Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Monday, November 30, 2020

Up for the Cup?

It's about time we won something again...

It might be just me, but the fact that every football match is equally unspectacular right now, seems to have done the FA Cup the world of good. Ok, so the average Champions League team has slightly better players than Chorley, Marine or Canvey Island, but at the end of it all, they're still just some lads running round in an empty stadium. 

There are nearly 40,000 registered football clubs in the country. Anyone who plays professionally is pretty fucking good at football. They're at a team who are in the top 0.0023% of all teams in the country even if they're playing for Crawley Town, Stevenage or Carlisle. The lads who play for Chorley and their ilk aren't quite in that bracket, but they're not so far behind. What's more, whilst in the Champions League, you might see the overpaid stars, sheltered from normal life, trooping off grumpily to their secure biobubbles and recovery tents after a defeat or reacting to a win with a flurry of product placement tweets on twitter and some sort of emoji that suggests they are 'blessed' - in the cup, you get to see the keeper going to the offie in his kit for the lads. Which is better? 

Can you honestly tell me the raw joy of Chorley and the rest isn't worth as much as the money the elite win for the Champions League? What is football for? Servicing the financial and lifestyle dreams of the elite or giving everyone a bit of fantasy, a bit of escapism, a bit of magic? The wide eyed shock of the draw, the nervous anticipation, the pure, genuine naive elation of the win. This is visceral, joyful and real in a year that has been pretty short on raw delight and genuine pleasure. The Champions league serves up game after game of humdrum tedium. That's something we aren't short of in 2020. The cup, with its brutal knockout formula is excitement, raw win or lose sudden death jeopardy. 

Every day is predictable. I've not been more than 10 miles for anything but work for so long. Do I really want to watch the same sides slug it out again in games that don't matter where I know whose going to win probably? Do I really want to watch soap opera football, the same cast endlessly reoccurring, reenacting the same predictable plot lines, managers acting like surly villains, scowling and muttering when they don't get their way? What I want is something, anything different. I want a jolt of life, a dose of the impossible. I don't want hours of debate on tactics and hours of post mortem on why we need a VAR to check on the VAR.

I want a good game of football. Blood and thunder if possible, ideally with some cracking goals (the cup has already had its share of 30 yarders, great passing moves and thumping headers) and a bit of tension... Players going mental when they score, managers suited up like it's the biggest day of their lives, passion, breath steaming in the air, shouting, pointing, players running themselves into the ground like there's no tomorrow, for if you lose in the cup, there really is no tomorrow.  

For some teams, it's not a case of 'their season rests on this' - it's a case that they've never, ever achieved this before. It's a case that a win will secure a windfall that will secure the future of the club, it's a case that the players will write themselves into local folklore. It's not about securing a 'market share' or a manager 'reaching expectation' - it's just fucking magic. It's about the team at the end of your street, dreaming of playing against Man Utd. 

I don't know if it's just me clutching at the buoyant escapism of football in a sea of dissatisfaction, but it feels, just a tiny bit, like the magic is back. Perhaps it never went away? Maybe it was just obscured by the gloss of all that operatic music and hype, by the spectacle of the big games, the pomp and circumstance and relentless selling of the 'occasion.' and maybe, when all of that is stripped away, we can see the old trophy again, sparkling and resplendent as it ever was. 

I can just feel something in the air. It's going to be a special FA Cup. Someone is going to get an all mighty shock. Someone unlikely is going to win it. The game at Wembley will have some kind of magic to it, because, after this year, how can it not? Abide with Me will never have sounded so good. 

You never know, it might be us... 


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