The FA Cup was the medicine we all needed

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MAGIC: Tottenham’s Deli Alli goes up against Anthony Miley of Marine FC. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

Anyone who thought the FA Cup had lost its magical appeal was very much proven wrong over the weekend.

England’s oldest competition won back any fans it may have lost thanks to some amazing games and mismatches in the third round.

Aston Villa, ravaged by COVID-19, were forced to field a bunch of kids against a strong Liverpool team that included Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Sure, they may have ended up losing the game by four goals to one, but the young Villans did themselves proud.

Premier League side Leeds United were humiliated at the hands of EFL Division Two’s Crawley Town and tier six minnows Chorley managed to book a place in the fourth round thanks to a well-earned victory over Derby County.

But the real story of the round was the match between Marine FC and Tottenham Hotspur.

Marine, for those of you in the dark, are Merseyside’s fourth club, a long way behind Liverpool, Everton and even Tranmere Rovers.

They play in the Northern Premier League Division One North West and their squad is basically a bunch of part-timers.

The goalkeeper is a school teacher, they have a bin man and a plumber in defence, and their striker is a used car salesman.

Against Jose Mourinho’s star-studded squad there was only ever going to be one winner and Spurs eventually put five past Marine and strolled into the next round.

Sadly for the team from the outskirts of Liverpool, due to social distancing rules, no supporters were allowed into the ground.

This didn’t stop Tottenham fans doing their bit and buying thousands of ‘virtual’ tickets to ensure the lower league team managed to make a bit of cash.

One story that I found interesting from this match may have gone a little unnoticed but its significance is huge.

After the game, it is traditional for the players to swap shirts. And while I doubt very much Tottenham’s Gareth Bale would have been that bothered about adding a Marine FC jersey to his collection, there were plenty of players from the home side desperate for a souvenir.

However, again due to the coronavirus, players were told not to swap shirts after the final whistle for fears of spreading the disease.

Not to disappoint, Tottenham took an extra set of shirts to the match to make sure their opponents were not disappointed.

It’s also worth noting the goal celebrations by the Liverpool players after they put four past Villa were subdued, to say the least.

And again this was following advice from those in the know to avoid any unnecessary contact in case of contamination.

During Britain’s dark days, mid-pandemic football has been a shining light bringing hope and relief to millions of fans.

But if players are prevented from swapping shirts, and told congratulatory goal celebrating hugs are out of the question, just how long will football last?

Manchester City have already postponed a Premier League match over the last few weeks due to an outbreak in their squad and I don’t think it will be much longer before more games are called off.

These leaves just two option. Obviously, the one people don’t want to see is a season suspended while we all wait for the pandemic to ease.

Another possibility is maybe professional footballers should be vaccinated as soon as possible. Some might argue it is unfair for them to jump the queue while teachers must wait.

I say ensure both are covered. Yes, of course, teachers are vital for schools to stay open but while everyone is down in the dumps right now and feeling lower than a snake’s belly, saving football could be the medicine we all need. VNS

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