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State-based teams ready for the FFA Cup

ffa_cup_articleThis Tuesday heralds the beginning of the FFA Cup.

Already being dubbed ‘Super Tuesday’, the first four games of the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup competition take place that day.  The birth of Australia’s domestic cup competition will allow teams from outside of the Hyundai A-League, for the first time, to participate against the ‘big ten’ in competitive matches.  Clearly modelled on the English Football Association’s FA Cup, this competition will be hoping for the same drama and ‘giant killing’ aspect its British counterpart is known for.

Starting with 621 teams, the competition is down to 22 qualifiers who will all be ready to play their part, rather than just make up the numbers.  The competition will create three types of games and they will all hold interest for fans.  The “David versus Goliath” encounters will undoubtedly mean that the underdog will attract interest on the hope that they do overcome their more illustrious opponent.  The “non-league” encounter will be two teams, relatively unknown to each other, fighting tooth and nail to make it through to the next round.  The “clash of the big boys” will see two A-League teams trying to put markers down for the league competition whilst attempting to proceed.  Whatever the encounter, I think this year’s competition will create some memorable match-ups and, hopefully, some great football.

The ‘round of 32’ is the first round proper of the competition and is where the A-League teams join the FFA Cup.  In order to keep the competition interesting, the draw dictates that any member federation teams (qualifiers) drawn against A-League opponents automatically play at home.  This differs from the English FA Cup but is a great attempt to level the playing field, so to speak, and one that the English FA could do worse than to adopt.

With the ’round of 32′ just days away, I spoke to a few of the qualifiers to find out how they are preparing for the cup.

I could start at no better place than the first televised tie of the FFA Cup.  Broadmeadow Magic and Brisbane Strikers will play at Magic Park and the Fox Sports cameras will be there to broadcast the action.  Both teams play in the second tier of football; Broadmeadow play in the National Premier League (NPL) Northern NSW whilst Brisbane Strikers play in NPL Queensland.  Both teams have been successful in their relative spheres of influence and will be looking to win the game.  Playing against a fellow qualifier, I wanted to know whether this was a disappointment to both clubs.

“Being the first ever live broadcast Westfield FFA Cup fixture and, as a bonus, at home is exciting enough no matter who the opposition. We can always hope to meet A-League opposition in round two”, said Stephen Pichaloff, Broadmeadow’s secretary.  Brisbane Strikers’ Technical Director, David Large, was also in a bullish mood, stating that, “drawing a club of similar standing will certainly give us a better percentage of progressing.”

With both camps feeling confident, I wanted to know what preparation each team had done to find out about their opponents.  Pichaloff offered the methods employed by Broadmeadow:

“[Our] coaching staff have been fortunate enough to review some of Brisbane’s games online. Without doubt Queensland’s NPL competition is strong and the Strikers’ current position says a lot.”

Similarly, Brisbane Strikers have been pouring over YouTube footage to learn about their opponents.

In a similar match-up, Olympic FC (NPL QLD) take on Melbourne Knights (NPL Victoria) at Goodwin Park.  With Goodwin Park being damaged in the 2010-11 Queensland flooding, it will be particularly pleasing for Olympic FC to hold the game there.  Olympic FC’s captain Danny Byrne recognises the importance of the game:

“I am pleased for our fans and everyone involved behind the scenes at Olympic FC that we have been given a home draw, and regardless of whom we play great interest has been shown within the Queensland footballing community and hopefully a good crowd will make it to Goodwin Park”.

Pave Jusup, Vice-President at Melbourne Knights, is happy to be pitted against Olympic FC:

“To be honest, when they did the draw, we didn’t mind who we going to be drawn against. It’s probably better to meet an A-League side early, considering their calendar, but being pitted against Olympic from Brisbane is a good test for us, and a good barometer for the strength of our two respective NPL divisions.”

FFA Cup Trophy (Photo: Brendon Thorne, Getty)

FFA Cup Trophy (Photo: Brendon Thorne, Getty)

With Olympic FC being NPL Queensland premiers and Melbourne Knights having a huge National Soccer League (NSL) pedigree, both teams will want to progress. “We will treat the FFA Cup like any other game, when we step out onto that field we play to win” was Byrne’s message about the tie.  Jusup was more detailed in his team’s approach to the match, stating that they “will respect [their] opponent, identify and hopefully nullify their strengths, whilst exploiting their weaknesses.”

In contrast to these ties, NPL South Australia’s Adelaide City has a far different prospect on Tuesday August 12th, when they face Western Sydney Wanderers at Marden Sports Complex.  Before a ball has been kicked, Adelaide City has been forced to change the venue of the tie because of capacity issues at their traditional home ground.  Adelaide’s team manager, Garry Coppola, is just glad that his team is in the competition:

“We were really looking forward to test ourselves against a team from a different state at our level, but playing against such a great football club like Western Sydney will be an amazing experience for everyone involved.”

It would be very easy to mentally concede the tie, but Coppola will have none of it.

“Adelaide City is in the competition to win it. Playing the second best team in the country currently is a huge challenge. Our coach Damian Mori has played at the highest level in this country and knows what it takes to achieve the result. With the help of his assistants, Carlo Talladira and George Tsonis, they will have the boys ready to go.”

This statement embodies the spirit of the FFA Cup.  It may be a cliché but every game will be a cup final for teams like Adelaide City.  What is obvious from talking to the qualifiers is that they are all proud to reach this stage but are hungry for more success.

Football fans across Australia need to play their part by taking an interest and not seeing this as just a warm up to the A-League season.  Whether it’s Broadmeadow Magic, Brisbane Strikers, Olympic FC, Melbourne Knights or Adelaide City, the message was the same — the qualifiers are going to be as prepared as possible and give everything they can on the pitch.  This will be the true making of the competition — it may not have the tradition of the FA Cup, but it certainly has the passion and the makings of all the drama.

What is particularly pleasing is that two fourth-tier teams are in the final 32; Hakoah Sydney City East and South Springvale. Both have already played five games to get to this stage, and will have to beat second-tier opponents in order to progress further in the tournament.

Will they go further? Who knows! That is the magic of the cup.

Photo Credit: Alannah Pearson (Olympic FC)

About the author

avatarJonathan is a freelance writer, and contributor to Ultimate A-League.

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