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Monday, December 23, 2013


The small Dutch town of Baarlo, nestled in the heart of north Limburg and situated just a few miles to the west of Venlo, home of erstwhile Eredivisie contenders VVV, played host to Tuvalu's national side on 5/10/13 when they came to take on local team VV Baarlo at their very picturesque Sportpark de Meeren, set as it is in woodland.

Baarlo were founded on 1/4/27 as RKVV (Rooms-Katholieke Voetbalvereniging) Baarlo, and merged with local rivals Excelsior later that year. The club's fortunes have waxed and waned down the years, ranging from finding themselves in the depths of the 6e klasse - in other words, the basement division of Dutch football - at the end of the 2002-03 season to a season in the 2e klasse in 2010.

Not only is Baarlo's ground set in an attractive location, but the club's custodians and supporters are a very welcoming bunch and a thoroughly good advert for their club, which plays in the eighth level (4e klasse) of Dutch football and whose first-team had only won one of their first four games of the season prior to the game against their visitors from afar. 

The boys and girls who play in the club's various junior teams are, by the look of things, more than enthusiastic as well, and formed a formidable red tide against the Tuvalu team in the now traditional kickabout before the match proper; with three balls on the pitch, it was a veritable free-for-all, which the youngsters won by 10 goals to 2.

The match itself, watched by a crowd of some 350 spectators, began just after 19:00 and was played (in the first half, at least) in overcast, but warm, conditions, and began with the referee wearing of all things, a camera on his head. It is fair to say that money's a little tight these days for most of us, even for the KNVB, but equipping a referee with a head-camera and not bothering to send along an assessor is surely stretching things a little too far.. 

CALM BEFORE THE STORM: Baarlo captain Leon Peeters and his Tuvaluan counterpart Sepe Willie Nokisi lead the teams out before the game at the hosts' Sportpark de Meeren (PHOTO: Author's own)

The weather may have been benign, but Baarlo's team were up for creating a storm, and, after an uneventful first five minutes or so, the home team took the lead, and the man in the middle may have been wishing for a monitor at the side of the pitch as the ball in from Matthijs Hanssen on the right wing to Wouter Peeters was clearly offside, but the Baarlo number 7 finished with aplomb from just behind the penalty spot.

Moments later, just after Panapa Mafoa had Tuvalu's first shot on target, Peeters almost added a second, finding himself on the end of a through ball, and, after beating two Tuvalu defenders, curled his shot agonisingly wide.

An interesting battle was developing out on the wing between Tuvaluan defender Vaiaho Napoe and the speedy Joost Roeven, and it was Roeven's pass which set team-mate Roel Bouten free for a one-on-one with Tuvalu 'keeper Mauga Tonise, though Bouten's shot was well saved and put behind for a corner.

Baarlo were dominating proceedings, though Taufaiva Ionatana and Sepe Willie were combining well for the visitors. Bouten, Wouter Peeters, Leon Peeters and Jeroen van Wijlick all had efforts well saved by Mauga Tonise before the Tuvalu 'keeper was beaten again in the 21st minute, Matthijs Hanssen - who had an effort ruled out on the quarter-hour for offside - stroking home a cross from Wouter Peeters.

Baarlo were missing chance after chance now, with Hanssen firing just over in the 24th minute after some nice combination play from his team-mates, and, a minute later, Joost Roeven was put clear after another neat build-up, but slid the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

Ionatana was put through in the 27th minute, and was bearing down on goal only for Stan Wijhers to slide in and put the ball behind just as the Tuvalu forward was about to pull the trigger. Moments later, team-mate Vaiaho Napoe, who was being terrorised down the Baarlo left by Wouter Peeters, Hanssen and Roeven, but had still played well, was substituted by Fatu Alefaio. 

After Tonise had kept Wouter Peeters out once more after he had been put clear by Leon Peeters, again down the left-hand side, Peeters nabbed his second and Baarlo's third after 33 minutes by beating two defenders on the edge of the Tuvalu penalty-area and slotting the ball to Tonise's right. 

A minute later, Frank Peeters almost made it four, his long-range effort clipping the top of the Tuvalu crossbar, before Roeven, again rampaging down the left, saw his shot well saved by Tonise.

There was a rare chance for the visitors in the 40th minute, with Amatusi Peni almost profiting from a sloppy ball in Baarlo's midfield; he skipped past a Baarlo defender, only to shoot just wide of host 'keeper Jeffrey Schouwenberg's right-hand post.

At the other end, Sepuli Loaha put the ball behind for a Baarlo corner, from which Peeters had a chance to complete his hat-trick, only to completely miss the ball with the goal at his mercy. Shortly afterwards, Stan Wijhers fired just over, again from the left-hand side. Another Tuvaluan substitution followed in the 44th minute, with Mac Tuia making way for Eric Tealofi. The first half ended with a short period of pressure from the Tuvalu team without anything to show for it.

