Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Barnsley, Cardiff, and The Magic of the Cup

The magic of the cup, long derided by pundits who had thought the Big Four were making the tournament more routine than a Rodney Dangerfield vehicle, seems to have returned in spectacular fashion, with Barnsley outplaying, outdefending, and crucially of course outscoring a clockwork Cheslea, Portsmouth overcoming a particularly unlucky and, as usual, sore loosery ManU, and traveling wax museum Cardiff City complicating matters by getting a Welsh side involved in the semi finals of the Premier English domestic knockout competition.

Some papers, again, really my only source of any information, the Guardian, wondered aloud if the no-name sub-Premiership underdogs may be diluting the quality of competition now that the FA Cup has lost it's Fleet Street marquee names, replaced by sides more reminiscent of Brick Lane. Well, judging by some so-called Super Clasico match-ups this past year, including the Waterworld-ian flop that was Grand Slam Sunday in December, and by the often entertaining, all-English and all-pacey, open-defense games I've seen in the Championship on Setanta's off-days, this theory doesn't hold out.

Barnsley's fans storming the pitch post-victory, and the sheer amazement at seeing the ground erupt at the decisive header, almost brought a tear to this no-name author's eye, and was one of the best things I will remember this year in football, outside of course Gabriel Agbonlahor's second goal against Chelsea which essentially put Mourinho's head on the block. This is what those old folks at the local down the street have been talking about, the one that serves real ale, doesn't have a TV or any music and has no cell phone signs everywhere, the one you never go into, when they mention the 'Magic of the Cup,' which you would be forgiven for thinking was a Sky Sports jingle. This is why some in English Football understand the importance of the photo at the header of this blog, AVFC with their very first FA Cup, and the smug pride on the faces of those who won it so long ago. They earned the right to that smug pride because the Cup wasn't always a given, and judging by this year's topsy-turvy competition, which might turn out to be a happy aberrant event on par with Haley's Comet or a Lib Dem government, it may still not be. In any case, in an age when money seems to rule just about everything in the Beautiful Game, this year's FA Cup reminds us to heed Sepp Herberger's words:

"The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes, this much is fact. Everything else is theory."

1 comment:

Georgina Best said...

Being new to football this is the first year I have followed the cup so I don't have a sense of how much more exciting it is than other recent years. No doubt about the magic though and I can see a record number of people tuning into the final.

Ain't it great when money doesn't rule the world!