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Liverpool vs Wimbledon- the FA Competition
What makes the FA Cup so special
What makes the FA Cup a great competition?
Last night I stayed up in South Africa to watch the mighty Liverpool take on the lowly AFC Wimbledon in the third round of this wonderful competition. The script was simple, Liverpool, a giant in the Barclays Premier League taking on AFC Wimbledon from the 2nd League, the fourth tier in British Football. An easy win was on the cards, even if the Liverpool Club with their star studded team was not playing at home with 40 000 plus supporters cheering them on. They were instead meeting their lowly opposition, who share the Kingsmeadow Football field with the Kingston FC, in front of a full house and record attendance of 4784 supporters.
The club was formed in June 2002 when unattached players (not registered members of other clubs) were invited to attend trials on Wimbledon Common with 230 players pitching up. The squad was chosen and the club holds theleague record of being undefeated for 32 games. (2003/2004 season)
The only trouble for Monday evening was that no-one remembered to inform the Wimbledon players and staff of that script. In fact they came to really play. Even after the Liverpool and England Captain Steven Gerrard scored in the 12th minute they continued to play as if they really believed that they could win! When in the 30th minute the very strong striker Abdebayo Akinfenwe equalized in a goal box melee, the crowd began to believe as well. The worried look on the face of the Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers and on the faces of the Liverpool players as they left the field at half time, with a score line of 1-1, told the full story.
Well, to cut a long story short, eventually it was Gerard who score a great goal from a free kick late in the second half that won it for Liverpool and sent them into the fourth round where they will meet Bolton Wanderers. Wimbledon will go back to playing in their league and many will remember the close chances they had to score as the game progressed. The great saves by their talented goalkeeper James Shea will also be remembered. At one stage I almost hoped they would score and go to Anfield for a replay. What excitement that would have been for the Wimbledon players and supporters!
Wimbledon ACF is an interesting club in the British Football scene. They are particularly involved in the local community with 17 team playing in the various men’s, women’s and youth leagues. They have a Mathematics Program that uses Football to introduce students to the subject. They are involved in a variety of health and development programmes that resulted in the club receiving the Annual Big Society award from the British Prime Minister David Cameron in March 2012.
One of the posters seen during the game said “Release the Beast”! This obviously referred to the goal scorer Adebayo Atkinfenwe, who is reputed to be the strongest Footballer in World Football, judged by the weight that he can bench press. His favourite activities are reported to be Gym and Nando’s (a chicken fast food outlet), not necessarily in that order. For the very stocky, tank like man that he is, he is remarkably fleet footed. Anyone who tried to block his advance on the field was simply swept aside, as some of the Liverpool “strong men” found out to their embarrassment.
What also impressed me about the club is that of the 33 players on their first team squad, only three where “foreign player” in contrast to the big name clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and others whose first team squads consist of mainly players from overseas. Perhaps there is still hope for British Football on the world stage as clubs like Wimbledon keep the game alive at grass roots level. Their variety of services in the community also brings hope for the future of this football crazy nation.
The fact that that local clubs like AFC Wimbledon can in fact enter this great competition and face the world famous English Clubs like Liverpool and can compete, even for just one evening, makes it one of the best club sporting competitions in the world and will continue to draw viewers like myself to our TV sets.