Most football fans in Australia when you ask about their earliest memory of watching a game will inevitably mention an FA Cup Final writes Rogier Waalder.
Going back some years, before the mass globalisation of modern football, the only overseas game that the majority of Aussies saw on TV was the FA Cup Final. In the absence of a nationwide knockout cup in Australia, the English version of the Cup was the closest thing many got to witnessing the romance of the Cup. That is until now, as the FFA have managed against all odds to put together the inaugural Football Federation of Australia Cup (FFA Cup) which kicks off this week. An FA Cup equivalent in Australia has long been the dream of many a football administrator in Australia but in the past there have been many reasons why this was not achievable.
There are 2 main reasons why a national cup competition has remained so elusive in Australia and they are somewhat interrelated. It is worth nothing that the Australia Cup did exist from 1962 to 1968 and was a national comp but this mainly the domain of cashed up ethnically based clubs. The Australia Cup withstanding, the main impediments to a national cup has always been due to the sheer size and vastness of Australia which has made travelling across the nation midweek for amateur and semi-professional clubs too expensive. So for many many long years Australian football lovers watched the FA Cup with a sense of jealous towards our English brethren.
The other main reason why this hasn’t happened sooner is the disjointed nature of 2nd tier and below of Australian football. Australia has always had a professional top division (either the NSL or A-League) but the next step down has always consisted of regional competitions based in the major cities, consisting mainly of amateur cluibs. This was due to the relative low profile of football in Australia as well as poor administration and ethnic divisions amongst clubs which meant that many were happy to be kings of their own domain and hence there has been no motivation to nationalise the lower tiers. Given the rise and rise of the A-League, football has gained mainstream following and the FFA is very keen to make the most of this and as such have come up with the FFA Cup to help fill the long off-season void that the A-League has. This has come with the generous assistance of some large corporate sponsors who will foot the big travel bills for the competing clubs.
So against all odds this week see’s the first 4 games of the Round of 32 with the remaining games taking place over the next month. In total 621 clubs registered to enter the FFA Cup and all but 22 were knocked out in the regional qualifying rounds that preceded the Round of 32. The 22 regional winners are joined in the Round of 32 by the 10 A-League clubs in what was an open draw where anyone could have drawn anyone. There is a mixed bag of clubs competing at this stage which includes former NSL winners Sydney Olympic, Brisbane Strikers, Sydney United, Melbourne Knights and Adelaide City. Also in the mix are regional clubs such as Broadmeadow Magic, South Cardiff, Palm Beach and Far North Queensland as well as minnows such as South Springvale, South Hobart and Hakoah Sydney City East (who won 2 Australian Cup titles). The draw also featured 3 all A-League ties.
So after decades of looking longingly at the English the football folk of Australia finally get to embrace the David vs Goliath battles that only a national knockout cup can offer and we couldn’t be happier.
Round of 32 Matches 2014 FFA Cup (club tier in brackets)
Broadmeadow Magic (2) vs Brisbane Strikers (2)
Manly Utd (2) vs Sydney Olympic (2)
Brisbane Olympic (2) vs Melbourne Knights (2)
South Springvale (4) vs South Cardiff (2)
Newcastle Jets (1) vs Perth Glory (1)
Parramatta FC (3) vs St Albans (3)
South Hobart (2) vs Tuggerenong Utd (2)
Adelaide Utd (1) vs Wellington Phoenix (1)
Blacktown City (2) vs Bentleigh Greens (2)
Melbourne City (1) vs Sydney FC (1)
Sydney Utd 58 (2) vs Far North Queensland (2)
Adelaide City (2) vs Western Sydney Wanderers (2)
Hakoah Sydney East (4) vs Palm Beach (2)
Stirling Lions (2) vs Brisbane Roar (1)
South Coast Wolves (2) vs Central Coast Mariners (2)
Bayswater City (2) vs Melbourne Victory (1)
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