Gone are those days when the fragrance of FA Cup used to enrich English football. The congestion of fixtures is forcing high-profile outfits to field their reserves which, lamentably, has reduced the essence of this once-prestigious competition. However, it’s still celebrated as a carnival across towns, particularly among the lower-league sides that cherish the contest against the heavyweights irrespective of the outcomes.
This tournament has witnessed many uprises and surprises since 1871 – a 150-year of rich history which marks it the world’s oldest national football competition. Although the records are meant to be broken, there’s one instance that remains unscathed till date. This is from when Cardiff City conquered the coveted crown back in 1927 defeating Arsenal at the Empire Stadium. The Bluebirds became the only non-English outfit to win this trophy and still holds the position having scripted a whole new chapter on that very afternoon.
Despite being from Wales, the likes of Cardiff City, Swansea City and lesser-known Wrexham, Merthyr Town and Newport County still compete in the various tiers of the English leagues. They started the voyage much before the formation of League of Wales (in 1992) and therefore, opted to continue as an integral part of England’s status and fame.
There was euphoria and elation all over London that subdued the stress and anxiety before the game. Special trains were arranged for the Cardiff fans to ease their travel to Wembley and the entire city was under surveillance by the police to keep things under control. A rendition of “Abide with Me”, sung in the pre-match concert led by the bands of the Grenadier and Irish Guards, became a tradition ever since having gained immense popularity that afternoon. BBC, for the first time, decided to broadcast the final on the radio.
23 April, Saturday had a gathering of 91,206 inside the ground whereas around 15,000 Cardiff faithful were present at Cathays Park to listen to the radio commentary. Many VIPs were in attendance, including David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to witness the madness. Renowned referee William F. Bunnell was in charge, and the game eventually resulted in a bizarre 1-0 win in favour of the Welsh giants.
Dan Lewis, the Gunners’ custodian, made a mess while dealing with Hughie Ferguson’s strike around the 74th-minute mark and the goal proved to be the difference between these two top division sides after 90 minutes of engaging football. Lewis later blamed the woollen jersey he wore which gave birth to their storied tradition of washing goalkeepers’ kits before every fixture. Skipper Fred Keenor lifted the Cup, and the celebration was even bigger back in the country when their heroes returned home.
And The Celebration
More than 150,000 fans gathered to enjoy the parade, and the whole team greeted the faithful from an open-top bus. They had Trixie with them (a stray black cat, taken in by iconic Ferguson before their fifth-round clash against reigning champions Bolton Wanderers) who went on to become the club’s lucky charm throughout the journey.
It was buzzing around every corner of the city, and the overjoyed supporters were roaring in full voice when Keenor kept on lifting the cup time and time again. They attended City Halls where dinner and dance were arranged in the aftermath of their meeting with the Lord Mayor. It was something the city would hold in high esteem through generations and rightly so, considering the financial powerplay that is slow-poisoning our beautiful game in the name of modernization and corporate branding.
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