Goalball UK National League logo 2019/20Shortly after the Intermediate Trophy back in early March, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, unfortunately the remainder of the 2019/20 season had to be cancelled. However, Goalball UK decided to keep all the remaining tournament dates in the diary and devised some alternative light-hearted ‘virtual’ tournaments to keep up some competition between the clubs. No medals or league points would be on offer – just some bragging rights! Normally great skills and tactics are required for a winning performance but it was decided that the ‘new normal’ would instead be pure luck!

First up was the final Novice and Intermediate (South & West) tournament of the season on March 21st that was ‘played’ in Kathryn’s living room – rather than Bristol as originally planned! Five clubs took part in a round robin format with the results from each game simply being decided by the roll of a dice. Winchester narrowly lost by 2 goals to 1 against South Wales but won their other 3 games so finished overall in 1st place, closely followed by RNC in 2nd and NCW in 3rd.

The following Saturday, it was back to Kathryn’s living room again for the final Novice and Intermediate (North) tournament of the season. This time there were 8 teams battling it out in a straight knock out Heads v Tails coin toss format. Blackburn, Glasgow, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire all immediately crashed out in the tense opening games leaving Lancashire Lions, Merseyside, Scarborough and York to fight it out for the virtual win. The eventual victors were York.

The remaining Elite tournament of the season was scheduled to be contested over the weekend of April 25th and 26th but the virtual version involved games being played in the week preceding. What was unique about this tournament was not only that it took place in various ‘venues’ around the country but all games were officiated by ‘Woof-erees’ (i.e. dogs)! For each game, the names of the 2 competing teams were written on a piece of paper and placed on the floor with a dog treat on top. The outcome of each game was then simply determined by which team’s treat was eaten first – which was usually closely followed by the second treat also being eaten!

In order of appearance: Lola, Ralph, Oscar, Ruby, Sandi, Honey and Freddie all put on a good show but undeniably the star was Fred who with the help of his owner Ian Braid added some real razzmatazz to the final game which was won by Northern Allstars. Thank you to all of our four-legged friends who have subsequently been granted a bespoke introductory award in officiating from Dina! It was decided not to send them a commemorative bag of dog treats though as most consumed more than enough during ‘training’ for this tournament!

The Novice Shield, hosted by Tom and Kathryn, took place on May 16th and was a cross between the FA Cup draw and the Grand National. It was a bumper tournament with 16 teams competing. The format was ‘reverse bingo’ in that each team had been pre-allocated 2 (unlucky!) numbers which, once they had both been drawn out, meant that they were out. Commiserations to Birmingham Barbarians who ‘fell at the first’ whilst congratulations to Winchester who were ‘first past the post’, just ahead of Fen Tigers and Derbyshire Ducks.

The final tournament of our virtual end to the 19/20 season was the Goalfix Goalball Cup which took place on June 20th and 21st. For what is traditionally our show piece event we decided to invite a player from each of the competing clubs to participate (via Zoom) with their destiny literally being in their own hands as the format was Rock Paper Scissors! Phoenix Blaze (Phil Green), RNC Hereford (Chris Colbert), Cambridge Dons (Celine Lean) and Winchester (David Scott) all failed to progress

beyond the quarter finals leaving Fen Tigers (Anes Saleh), Northern Allstars (Emma Tammaro), RNC Academy (Kali Holder) and London & Croysutt (Lee Robshaw) all in the top 4. Fen Tigers initially went behind in the virtual gold medal game against London & Croysutt before fighting back to win 2-1 whilst RNC Academy triumphed 1-0 over Northern Allstars in the virtual bronze medal game.

We hope that you have enjoyed the virtual tournaments over the past few months. If you missed any of them or simply want to watch them again they are all available on our Facebook page. Hopefully we will be back playing real tournaments before too long but, for the time being, remember that we have also got our ‘Higher or Lower’ National League underway. So good luck everyone!