The FA Cup - A Kind of Magic
The FA Cup isn't just a football competition, it's an English sporting institution. Established in 1871, this world famous cup tournament has captured the hearts and minds of millions for generations. From the oversized baggy shorts and the leather clad pig's bladder to today's fluorescent boots and high tech fabrics, who on earth said that the FA Cup was losing it's magic?
Years ago, before the days of the Premier League, foreign players, satellite TV and ridiculous wages, the FA Cup final used to be the only domestic game of the season that was televised. Families used to gather around the TV and tune in to watch the greatest footballing spectacle of the year, no matter which teams were contesting the trophy. It wasn't just the football but also all the pomp and ceremony that surrounded the occasion.
It goes without saying that football has changed considerably over the years and the FA Cup has been on its own evolutionary journey. Many believe it’s popularity has waned, it's become unfashionable, lost its appeal and that it's just not important anymore.
The weekend's quarter final matches certainly helped to dispel the myth that no one cares about the FA Cup. Bramall Lane was packed to the rafters for Sheffield United's home tie against Charlton, with the Addicks taking over 5,000 fans for the 360 mile round trip. There were scenes of utter elation at the KC Stadium as Hull City fans celebrated on the pitch at full time as their team reached the semi finals for the first time in 84 years.
The holders Wigan were simply delirious after pulling off a famous victory at the Etihad by dumping out Manchester City who were favourites to achieve the domestic treble and Arsenal, without a trophy since 2005 are actually daring to believe. For die hard football fans, of course, there is magic in every match day but there’s always something intangibly different about the FA Cup.
"Giant killing" has been a long standing traditional concept in the FA Cup and over the years there have been some classic upsets at various stages of the competition. Everyone loves an underdog and there's something uniquely heart-warming about winning against the odds, triumph in the face of adversity and achieving the unexpected.
Manchester City were overwhelming favourites to beat Wigan and progress to the semi finals, after all, prior to kick off, only three teams had managed to come away from the Etihad with a victory this season. Could the Championship side really join the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Chelsea? Yes they could.
With one eye on the forthcoming Champions League game in mid week, Pellegrini denies resting key players for this game. With the greatest respect to Wigan, City's selected squad had more than enough quality to win the game comfortably but there's something about the FA Cup that means every now and again, no matter who you are, you will succumb to the magic.
It's certainly true that there are other more coveted and lucrative competitions that attract the attention of the bigger clubs at European level but no manager, no team and no players will ever truly disrespect the great institution that is the FA Cup. To do so would be disrespecting the history, the tradition and the very meaning of the beautiful game itself.
For those that believe the magic is gone, listen to some Sheffield United fans talking to the media after their win. Watch the Hull City fans, young and old streaming onto the pitch after their victory. Ask any Arsenal fans what winning it this season would mean and ask any Manchester City fans how they felt after losing out to Wigan for the second time.
This is a prize still worthy indeed. Whether you’re English or not, whether you’re a player, a manager or a fan, everyone appreciates the greatness of one of the most treasured and esteemed accolades in sporting history. Sir Bobby Robson summed it up perfectly: “The FA Cup final is the greatest single match outside the World Cup final – and it’s ours.”