2015 - Marbella
The OHAFC Tour bandwagon once more rolled into a familiar location for the 2015 edition: Puerto Banus in Marbella, Spain, scene of the week-long extravaganza organised by Nick Warner back in 2000. Then, it was a dodgy Scottish ex-pat called Georgie Gray who made the necessary arrangements for three superb games of football at local third division club UD San Pedro. Fifteen years on and the group of 17 were reliant on dodgy 2nd XI playmaker Azhar Khan not only for the football, but also the accommodation and night time entertainment as well. Azhar was aided in his role by his two closest allies, ‘Super’ Geoff Taunton-Collins and not-so-super Jack Orr-Ewing.
Two weeks out and things were looking up, despite Azhar admitting that no football fixtures had yet been arranged. Nevertheless, the glossy tour brochure that was emailed round highlighted a magnificent villa just minutes from town where the group would be staying: comfortable bedrooms, marble detail in the bathrooms, a large swimming pool and manicured gardens. This, truly, was a step up from last year’s 8-man dormitory nonsense in a youth hostel in central Hamburg.
As the days counted down and anticipation heightened, with a new whatsapp group created to initiate some ‘tour banter’, a couple of minor problems came to light. Firstly, Theo Gordon had been left off the whatsapp group – good news for him given the gibberish being exchanged but embarrassing for the tour leader. Slightly more worrying was the news that the villa the group had been due to stay in had in fact been sold without any prior warning. With five days to go therefore, no accommodation or football had in fact been arranged: standard operating procedure for most OHAFC Tours.
Nevertheless, some frantic behind-the-scenes activity hinted that all may not have been lost and at the duly appointed hour on Good Friday morning the 17-strong tour party arrived at Gatwick’s South Terminal to be presented with by far the most comprehensive tour itinerary ever produced by an Old Harrovian. It was truly a thing of wonder, with most people wondering whether they were on a football tour or in fact some kind of Mediterranean boot camp.
The large number of new faces meant some initial sizing up was in order, although in Chuka Ilogu’s case it was unlikely there were any more sizes to go up, his tour tracksuit capable of housing four ‘Woolleys’ on the OH clothing scale.
Some early examples of very odd behaviour were exhibited from several tour virgins, with Toby Cooper changing outfits three times prior to getting on the plane and Taunton-Collins rivalling him by eating a toasted bagel with his knife and fork whilst wearing a rather effeminate scarf wrapped round his neck. Not to be outdone, veteran tourist and consummate weirdo Harry Woolley decided he was the spitting image of Jurgen Klopp and spent much of the flight holding up his picture and asking for his photo to be taken alongside him – something the Monarch flight attendant seated opposite wanted nothing to do with. Meanwhile Kapoor was arousing suspicions of cheating when he started answering every question Lederman threw at him from the Four Four Two quiz correctly. 'I'm going to keep an eye on him' thought the oldest man on tour by ten years, in an in-no-way-creepy manner.
After some unnecesary faffing around on arrival at Malaga airport, during which time Alex Gilbert nearly smashed a large glass window by drilling a football at it at a surprisingly high speed given his standard choice of flip-flop footwear, the group located their two minibuses for the weekend and set off towards Marbella with Messrs Lederman and Stead in charge at the wheel. A few wrong-turns aside, the tourists’ villa was located quickly enough and bedrooms chosen – a slightly longer and more awkward process than it could have been, with the lack of a room draw meaning no-one wanted the booby-prize location of the two bunk beds, in the pool house, next to the toilet. Some high level negotiations followed, during which time the most common question asked was ‘do you mind sharing a double bed?’ Clearly five years at an all-boys boarding school had left a great number of the tourists suspicious of such requests and it was left to the tour leaders to put their best foot forward, Khan and Orr-Ewing jumping into bed with each other, literally, and Taunton-Collins foregoing his single bed for a shared option with 1’s goalkeeper Fraser McGuiness. It was later remarked that it was the sort of gesture only a future prime minister would make, although McGuiness looked unlikely to cast his vote until Taunton-Collins’ full nocturnal manifesto was known.
A quick turnaround and the group were ready to hit the town on opening night, with first stop the locally-renowned Jack’s Brasserie, purveyor of the finest ribs, burgers and pizzas in town. An uneventful meal was enlivened by the arrival of OH Craig David look-a-like and, apparently, all-round Marbella Bad Boy Adam Graham, who introduced himself to a number of the group before taking a seat and launching into a tale about how he had been duped out of some money and wanted to take revenge on those responsible by finding them and killing them. It proved too much excitement for Theo Gordon, who’s back suddenly seized up leaving him in considerable pain. Rumours it was an excuse to escape Adam Graham’s tall tales of the Marbella underworld proved unfounded.
