The magic of the FA Cup
It was one of the sports biggest upsets ever. Last year, Premier League champions Chelsea lost to a third tier team in Bradford City at Stamford Bridge. At first glance, this result may make one think it was a game of EA Sports’ FIFA. Nope. This was the FA Cup. It is basically England’s version of March Madness, but on steroids. Every single team in the Football Association (FA) gets to participate. And in case you haven’t noticed, soccer in England is an addiction. That is a lot of teams and a lot of soccer. Yeah, that’s 736 teams consisting of 14 (!!) rounds. It’s like opening up the tournament to every division of the NCAA that want to prove their worth. Talk about trying to fill in your bracket, good luck with that! With 736 teams involved, you can bet that there are some giant killers out there. You’d be right. Last year’s Bradford City vs Chelsea game is basically the equivalent of a 16 seed beating a 1 seed. The best part: it happens almost on a yearly basis.
In the final three seasons ago, it was Wigan Athletic, led by now Everton boss Roberto Martinez, who stunned Sergio Aguero and Manchester City. Here is the game winning-goal and on the call was none other than Gus Johnson. You can literally feel the magic jumping off of the page and into your now soccer loving soul.
If Gus Johnson were ever to call a World Cup, I can say beyond a doubt that it would get the highest ratings of all time.
Anyways, back to the beautiful game. For the English, it is so much more than just a game of soccer. To them, it is a timeless tradition, it is their World Series, a tradition unlike any other. Every year fans fall in love with it all over again no matter the teams or circumstances. It keeps bringing people back and reminds them why the game is so important.
The British government asked the people of England to rank the 100 items that best symbolize English culture, besides teatime, crappy weather and pubs, and the cup was ranked high on the list. To them, as strange as it sounds, the FA Cup is quite literally romantic, it feeds the crazy soccer-obsessed English soul.
Here is another great example from the 1972 when Hereford United stunned Newcastle United. Although it may be a long highlight, the end is oh so worth it seeing the priceless reaction from the fans.
The FA Cup brings light to leagues, teams, and especially up and coming players. Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy came up the ranks, as did Crystal Palace’s Dwight Gayle, and Everton’s John Stones, who was highly sought after by Chelsea. It gives them a chance to prove to the entire country that they have what it takes to beat the best and to play with the best.
Upsets, discovering teams and players, and the magic of the event have been around for quite some time.
This has been the way of the FA since 1871, a mammoth of a tournament that has quite literally seen it all. Since the inception and first match, it has withstood the tests of time and history. To give you a sense of the history and how much heritage is rooted into the competition, think of this: it has survived six kings and queens, both World Wars (even after England was bombed during the Blitz), the end of the British Empire, and countless other historical events. No matter the time or place, the FA Cup quite brings the country together like no other event, let alone a sporting event can.
No matter how much money a team may or may not have, it goes out the window when it comes to Cup season. All of the Arab owners, the flashy appeal of being a Premier League club or player are tossed into the trash. It is pure soccer. A player that gets paid $500 per week can go up against a player that is making $1 million per week, and it is one of the most entertaining things one can see in soccer. For fans, it is more about the magic and memories rather than the enormous amounts of money in the soccer world.
Change could be on the way to the almost century and a half competition, which some fans are not keen on. If a club wins the Champions League, they receive $100 million, the EPL winner gets $50 million, the FA Cup: a mere $2 million. There is talk of changing the age old rules, such as seeding and in case a tie occurs in the first match, a replay is played later on. Many times, bigger clubs do not play their main starters in league play for fear of injury or wasted time on “scrub teams”. However, this is where smaller clubs relish the chance and take it, many times faring better than expected. There is talk of the winner securing a spot in the Champions League in order for it to become a bigger deal for the larger clubs. Many fans are opposed to the seeding scenario and removing replays entirely because it takes away the romance of the event. The fans get what they deserve, a proper cup.
At the end of the day, the FA Cup is inherently British in nature. There is drama that not even Downton Abbey can match! It brings out the best in soccer, and really does a wonder on local clubs and their fans. Without the FA Cup, would the EPL even be a thing? I shudder at the thought of it. So I guess we all owe the FA Cup a major thanks for saving soccer. Well, in particular we owe the thanks to the little guy. They provide memories that last a lifetime and are passed down from generation to generation. If you get the chance to watch the FA Cup on TV, do not pass it up. You won’t regret it.