It's the most famous cup competition in the world, but before the might of Chelsea, Manchester Utd, Arsenal or Liverpool march out onto the pitch in 9 months time, at Wembley Stadium, or more likely Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, the little teams get a crack at challenging for the FA CUP.
Its now called 'THE FA CUP,sponsored by E.ON', although the FA in London had neglected to send out any banners or posters to decorate the stadiums of this club, 7 or 8 tiers down the Football Pyramid, but to Garforth Town and Penrith, in front of a paid crowd of 68 and the same number of family and guests, THIS was the big time. The same weekend there were 75,000 at Old Trafford, 60,000 at the new Emirates Stdium of Arsenal and 52,000 at St James Park, Newcastle, but this game is the life and soul of English football.
It was raining heavily as the teams stepped out onto the hallowed turf of The Genix Healthcare Stadium, a superb and neat venue, with a 500 capacity cantilevered stand and a jolly club house and bar showing Sky Sports and the bar named BAR MINEIROS , and walls displaying signed jerseys and shoes from the likes of Pele, Owen, Rooney, Maradona and the like. A Brasilian bar, but the beer was from France, Belgium and Britain, not a Brahma Beer or Antartica in sight .
Owned by the ecletric Simon Clifford, a one time elementary school teacher in Leeds, who went to Brasil and met with Zico, Pele and others to discover what made Brasilian players so different - and good. He returned and founded Futebol de Salao, which has been a smash hit all over Britain and received rave reviews. Socrates played one match for Garforth last season, and also former English international Lee Sharpe, and Pele is due in January. Simon believes that there is room for two clubs in the Leeds area. In fact Leeds United, 15 miles away, is in the biggest city in Britain without two major league clubs. He would like to change that-as soon as possible, and the graduates from his academy are now plying their trade as far away as Celtic of Glasgow. Sponsors such as LEGO were so impressed that they contribute $6 million a years to the futebol schools
Clifford is on call in Hollywood, and was choreographer for 'Bend it Like Beckham' and for 'Kicking and Screaming', starring Robert Duval. When he was flown to Hollywood he was offered a room by a very nice couple, George and Peggy, - whose surname happens to be De Caprio , and they have a son called Leonardo!
There were no police, no safety stewards, not even a 4th official to assist the 3 referees and assistants.
Garforth easily won 2-0 with a brace of goals from the energetic young forrwad Shane Kelsey and face Chorley at home in the next round, about 12 more steps to the FA Cup Final.
This was the 'Salt of the Earth' football and support that makes football, futebol, calcio, soccer a very special game. The few fans were as vocal as a Yorkshire man can be, when referees decisions go against the home team and visiting player go down injured.
On 2 sides of the enclosed stadium are training pitches plus a couple of all weather small futebol de salao pitches, and on the other 2 sides, on this rainy and chilly day, fields of strawberries, to go with cream, ice cream or whatever on the summer tables of the North of England.
There were banner boards for Pikka Pies, Marstons Ales, Tesco Supermarket and a variety of local businesses
Grasshoughton Welfare vs Bacup Borough, Daisy Hill vs Tiverton Rangers, Deepling Rangers vs Lincoln Moorland, Blackpool Mechanics vs Armthorpe Welfare - these were some of the other FA Cup ties on the slate this Saturday afternoon.
After the match the Penrith team said of the food, drinks and friendly folk in the Bar Minieros, that its the best hospitality they have ever received.
Next week Garforth Town travel to a league match against Sheffield, THE oldest soccer club in the world, while they and their fans await Chorley from Lancashire, about 3 league up the pyramid.
The big teams don't enter the FA Cup until January, but around England they will be 'Up for the Cup' for the next few months