Saturday 12th June 2021 1pm – The Medway Tournament – Elite Venue, Gravesend
As dramatic events in Copenhagen later in the day would prove, in moments of crisis, footballers can put aside any rivalries and show true unity, compassion and care for each other and those around them. The actions of Danish players, including Simon Kjaer and Kasper Schmeichel in the moments after the collapse of Christian Erikson were praised across the globe, with the final result in a game that many questioned whether it should have continued being almost irrelevant to the situation.
A small number of the fans who were at the Steve Cook Stadium in Gravesend for this game will have known the fight ahead for Punjab United midfielder Arun Suman prior to yesterday’s game, nor would have anyone guessed having watched him put in a five star performance, including a hatrick, by the midfielder that he faces a battle against a serious illness in the weeks ahead.
A post-match guard of honour, formed by the Punjab players and staff, clapped Suman off the pitch at the end of the game, a highly emotional gesture from a club that continues to do the right thing.
With the crowd boosted by a fair number of fans who were going onto watch Chatham Town at 3pm, this was again another brilliant advert for this post-season tournament. This was the third Punjab United game I had seen in the last two weeks and once again the goals flowed. The reverse fixture between the two ended 8-0 to Punjab and Suman’s early strike put them on the way again. The home side needed a victory to keep their slim hope of qualifying for the final alive but a Lordswood equaliser against the run of play with the home side appealing for an offside.
One of the great attractions of coming to Punjab United is the food. Freshly made, tasty and good value for money – if there is a finer samosa in football I’ve yet to find it and they were flying out of the kitchen window as the home side retook the lead, Suman again scoring. But a minute before the break it was all square when that well known Non-League player A Trialist broke free and beat the Punjab keeper.
The second half was twenty seconds young when Lordswood were awarded a fortuitous penalty, with the danger man Kasai brought down. Young stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way to put them in the lead for the first time in the game. On the hour Suman completed his hatrick to level the scores, only for Lordswood to go up the other end and take the lead through Gorse.
With twenty minutes to play, and a few fans heading for the exits to make the short journey down the A2 in time for kick off in the Chatham Town game, Punjab again, Luke Adams getting on the scoresheet. But still we had drama when Punjab’s keeper flew out of his area and clattered into the Lordswood forward through on goal. In a competitive game it would have been a straight red but a brief word and a token yellow was enough. Then, in the dying minutes Lordswood broke the high defensive line and the centre forward was through on goal, one to one with the keeper and a chance to take all three points. Alas, his shot was straight at the legs of the goalkeeper and that was the final action.
Whilst it was a cracking game of football, full of goals, incidents and samosas, the news of Suman’s enforced break brings home that footballers are humans too. He couldn’t ask for a more caring, community club to support him through the fight ahead.