A short walk along the harbour front led the group to the News Cafe, a double-decker bar-cum-nightclub with a Eurotrash vibe and a ‘No cow hat’ policy on the door, much to Arjun Chopra’s disappointment. The cow hat was left in Adam Graham’s car for safe-keeping, although this would later prove to be the wrong option and the hat, having barely left its suitcase, was never seen again.
Drinks flowed, Irish girls arrived and were interviewed, thoroughly, and a good time was had by all before the group were ushered to their final destination of the night, Aqua nightclub, helpfully located just the other side of the coastal motorway. Everyone jumped into cabs for the two minute ride, except for Chopra and Max Curry, who decided they would make the trip on foot and nearly paid with their lives.
Nevertheless, once inside the group realised tour leader Khan had pulled a masterstroke with a table of drinks, balloons and shisha laid out before them. This wasn’t enough for cheeky chappy Charlie Walsh who discovered a Jacuzzi in the far corner of the establishment and spent several hours trying to persuade various members of the group to join him in the hot tub with ‘any girl they wanted.’ And all for the low, low price of €4,000.
Saturday morning dawned and a surprisingly spritely Jack Orr-Ewing set to work on preparing breakfast for 17 hungover footballers, none of whom had any intention of lifting a finger to help. The main topic of conversation around the breakfast table was the mysterious appearance of a bruise the size of Gibraltar on Max Curry’s right arm. Although the striker had, at times, appeared to be losing the plot the night before, no-one could remember him taking any mixed martial arts lessons or walking into a large, stationary bison.
After some cajoling the group finally decided the lure of Arsenal v Liverpool on Sky was worth heading into town for and, keen to discover everything the port has to offer, returned to Jack’s Brasserie where they had dined the night before. The sight of Liverpool being torn to shreds was too much for adopted Scouser Arjun Chopra, who sat in silent misery much to the amusement of everyone else.
Back to the villa for some final preparations and it was off to face Atletico Yunquera in the first of two tour games. Azhar Khan had estimated the journey to be about an hour but this proved somewhat incorrect, with the two minibuses being led across numerous mountain ranges in scenes similar to the Italian Job. It was close to the appointed kick-off time of 5 pm when the two coaches did finally pull in but the long, at times scenic, at times frightening beyond belief journey proved to be worthwhile when one of the finest astroturf facilities anyone had ever seen hoved into view, complete with pitchside sprinkler system.
It soon became apparent to the hundred or so local spectators (no OH fans having bothered to travel) that the superb pitch was wasted on the ‘Eengleesh’ with two defensive mistakes gifting the hosts a 2-0 lead and two further goals making the half-time score 4-0. At this point the hosts took pity and sent their outstanding left winger home, the tourists speculating on the journey back that he was so good, he was perhaps some kind of local demi-God and surely owner of most of the land in this corner of Andalucia. At the very least he was expected to be controller of several tatty warehouses on the outskirts of Yunquera, in itself no small achievement.
The long trip back left little time for reflection on the opening defeat which was probably just as well and after a quick turnaround the group headed for the smartly-titled Belvedere Restaurant. This turned out to be the world’s most luxuriously appointed pizzeria, with an almost regal feel to the interior. Fortunately the group were soon right at home, with tour leader Khan informing them that a ‘€20 for beer and pizza’ plan was in operation. This failed to take into account a still-struggling Theo Gordon, who wanted a pizza and a pasta, or, possibly, two pizzas and half a pasta or a pizza, a pasta and a side salad. Whatever he chose, the mathematics at the end left Khan as confused as the OH back four had been a few hours earlier, his counting and re-counting of the money delaying the onward journey to Bar Seven by a good half hour.
The delay saw some members of the party lose the will to continue and they sauntered home for an early night. The rest took up residence in a large corner area of Seven, Fraser McGuiness adopting a most unusual pose to study what was on offer. Such was the number of young girls inside, Woolley was heard to remark that he would have to be very weird not to spend some time with one of them. Three hours later and his words were surely coming back to haunt him, with Max Curry proving best at talking to a member of the opposite sex, his prolonged chat to blonde Katie given extra impetus by the revelation that her boyfriend was an OH and not only that, an OH with a beard.
The surviving group made their way to the final stop of the night, Funky Buddha, a short cab ride away, although in truth this was not as enjoyable a venue as Seven had been, with a lack of ‘eye candy’ the main complaint. With an early start on day three, the group returned to base, Woolley helpfully waking up his section of the villa by creeping into their bedrooms and whispering ‘Boooooh’ or even ‘Bwaaaaah’.
With no time to cook something up prior to departure for Sunday’s fixture against CF Candor, a tactical decision was made to stop at McDonalds en route. Here, the order of 43 McMuffins exactly four minutes prior to the end of the allotted breakfast time caused a panic the like of which hadn’t been seen since Khan’s attempt to pay the bill in the Belvedere. Nevertheless, with everyone finally fed the group returned to the buses for the much shorter trip to Mijas, forty minutes up the coast from Puerto Banus.
