Kouklia Community Stadium | Does This Guy Even Know How To Play Offside?

Pafos FC 5-1 Brentford B

📍 Kouklia Community Stadium | Pafos, CY
🏆 Korantina Homes Cup
⚽ Friendly
📅 Sun 14 Nov 21 | 11.00am
🎟️ Free | Att: ?

In England, international breaks are often designated as non-league “days”, with many clubs attracting bumper crowds in lieu of regular alternatives. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Cyprus, where all four of the professional and semi-professional men’s leagues usually take the weekend off.

It’s a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that the Korantina Cup – a six-team, international tournament in its fourth year – is taking place in the traditional and picturesque village of Kouklia, near Pafos this weekend

At first glance, this may not be the obvious location for such an event; given that the 3,000-year-old ruins of Palaepaphos (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are close by, archaeology is perhaps a more apt activity in this region.

Exterior of the Kouklia Community Stadium in Kouklia, Cyprus.

Yet the Kouklia Community Stadium is deceptively well-suited to the task. Thanks, in part, to its modern facilities (as well its proximity to the luxurious Aphrodite Hills resort), the ground has hosted numerous age-grade internationals and friendly tournaments over the years.

Welcome to the Korantina Cup

First held in 2017, the Korantina Cup is the brainchild of Pafos FC owner Roman Dubov, and this year’s iteration features Pafos, Aris Limassol, Brentford B, Riga FC, Rodina Moscow, and a select XI of free agents from the Spanish FA (AFE). With the AFE defeating Aris 2-1 in yesterday’s opener, today is the host’s turn to represent Cyprus, as they take on Brentford B.

Brentford B is, of course, a peculiarity in English youth football, with the club having scrapped their traditional youth setup several years ago. As a result, this de facto youth team plays only friendly matches, often in overseas tournaments such as this.

It’s an approach that has yielded some success; striker Marcus Forss is now a full Finnish international, for instance, while the likes of Mads Roerslev, Fin Stevens, and Jaakko Oksanen have all made their first team debuts in recent seasons.

However, as a nearby Brentford fan points out to me, today’s squad is – if anything – a C team. Several players – such as Stevens – are away on age-grade international duty, and there are even two unnamed triallists on the team sheet, suggesting an experimental week ahead for coach Neil MacFarlane.

Men Against Boys at the Kouklia Community Stadium

Unfortunately for MacFarlane, this lack of experience is evident almost immediately, as a relatively strong Pafos side – missing only their senior international players – race into an unflattering 4-0 lead.

Former Premier League midfielder Jason Puncheon – now 35 – is central to this, cajoling and reprimanding his teammates in equal measure, and displaying an admirable level of commitment to what – for Pafos – is essentially a Sunday morning kickabout. When Khabib Abdusalamov fires home his side’s fourth and releases a guttural cry of joy, Puncheon is the first to congratulate the Russian teenager; conversely, when he fails to track back early in the second half, the former Southampton man informs the youngster that he is, in no uncertain terms, “fucking coasting”.

Puncheon is indicative of the gap in quality between the two sides, with Pafos – a technically sound and well-coached side – possessing the ability to find space and move the ball quickly. That said, the young Brentford defence show repeated naivety in their inability to deal with simple long balls, while desperate cries for offside are often invalidated by at least one defender playing everyone five yards on. As a result, it’s not hyperbole to suggest that Pafos could be in double figures at the break; in spite of their lazy finishing, it’s truly men against boys.

To their credit, the “Young Bees” stick to their task and improve vastly after the break. Nathan Young-Coombes – a former Chelsea and Rangers youth prospect – slots home a deserved spot kick in the 70th minute, before Pafos substitute Kevin Berigaud reinforces the Cypriot side’s authority in the dying minutes with a spectacular solo goal.

Despite the scoreline, you get the feeling that occasions such as this are only positive for Brentford. As I saw in Vienna, playing against experienced senior professionals is always preferable to youth football and Pafos – in the first half, at least – show enough commitment and quality to justify the term “learning experience”, even if this is a non-competitive match.