce a one-off programme. And when you know roughly 60 of the attendees you know the ruse worked!

Altis and Tony go back a long way. They used to be Sloane FC and featured in 2009 on one of Tony’s sadly discontinued Middlesex League early kick-off games at their former home at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. They soon moved to one of the show pitches at Hackney Marshes mainly due to the pitch at the hospital being too short, but for this season they changed, name, location and even FA, moving from the Middlesex League to the AFA and Division Senior 2 North of the Amateur Football Combination.

The use of the Greek name is supremely well thought out. Altis is part of Olympia, Greece the cradle of the Olympic games, and the analogy of amateurism holds true too, explaining the AFA membership. Other than the club now playing adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, they’ve built up links to community-based charities such as Football Beyond Borders and Park SSC. They certainly live up to their motto, ” Football with purpose.”

Being part of the Amateur Football Association doesn’t mean they’re completely divorced from FA competitions. United London play in the Essex Alliance Premier Division a feeder to the Step 7 Essex Olympian League. A cross-FA, cross-league tie only added to the intrigue. The Romford-based team are a new club who have decided to delegate team selection and tactics to a mobile App’. Fans can vote via the internet, and the fact that they’re 2nd from 11 suggests some success at the very least!

When taking in a game here it’s worth knowing that the nearest parking is at the Westfield Shopping Centre a 20 minute walk away, as is Stratford station. Slightly nearer is Pudding Mill Lane on the Docklands Light Railway but this isn’t a venue you can get to in a rush. You need to plan in London traffic and even then, I was glad of the later-than-normal kick-off.

I parked in the shopping centre and picked my way across to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I crossed Waterden Road, and stopped in my tracks, trying to align what I was seeing with my memories. I watched the Hackney Hawks speedway team at Waterden Road, during my student days in the early 90’s. I’m told the Olympic media centre, now the “Look East” Centre ended up being built on the site, but in all honesty you’d never know without the coordinates!

The evening was worth the effort I made to be there. Whilst as a venue it does suffer from several of the issues that mean that the another former warm-up track, the Manchester Regional Arena is no longer used for pyramid football.  That doesn’t stop the London Stadium’s little brother being being a high-class venue with an immaculate pitch, and like it’s Mancunian cousin comes with quite a backdrop!

But this was as much a social event as it was a football match and money-spinner for Altis. People caught-up after the Christmas break, but the game managed to hold the attention as the tension increased. And whilst the draw was the fair result, the dismissal of Altis’ keeper Albert McCausland for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity happened in final seconds of stoppage time, meant that the visitors had a stand-in keeper for the penalty shoot-out.

It was very much a case of poacher turning gamekeeper. Samir Aalit had equalised for Altis but was tasked with stopping United London’s spot kicks. The record books will show he failed, but his teammates missed their first two kicks, and he stood little chance with the ones he faced. The visitors celebrated, and the hoppers quickly made their ways home.

Will Altis play another floodlit game? There’s no need for them to do so, and there’s no need for them to do another programme either. The way to see this evening is as a glorious one-off, one of those times when the planets align perhaps never to be repeated.

I looked up, realised I was the only hopper left, and aimed for the lit John Lewis sign. It was, oddly a lot easier to find the car than it has the little stadium!