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The FA Cup Final

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


A World Event? Read on and then explore the menu to the right to find out what fans from around the world think.


What is it about the English FA Cup final that attracts such worldwide interest? It seems that few people outside their respective countries know who's won the cup in Italy, Spain or Brazil. But when the annual Wembley showpiece arrives, some 400 million people around the world become transfixed in front of their television sets.


This year the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Liverpool wasn't at Wembley. The grand old stadium is ready for demolition and will be completely rebuilt over the next four or five years. Yet you can be sure the intense global interest in the oldest cup competition in world football didn't wane.


The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff did not have Wembley's famous twin towers, or royal box, and its pitch has been less than perfect this season. But it still had the most compelling match between clubs in any nation on the planet. It was seen live in around 170 countries.


Dietmar Hamann played in the cup final for Liverpool this season. When he appeared for Newcastle in the 1999 final against Manchester United, he was the first German national to play in the final since Bert Trautmann and his goalkeeping heroics for Manchester City in 1956. Trautmann broke his neck during the final but played on to help his side beat Birmingham 3-1.


"There is no match like this in Germany," says Hamann. "We have a cup final, of course, but it doesn't have the same level of interest. I saw the English final on TV when I was young and could see that it had such an atmosphere. I never dreamed that I would one day play in such a match."


Since Trautmann, the FA Cup final has had a host of foreign heroes. Argentina's Ricky Villa still gets the fans' vote for the best cup final goal when he went on a slalom run to score for Tottenham in the 1981 final replay. Eric Cantona of France and Roberto Di Matteo of Italy have both scored recent Wembley winners.


But while spectacular goals stick in the memory, tradition has a lot to do with the FA Cup's popularity. The competition dates back to 1872 when the Wanderers beat the Royal Engineers 1-nil in the final at Kennington Oval in South London.


It was not until 1923 that the final came to Wembley when an estimated 200,000 supporters of West Ham and Bolton Wanderers stormed the ramparts of the new Empire Stadium and delayed the start. Amid such chaos, the all-ticket match was born.


The other great appeal of the FA Cup is the way in which it reaches right down to the roots of the national game. It may end at Wembley, or the Millennium Stadium, but it starts eight or nine months earlier at some of the most bizarre outposts of English football. Jarrow Roofing, Atherton Collieries and Knypersley Victoria all played in the preliminary round.


It's like a lottery in which just one can win but almost anyone can enter. It's a competition in which treats the rich and the poor with equal respect, and it gives David a chance to bloody the nose of Goliath. You don't need to be English to appreciate that.




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