Friday, September 11, 2009

Today in Sport

Edited from: The Guardian

One interesting tie further down the leagues that I should've mentioned earlier is the FA Cup tie between Sheffield FC (the world's oldest club) and FC United of Manchester (quite a new one). There's an interesting blog on the game here.


The blog he's linking to ( ) says:

Sheffield FC vs FC United - World's Oldest Club Meets One Of The Newest In FA Cup

As a popular concept, 'the magic of the FA Cup' is one whose effect on the senses appears to have waned for the general public in recent years. Rather than embodying the spirit of a proud cup competition that dates back over 100 years it has, sadly, become more a phrase that is bottled up and sold back to us by over-enthusiastic advertisers keenly eyeing viewing figures. Either this or the last playing hand of the traditionalist battling valorously to maintain that the FA Cup is anything other than a pretty afterthought in a world where money talks and the Champions League has louder vocal chords.

But a hint of sorcery does still lie in the world's oldest football knockout competition, and yet another example of it's unique ability to enchant occurs this weekend when Sheffield FC, the oldest football club in the world, meet FC United - one of the newest, in the FA Cup 1st qualifying round.

As the oldest club in the world Sheffield FC hold a special place in the long and storied history of football. Founded in 1857, Sheffield Football Club was formed as a means to help channel the vast swell of enthusiasm for the game of football up in Sheffield at a time when football was an inherently new sporting concept in Britain.

Back then football was more traditionally associated with the public schools and universities. Wanderers for example, winners of the first ever FA Cup in 1872, were a team formed by Old Harrovians (old boys of Harrow public school). Outside of the schools and universities however football was most popular up in Sheffield, where games are reported to have taken place as early as 1831 in the city's Hyde Park. Sheffield Football Club was therefore formed as a reaction to the game's immense popularity in the city. The club often drew on former pupils of Sheffield's collegiate for players.

FC United on the other hand have a far less antiquated but no less compelling story behind their creation. Founded 148 years after Sheffield FC in 2005, FC United of Manchester was formed by disenfranchised supporters of Manchester United unhappy following Malcolm Glazer's controversial takeover of the Red Devils.

Although the Glazers' takeover of United is seen as the main catalyst for the creation of FC United, the club's founders often maintain that the reasons for defecting from Manchester United to form a new club are more complex than that. An overwhelming dissatisfaction with the state of the modern game is more often cited as chief stimulus for FC United's birthing. As Luc Zentar, acting secretary of the club at the time of it's formation put it back in 2005:

"[We were] sick of football and what it has become: the money; the arrogance; the lack of connection between the players and the fans; the way we, the supporters, are treated; the Gestapo-like environment. I can't stand the fact that is costs £36 to get in to a ground with no atmosphere, where you can't stand, can't shout, can't fart, can't even sit with your friends."

The principles and aims of the newly formed club are simple.

"There is no masterplan," explains Zentar. "We are bringing football back to the community. This is purely about providing cheap, enjoyable football. If we don't win the European Cup within the next twenty years then so be it. I am fed up of families having to spend half their weekly wage just to see their team. [Our] only dream is to get football back to what it should be."

762 teams entered the FA Cup for the 2009/2010 season, but of all the 1st qualifying round games this is surely the tie of the round. And isn't it funny how, despite the vast number of teams competing, the cup always seems to throw up these fascinating, fabled fixtures? Anticipation both in Sheffield and Manchester is building.

"It promises to be a cracking day, one that we’re really looking forward to," says Guy Higton, Sheffield FC spokesman. "We are rightly proud of our place in football’s history and there’s a nice symmetry to this fixture. Our clubs may have been formed nearly 150 years apart but we share many common values in how the game should be played and what it can contribute to the community."

FC United spokesman Jules Spencer is also excited:

"Our supporters can’t wait for the game. The FA Cup holds a special place in our hearts and when we knew we’d be playing Sheffield, knowing all about their history, it made it even more attractive. We’ll probably take around a thousand supporters over the Pennines and as always they’ll be in good spirits."

The game takes place at the BT Local Business Stadium in Dronfield, just south of Sheffield. Kick off 3pm on Saturday.

In the first qualifying round of the world's oldest football competition one club, whose historic roots lie right at the very heart of the game's creation, take on a club formed 148 years later by a group of supporters looking to reconnect the game with the ideals and values of a bygone era.

If it's magic you're looking for this weekend, you know where to find it.