After a cagey start to the second-half from both teams, Baarlo got their fourth three minutes after the restart courtesy of Wouter Peeters, who might not score an easier goal this season: yet another cross from the left-hand side was completely missed by Tonise, and the ball was literally walked into the net by the Baarlo man.

Frank Peeters tested Tonise in the 54th minute with a low shot, but scored anyway within seconds, firing in a low shot past the Tuvalu 'keeper. Noud Schotman scored the hosts' sixth on the hour mark after Leon Peeters burst through with only Tonise to beat; Peeters side-footed pass found Schotman, who ticked the ball into an empty net.

Ionatana was then put through for Tuvalu after a nifty piece of play from Willie and Telava Folitau, only to be foiled by a last-ditch tackle.

Baarlo's seventh goal came in the 70th minute, and the prolific Peeters nabbed his fourth of the night in delightful fashion, controlling the ball some 20 yards out, flicking the ball over an opposing defender's head and then finishing off with a crashing half-volley from 15 yards.

Tuvalu finally got off the mark just a minute later; some good football in midfield by the visitors eventually saw Folitau's shot saved by substitute goalkeeper Guido Wijnhoven, but Teake Filialofa was there to tap the rebound into an empty net.

Tuvalu's second came from the penalty-spot, Panapa Mafoa confidently beating Wijnhoven after the home goalie missed a cross from the left-hand side and chased the ball across his penalty area, only to floor Ionatana.

Nelesone Musika came on for the last ten minutes or so for Folitau, and immediately won the hearts of the large contingent of Baarlo mothers standing along the touchline; if Roelen was greased lightning during the first half, then Musika, ably abetted by tigerish fellow substitute Sio Silitone, was at the very least hydromatic, bamboozling the Baarlo defence on occasion.

Normal service was resumed in the 79th minute, when a low pass to Roeven was controlled by the Baarlo forward and his low shot beat Tonise to his left. Roeven had been a torment to the Tuvaluan defence throughout the match, and a goal was a fitting tribute to his endeavours.

Tuvalu had more of the ball in the closing stages, with Amatusi Telogo Peni's cross-shot going just over, and Tuia shooting wide after some good football from substitute Geoffrey Maleko.

Wouter Peeters got on the scoresheet yet again in the 86th minute, when an audacious lob beat Tonise, who scrambled back and got his hands to the ball, only for it to drop under the bar and in for Baarlo's ninth of the evening. The game rather petered out after that, with only Ionatana's volley going just wide of the Baarlo left-hand post, after finding himself in space after a cross from the right, causing any real excitement.

The emphatic scoreline was just the confidence-booster that Baarlo were looking for, although it must be said that Tuvalu were fielding a rather depleted team, whith several first-choice players out through injury. Wouter Peeters was the obvious choice for man of the match with his five goals, although several other players impressed for the hosts, Matthijs Hanssen and Joost Roeven among them.

For the injury-hit visitors, a word of praise should go to Mauga Tonise in the Tuvalu goal, who, despite conceding nine goals, performed heroics at times. Sepe WIllie and the industrious Taufaiva Ionatana deserve a special mention. 

After the match and the presentation of the Carriere Cup to Baarlo captain Leon Peeters, the Tuvalu side encamped en masse to Baarlo's social club, and put on a display of traditional dancing and singing which was much appreciated by the home support; it was an enjoyable end to an enjoyable day for all concerned.

VV BAARLO: 1 Jeffrey SCHOUWENBERG (17 Guido WIJNHOVEN); 2 Mike SPOLDERS, 3 Stan WIJHERS, 4 Sander BONGERS, 5 Leon PEETERS (C); 6 Jeroen VAN WIJLICK, 7 Wouter PEETERS, 8 Roel BOUTEN; 9 Matthijs HANSSEN, 11 Joost ROEVEN (14 Frank VAN OOIJEN), 12 Frank PEETERS


TUVALU: 1 Mauga TONISE; 2 Vaiaho NAPOE (15 Fatu ALEFAIO), 3 Sepuli LOAHA, 5 Uota ALE (18 Lutelu TIUTE), 8 Afelee VALOA; 6 Sepe WILLIE (C), 8B Amatusi PENI (19 Eric TEALOFI), 14 Makatui TUIA; 7 Taufaiva IONATANA, 11 Telava FOLITAU (23 Nelesone MUSIKA); 12 Panapa MAFOA

SUBSTITUTES: 9 Leiatu UOLI (GK), 15 Fatu ALEFAIO, 16 Teake FILIALOFA, 17 Sio SILITONE, 18 Lutelu TIUTE, 19 Eric TEALOFI, 22 Geoffrey MALEKO, 23 Nelesone MUSIKA
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to one and all at Baarlo, especially to the master of ceremonies and the club photographer, for their assistance and hospitality. Any errors are the author's own.

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