The magic of the FFA Cup is sweeping the nation and is right on your doorstep
The power of the FFA Cup has a strong but different pull compared to other sporting competitions. The strong community engagement, the humble faces, the short trip, the cheap food, it really doesn't get much better than this.
Sport and food has always been a loyal combination. Expensive wet chips and cold hot dogs don't exist in this realm. The FFA Cup offers souvlaki, cevapi, as well as sausage sizzles that are able to turn a winter's night into a summer's bliss. The smell of these barbecues is enough to entice even the darkest of souls as these aromas have the power to light up eyes as much as a goal.
The opening night of the 2016 edition of the tournament saw Blacktown in Sydney's west turn into an oasis of football. Just like around the country, the FFA Cup lit up local communities and gave patrons an opportunity to witness heroes playing in their backyard.
Two NSW NPL heavyweights Blacktown City and former NSL champions Sydney United were forced to take their local rivalry to the national front. City had much to prove after bowing out at the first hurdle in both 2014 and 2015. Blacktown had the opportunity to not only stick it to their rivals, but continue their march on the national front.
With humbly cooked food in my hand, screaming fans surrounding me and a winter's breeze trying it's best to replicate an arctic front; I truly witnessed one of the greatest spectacles of the FFA Cup. A two goal deficit overturned, extra time, a red card, followed by a 70m rocket from the team that just had a player sent off, as well as three goals that followed, 0-2 after 12 minutes turned into 6-2 after 120. If Blacktown were hoping to make a statement against a team they've been chasing all season, they truly did.
Yes, it may be a far cry from the 40,000 at the SFS when Sydney FC host the Western Sydney Wanderers, or Juventus and Tottenham kicking a football on a cricket pitch, it seems that Danny Choi's wonder goal and a Patrick Antelmi's hat trick off the bench is getting more praise and notice than the ICC in Melbourne.
As a Blacktown local and Lily's Football Centre situated only two minutes away from home, I had the pleasure of realising that not all heroes wear capes, or are on million dollar contracts, but are rather real estate agents during the day and footballing superstars at night.
Unfortunately not every local community’s team was able to qualify for the Round of 32 proper but if you're like me and are lucky enough to have your team being represented on the national front, I highly recommend going out to a game and experiencing something new and different.
It's a far cry from the multi-million dollar television deals and marquee players, but these clubs gave the majority of our Socceroo and A-League heroes a chance. It's only fitting that we as a sporting community give back to these clubs that have done so much for us. Who knows, maybe the next Mark Viduka or Mile Jedinak is playing down the road from you.