The Magic of the Cup

Tuesday night’s FFA Cup fixture between Sydney United 58 and South Hobart had me enthralled.

United, playing at home and coming off a 5-0 defeat to Manly in the league last weekend, were hot favourites to topple Tasmania’s finest. South led 2-0 at the hour mark, and it seemed an upset was on the cards. 25 minutes later, Olympic hit the front. South Hobart managed a dramatic late equaliser, which sent their travelling contingent of staff and fans into raptures.

It was during extra time, with both sets of players giving everything to get their team over the line despite their obvious fatigue, when I realised how good the FFA Cup is. The FFA Cup connects the former NSL clubs that were alienated after the Crawford Report, which prompted a dramatic overhaul of Australian soccer in 2003, with A-League clubs and the mainstream exposure of Fox Sports.

The result of this combination leads to winners wherever you look. The positives for all parties make it a meaningful competition for every club that competes and aspires to compete. The appeal for people to rug up on a winter’s weeknight and walk to the ground around the corner, be it Gungahlin in the Capital Territory or Magic Park in Newcastle, is that their local club, the same one who plays every Sunday and whose early pre-season sessions wake the surrounding neighbourhood, is playing in the same competition as Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC.

It’s brilliant.

These periphery clubs are given the same chance to win the tournament as the big boys, which doesn’t happen to such a significant extent on an annual basis in any other sport.

The AFL could never replicate this type of tournament because the game is played in a way where the sort of David vs Goliath upsets that occasionally happen in cup soccer simply would not happen. The gap between the worst AFL club and the best state league team is too big to bridge in one match. The full-timers vs part-timers mismatch isn’t as big an issue in soccer, because on the right day the part-timers can fluke a goal, have plenty of luck and cling on to a lead against a team of professionals.

In footy that wouldn’t happen. The superior physical aspects of an AFL team, when combined with their greater skillset, gives an opposing team of sparkies and school teachers no chance. It’s a shame for the AFL, because it’s an addition to the growing list of things soccer has over the custodians of Australian sport.

The FFA Cup proves that there is no better way for a grassroots sporting club to attract youth than for it to be competing on a national stage. The heroics of Sydney United’s goalkeeper, Justin Pasfield, in their penalty shootout win over South Hobart, was witnessed by dozens of the club’s junior players. It’s different to just being a supporter at a Victory game and watching a player win your team the game, because on Tuesday night those kids were more than supporters. They’re part of that club. They jumped the fence and ran to swamp Pasfield, high-fiving and celebrating around him as his teammates clambered to join in.

It’s a night those kids will never forget. A night that enhanced their love of the game and their club.

That’s the magic of the cup.

And soccer has it all to itself.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. Compelling argument for soccer there Tom.

  2. cowshedend says

    Yep Tom, I’ve found myself watching it as well, reckon the Gloss has well worn off the FA cup due to the fact that the Cinderella story is a thing of the past (Will never see Kidderminster Harriers in the last 4, or even poor old Tranmere for that!)
    But reckon the FFA will always be a chance of tossing up a Bentleigh Greens due to the lesser quality differential between the top and bottom tiers here.

  3. Dennis Gedling says

    The draw is also mixed up so at least one local team will play in the semi finals which I think should go in the next year or two once the competition is established. Hard luck on South Hobart, they really did wet the bed when it was there to be won.

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