On Monday, expect several of the talking heads on English football podcasts and radio to whinge and joke about the FA Cup. How the top football clubs don’t treat it seriously anymore. How the FA Cup has lost its glamor. And how there are literally very few upsets compared to how many there used to be (cue memories of Hereford beating Newcastle in 1972).
While the respect and interest in the FA Cup is mostly lost on those in England, the tournament still has a lot of appeal elsewhere in the world especially in the United States where the FA Cup is seen as a novelty item. Outside of the U.S. Open Cup, the concept of having an amateur side compete against a professional club is completely unheard of in the States especially to non-soccer sports fans.
Despite the charm of watching amateurs battle it out against professionals, the experience of watching FA Cup on television feels like a time warp back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. For example, watching Forest Green Rovers against Derby County and Everton versus Macclesfield, it seemed so unlike the Premier League. Both grounds, understandly so, featured ramshackle stadiums. Watching the Forest Green Rovers match on TV, large shadows cast over the pitch making it difficult to watch periods of the game (this began from the opening kickoff when the Derby County defender fluffed the ball and the Forest Green Rovers striker shot at goal into what seemed like darkness).
And lastly, there was the football. While the Forest Green Rovers match was entertaining, thanks to some shoddy defending, that match and the one at Macclesfield featured the classic up and under English football of yesteryear where the ball is up in the air more than it is being played on the ground. The Everton against Macclesfield match was dire with the Toffeemen looking very ordinary against a weak but determined Macclesfield side.
So while those of us outside England warm to the charm of the FA Cup, I believe we also warm to how different the FA Cup feels. The primitive and antiquated stadiums. The route one football that gives mediocre clubs a chance to beat the Premier League opposition. The different football commentators we hear that we don’t often get when watching Premier League matches, and the sometimes different camera angles that seem so un-ordinary after watching globs of Premier League football. Plus, of course, the novelty of seeing football fans standing on the terraces.
To me, the FA Cup is the perfect diversion from the Premier League that we all love. For a few weekends through the year, it gives us a chance to experience our football in a different way. To learn about lower league and non-league clubs from the far corners of England. To watch dried up footballers play out their dying moments in their twilight of their career. And lastly, since the other 16 clubs in the Premier League seem incapable of doing so, to root and hope for the Big Four to lose against the underdogs. That’s why I love the FA Cup. Long let it continue.