It is the FA weekend in the UK. The oldest competition in the world often pits the giants against the minnows and for many players, it is an opportunity to write their own fairy tale. Many heroes have emerged from this competition. Today Tottenham Hotspurs face Marine AFC a club which plays in the Northern Premier League Division North West . To be honest, I have never heard about this league but I now understand that they are neighbours to the mighty Liverpool Football club. That is as far as they can get to greatness.
These are true minnows although they have a long history. Formed in 1894, their Rossett Park ground which they have used since 1904 has a capacity of 3, 185. Dear reader compare the Rossett Park ground with White Hart Lane, Tottenham’s arena which has a capacity of 62, 850. This says it all!
The entire Marine AFC team are all part timers and to add to the wonderful story , they have a bin man in their ranks. His name is James Barrigan. He said, ” I think working has helped to keep a lid on my excitement but I am mentally prepared!” Asked how he balances his two callings, James said, “It is pretty easy juggling the two jobs as my starts for work are very early and training for Marine is in the evening.”
This evening, he will be rubbing shoulders with millionaires . His motivating factor? “My motivation has to be my one year old daughter, everything I do is for her!” What a story this is and if Marine AFC cause an upset, it will be the story of the season this far. But even if the minnows lose, this story will never be erased from the annals of FA history. Even the deadly virus Covid 19 could not stop this story.
Covid 19 might have stopped the fans from attending the match but something remarkable has happened. 20 000 tickets have been sold on-line. This will help the club with a healthy matchday revenue even without the physical attendance of the fans. What a story! This demonstrates the value of local clubs and how the fans love their clubs.
I love the FA Cup and I cannot help but look in nostalgia at one such Cup which used to exist in Zimbabwe, the Zifa Cup. The Zifa Cup, when it existed used to bring together the giants against the minnows in Zimbabwe. There were fairy tales too about unknown players who became instant heroes after this competition offered them an opportunity to shine.
Many teams had a chance to rub shoulders with the best. I remember Venice Mine, Pronutro, Banket United and many others sharing the pitch with Zimbabwe giants, Dynamos and Caps United and Highlanders. Some were on the receiving end of some heavy thrashing but others put up a good fight. I attended one match at Gwanzura Stadium, Dynamos were held to a 0-0 draw by Banket United.
After the match together with other young boys, I jumped onto the pitch to get close to the players as we usually did. I walked close to Hamid Dhana the Dynamos midfield magician as he headed to the dressing room. One old man asked him, ” Indava nhasi Muzukuru, zvafamba sei ?” Yes Hamid Dhana was known as Muzukuru. His reply to this was interesting.
“Mabvi kurema mudhara, kuita kunge ndakatakura matombo!” he responded in fluent Shona. Hamid Dhana was blaming his lukewarm performance on other forces beyond the natural. Banket United indeed had a reputation for relying on the supernatural to confuse opponents. How far true was this? Only former Banket United players and officials can tell us that.
Yes football is on hold in Zimbabwe. I personally think that we should find a way to bring it back despite the threats of Covid 19. I however understand the hesitancy of those in authority to bring back football. Hopefully not in the too distant future, football will be back. When that happens, Zifa Should bring back the ZIFA CUP, it was a cup of fairy tales, just like the FA cup, the oldest football competition in the world.
Let me watch the millionaires of Tottenham Hotspurs slog it out with the part timers of Marine AFC, that is the romance of the FA cup!