Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh The Romance

We rhapsodize about the romance of the FA Cup and, if Horsham versus Swansea today is anything to go by, we do so with some justification. Just for a minute, the almost unthinkable was being thought when Horsham went ahead twice in the space of three crazy first half minutes. Born deaf and mute, striker Lee Farrell scored two goals with brilliant finishing either side of a Swansea goal. There are four divisions between Swansea, top of League 1, and non-league Horsham but Horsham came to play football and they were not only in it for the first half an hour or so, they had the edge. They could even have had a penalty in the opening ten seconds but I think the referee, who was probably still checking his boots were laced up properly, was right in not calling it contrary to the opinion of the over zealous commentators. The Welsh Swans predictably came back and scored three goals in about five minutes at the end of the first half and eventually ran out winners 6-2. Do I hear the boring old lament that soccer does not attract many Americans because they don't score enough?
The Swansea manager is a Spaniard and he admitted that there is no such competition in his native country where the minnows can play against the big boys. There can't be because the gap in quality is too wide. That may be the case if Liverpool were to play Horsham, admittedly, but this kind of second round tie gives a tanatalizing glimpse of what can be possible. The first weekend in January is the time for the third round when the Premier League teams come in. Most results will no doubt follow a predictable course but there is always the chance of an upset in the FA Cup and Horsham nearly showed us how today. That is what makes the FA Cup the best competition of its kind in Europe. The Spaniards don't have anything quite like it and the Coppa Italia games are scheduled all over December rather than at the set times the FA Cup has. I only remember something similar in the French Cup some years ago when a lower league side, Calais, almost won it. Natural bias aside though, the romance of the FA Cup is alive and well. The country looks forward now to that first week of the New Year and the hope of a healthy dose of schadenfreude as a bigger club comes undone.

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