FA cup is the oldest football tournament ever. And ever since its inception in 1871, it has been one of the most prestigious trophies in England, although in the last few years it has lost its sheen because clubs have started giving the Premier League more importance. And also, the Champions League has become the main priority for the top teams. But as this weekend has shown us, it’s the romance of the FA cup which attracts all football fans towards it.
This weekend saw some giant killing acts by League 1 sides like Oldham and Championship team Leeds United as they knocked out English giants like Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Chelsea too just managed to survive against a relative unknown Brentford, thanks to the last gasp equalizer by Fernando Torres. This certainly isn’t the first or the last occurrence of such amazing action. Many United fans will remember the defeat at the hands of their rivals Leeds United in 2010.
FA Cup has produced some great heroes. Everyone remembers Ryan Giggs’ wonder goal against Arsenal in 1999. And also how Portsmouth rallied against all odds to go all the way and lift the Cup in 2008 at Wembley, defeating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the quarterfinals. Didier Drogba will also have fond memories of the Cup as he scored in all FA Cup finals he played in during his Chelsea days.
But it’s not just these heroes who make the Cup special. It’s the passion of each and every football fan which makes it special. You don’t have great grounds and pitch conditions aren’t that great in all the stadiums. Sometimes it’s not the team who plays the better football that wins; it’s the team which shows great desire that wins. It’s the dream of every supporter to watch his team play the final at Wembley which makes the Cup special. Everyone from the lowest tiers of English football right up to teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea takes part and everyone associated with these clubs hope and prays for a trip to Wembley.
The Cup is all the more special for the teams from the lower leagues. Because for them, the Cup is their chance to show the world what they are made of. After all, it’s not every day you get to see teams like Chelsea and Liverpool play at your local ground. It’s also an opportunity for players to showcase their skills to the world. Each player has a different story to tell. One of the examples being the Oldham striker Matt Smith who just a year ago was a graduate at the Manchester University. He has certainly fulfilled his obligations towards Manchester by knocking out their greatest rivals!
Also, the joy of the fans is just amazing. The pitch invasion after Oldham knocked out Liverpool is something you will see only in the FA Cup. Such things do not happen in the Premier League or the Champions League. Even if they do, teams are heavily fined! One of the quotes that was written on the guidebook handed out to the press for the FA cup 4th round between Oldham and Liverpool was ‘Welcome to Boundary Park for today’s FA Cup 4th round game versus Liverpool. As you can see, the facilities are not what you are used to in the Premier League or even the Championship. Welcome to Real Football!”. It’s words like these that signify the importance of the FA Cup.
Chelsea will defeat teams like Brentford 99 times out of 100, and it won’t come as a shock to us if we see Chelsea score 6 or more goals in the replay of the 4th round. But a team like Brentford giving Chelsea a scare of their lives is truly possible only in the FA Cup. The value of the Chelsea team is about 170 million pounds. One wonders how many Brentford FC’s can be made out of such a huge amount of money!
FA Cup might not exactly be a top priority for many top English teams. But realistically speaking, it’s the only title hope this season for Arsenal and Chelsea. United and City also wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to add more silverware to their trophy cabinets. Teams like Liverpool and Spurs have already been knocked out by teams from lower leagues. So who knows, this might be the year of the Underdogs!
It is this excitement which makes us love Cup football. I’m not taking anything away from league football. Winning the league is still the toughest thing to do. But you can still afford to have an off day in the league; however when it comes to the FA cup, one off day can see you packing your backs as Liverpool and Spurs fans will tell you. Even in UEFA Champions League, you get two chances!
No matter how old the FA Cup gets, it will still never fail to attract us. Hopefully, it continues to give us some more footballing icons and some great football moments. And I would like to end by saying that despite being an ardent Chelsea fan, I hope that this time a non-Premier League team lifts the trophy at the new Wembley stadium on the 11th of May!