This time the pitch that greeted them made even the forty minute journey seem too long, with a dark, tatty astroturf housed in the middle of some sort of quarry. A brief chat with the locals allowed Chopra to explain the difficulties the team had encountered the day before in dealing with Yunquera’s equivalent of David Villa, but the Candor coach put everyone at ease, exclaiming that ‘there will be none of that today.’
And he wasn’t lying either, with a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from Alex ‘Awight son?’ Smith and Dave ‘Gimme another balloon’ Stead giving captain Jaguar Bajuar much to smile about (the insistence of everyone in now pronouncing his name as a rhyme giving him less to smile about). The previously relaxed Candor coach failed to see the funny side and launched into a fierce broadside at his players right next to the OHAFC bench, a sight that left the visitors in stunned hysterics. By the end of the second half however it was the home side that were smiling with some ‘extravagant’ goalkeeping by Lederman allowing the hosts back into the game and a tiring Harrow side conceding without much of a fight at the end.
A few drinks and some pickled vegetables at the bar afterwards and the group returned home for the next item on the itinerary: BBQ & tinder Pool Party. The BBQ bit seemed fine but no-one was quite sure just what the tinder pool party entailed and, most importantly, whose tinder account was to be responsible for that section of the event. ‘So how many girls are coming?’ enquired a hopeful voice from the back of the bus. Silence. It was clear that the next portion of the weekend was to be a meat-fest in more ways than one. Indeed, potentially a fatal meat feast, with chief cook Jack Orr-Ewing casually leaving a plate of burgers next to the BBQ that hadn’t been properly cooked. Telling no-one, this only came to light when Max Curry was three-quarters of the way through his burger. He carried stoically on, although his behaviour later suggested it was the wrong decision.
Once some properly-cooked fayre had been consumed, the tourists split into three groups: Chopra led a very enjoyable game of Ring of Fire, even bringing a laminated sheet with the rules on it with him – this proved of minimal use to Cooper who, even allowing for his state of inebriation, stunned those present by starting one round with ‘European capitals, to my left, Spain…’ A second group viewed this entertainment as too intellectually-challenging and devised a game with the football best described as a cross between football, squash and fives. The third group was led by Ilogu and included him alone, sitting peacefully next to the BBQ, casually picking through the remnants of the meat, which by now included some rather stubby looking bright red sausages.
With the alcohol taking hold, it was then decided that a game of ‘bums’ would be a good idea – this involved members of the group taking pot shots at a poor individual lined up against the garden wall. The catch was that if you succeeded in hitting the target, you yourself were next in the firing line. At this point Khan was thanked for his superb organisation by being thrown in the pool fully clothed. He responded by stripping naked on the terrace. In the words of Patrick Swayze in Point Break ‘This game we both lose’.
It was time to head out for the final night on tour and what better place to start than the kebab shop/pizzeria? The only way from there was up surely, but in fact Khan had found somewhere that made those two venues look like the Belvedere: Linekers Bar. Here, the DJ tried unsuccessfully to welcome the group, struggling hopelessly with the term ‘Old Harrovians’ and Woolley befriended an old man wearing a Burger King hat – truly the tourists had found their level.
Back outside and a series of running races was organised by Theo Gordon with Alex Gilbert an early casualty, the task of running thirty yards, turning and running back proving too much for him. Back onto Aqua and it was more of the same with the balloon lady clearly realising she was in for a busy evening, her face dropping as Stead came through the front doors frothing at the mouth and growling ‘balloons…balloons’ like some crazed fairground employee.
It was gone 6am when the last of the stragglers returned home, an ideal time for a dip thought Max Curry. Very odd behaviour thought everyone else, including Cooper, who had failed to rouse himself for the night out, but was well up for a massive party now that everyone else had passed out in bed. His low ranking on the weird list was surely an aberration.
Speaking of which, the annual stats fest, something Lederman invented surely just to take the boredom out of the flight home, was conducted in Burger King in Malaga airport prior to the flight home and saw Harry Woolley collect the prize at the sixth attempt on a tie-break with Arjun Chopra. Both had been pretty weird and set a good example to the younger less weird members of the tour group. It is to be hoped that many of the youngsters will now come out of their shell in future years and display their full weirdness capabilities otherwise Woolley could be in for a long reign as King Weirdo.
Now, who’s got Adam Graham’s number, we need the cow hat back…
- tour captain
- tour vice-captain
Jack Orr-Ewing, Geoff Taunton-Collins
- Azhar Khan Jack Orr-Ewing
- David Lederman Harry Woolley
- Arjun Chopra Alex Gilbert
- David Stead Charlie Walsh
- Nick Kapoor Theo Gordon
- Chuka Ilogu Alex Smith
- Max Curry Toby Cooper
- Jaguar Bajwa Fraser McGuinness
- Geoff Taunton-Collins