April 12, 2013

Horse 1463 - The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of... or... The Cup Of Life, Allez Allez Allez

As I write this, men in suits and ties sit around large boardroom tables with profound looks on their faces, deciding the fate of the soon yet to named Cup competition in Australian football (presumably to be called the FFA Cup).
I hope "for the good of the game" that the men in suits inside these FFA meetings remember their youth; remember the magic of the English and Scottish FA Cups, for these are the trophies and competitions which even through wartime inspired the world.

If the FFA Cup (Football Federation of Australia Cup) is even part way like the rumours suggest, then it will lock out thousands of clubs from ever competing. The suggestion is that circa 700 teams will be chosen from the A-League and the state leagues. By my reckoning, that's only about 115 from each state, as well as the A-League. Those figures only give you about six or so tiers down the football  pyramid at most and even just in NSW, that completely eliminates all District, Church League and Country Regional football before a single ball has been kicked.

Ideally (and I hope that sufficient numbers of interested fans write to the FFA about this), any Cup should be completely Open. Part of the magic of the English and Scottish FA Cups is that being open competitions, any eligible side in theory could win, though realistically most sides have as much chance as 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule has of winning The Voice (Makybe Diva has a record coming out in July on the Polydor label).
In the past, the legend of both FA Cups on that sceptred isle has been built on the occasional story of some "minnow" defeating one of the giants of the game or even holding one them to a draw. Most recently this was best exemplified by then Conference side Exeter City who in 2005 held Manchester United who were 118 places above them in the league system,  to a scoreless draw. They were of course duly beaten 2-0 a fortnight later but not before they'd picked up £750K in gate takings and cleared the club's debt on the process.
Even further down the pyramid and it becomes less about beating giants and more about simply pushing as hard as you possibly can. For some sides whose usual attendances are less than two dozen including a dog called Kevin, to suddenly one day make it and be able to play on an enclosed field, with actual grandstands and a crowd of a couple of hundred is like winning the Cup itself.
Team Bath F.C. in the 2002–03 FA Cup became the first university team since 1880 to reach the first round proper of the competition and although they were squarely beaten 3-0 by Mansfield Town, is wasn't a bad effort for Team Bath who were nothing more than university students.

Of course there are sides like Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool who arrive at the English FA Cup with alarming regularity and in Scotland, Rangers and Celtic play their inevitable tussle like two children fighting over a stick. In Scotland, excitement brews when anyone can knock either of those two off the pedestal and in England, the FA Cup from 90 years ago, now dusty, might be the club's greatest and only piece of silverware.
In Australia we have the opportunity to start right at the beginning and I think that it would be utterly brilliant if someone like Wee Waa United Football Club could take the Cup from under the nose of Melbourne Victory. Such a Cup win would go down in legend and still be talked about more than a century later.

That's the where and why of how legends are built and that also explains why I think that limiting the FFA Cup to just the exclusive few tiers in the state leagues, sells the whole concept so very very short. Australia which sort of prides itself in its own legend of the fair go, would be turning its back on that very same concept. By opening the FFA Cup to the vastness that is every single club in the country, the FFA would be giving people the chance to dream the impossible dream which in most cases is genuinely impossible... but just the tiniest bit maybe.

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