Khalsa Football Federation Tournament at Aylestone Playing Fields, Leicester
Three years ago I had my first taste of a Khalsa tournament, at Sinfin Moor Park in Derby, and really enjoyed it. Since then I've been keen to watch another one, and this year the Leicester competition was the ideal opportunity.
A series of Khalsa tournaments, for Sikh-based teams from across the UK, are held each summer, with games spread over a Saturday and Sunday. They're on a straight knockout basis, with successful sides facing a hectic programme of four games in just two days, putting the leisurely World Cup schedule into perspective.
The Leicester competition is hosted by local side Guru Nanak Gurdwara FC. Eight pitches were used for the senior games on the opening day, six at Aylestone Playing Fields supplementing GNG FC's main ground and their adjacent 3G pitch.
Having already seen a game at GNG FC I decided to base myself at Aylestone Playing Fields, for three out of a possible five games.
Division Two, Quarter-Final
Portway 1 FC Punjab Sandwell 1, 3-1 on penalties (att 7)
I'm sure 9am is the earliest I've ever seen a game start, and it was quite an effort to get from Manchester to Leicester in time for the opening matches.
There's just eight teams in the Khalsa Football Federation's third tier this year, which means the division two competitions begin at the quarter final stage. I was keen to watch one of the two ties between first teams, and on arrival it was a case of checking the schedule to find out which game was on which pitch.
The Aylestone Playing Fields are effectively divided into three smaller playing fields, each with two pitches. This match was on the middle area, on what the Khalsa FF designated as pitch five.
Punjab Sandwell's first half opener was well taken, but after that the finishing by both sides was poor. Portway levelled thanks to a second half penalty, but it was no surprise that the tie ended 1-1.
The lack of accuracy in front of goal continued into the penalty shootout. Punjab Sandwell missed their first three spot kicks, while Portway missed one out of their four on their way to a 3-1 win.
Division One, First Round
Punjab United Derby 2 Shere Punjab Wolverhampton 3 (att 13)
From the opening game it was a few minutes' walk through a wooded area to the furthest of the three playing fields, and 'pitch seven' at Aylestone, for this opening round second tier tie.
I expected Punjab United Derby to win this, but despite looking the better side they couldn't shake off a dogged Shere Punjab Wolverhampton. It was 2-2 going into stoppage time, and I expected another penalty shootout that threatened to scupper my plans for a third game some distance away.
I needn't have worried though, as with time almost up it was the Wolverhampton side who scored the game's decisive goal. As the final whistle blew I headed back towards the competition's HQ for my final game.
Premier Division, First Round
GSA 1 FC Khalsa Leicester 2 (att 100)
This match was on 'pitch three', the closest pitch to the Aylestone Playing Fields pavilion, near the tournament organisers' tent and, usefully, close to where welcome, tasty and free vegetable curry and chapatis where available.
The Khalsa tournaments are prestigious to competing clubs, and at premier division level the standard is usually high. Khalsa Leicester may not have been the host club, but in effect this was a home competition for them and they were keen to see off Birmingham-based rivals GSA.
A fabulous long-range strike gave Khalsa a first half lead, but GSA's penalty that brought them level before half time was controversial. The spot kick was certainly a correct decision, but a red card for the Khalsa player who committed the foul was harsh.
The Leicester side made light of their numerical disadvantage, and in a tight second period got the winner to earn a quarter-final place.
After that I could have stayed for two more matches, and the chance to tick off more pitches at Aylestone Playing Fields, but three back-to-back matches was enough for me. Hopefully I'll return for the remaining pitches at a future Khalsa tournament.