Why the FA Cup is the greatest sporting competition in the world | Simon Carter

On the bucket list of all ‘proper’ football supporters – up there with visits to the Nou Camp, Old Trafford or the San Siro – should be watching their club suffer a good old-fashioned FA Cup humiliation.

Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 3:26 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th November 2019, 4:19 pm
GIANTKILLERS: Hereford beating Newcastle in 1972. Picture: John Motson archive

Of all FA Cup embarrassments, though, there is nothing more humiliating than to lose to a non-league club. Once upon a time those teams would be full of professions now alien to many in our technological world. Nowadays, your average non-league club probably has a computer programmer at left back.Tonight, Pompey travel to Yorkshire for a classic FA Cup first round tie - the sort which should make all football romantics go a bit misty-eyed.Harrogate Town FC have never played in the Football League, indeed this season is only their second in the top tier of non-league football. Last month one of their home games attracted a crowd of 742 and last week just 21 fans followed the team to Eastleigh. And this is the team that could embarrass Pompey, and live on BT Sport as well! As an Exeter City fan, I’m so envious of Pompey supporters. Your team has lifted the FA Cup, the greatest knockout sporting trophy in the world. I would sell members of my family - mainly my Welsh cousins, I wouldn’t really miss them - to see Exeter lift that piece of silverware. Football is the world’s greatest sport because of the FA Cup. Total minnows like Chichester City are one game away from playing Manchester City. Moneyfields and Baffins Milton Rovers could next season draw Pompey. These improbable ties never happen in other sports, because they can’t.Portsmouth’s rugby players will never meet Saracens in a cup tie, and Havant cricketers will never face Hampshire. The gulf is too big, and no tournaments exist to allow the amateurs to dream.Unlike football. There won’t be a mudbath at Harrogate tonight, as they play on an artificial pitch. There might not be many parkas either. But the essence of sport? A big fat tick.

Beautiful drink that must be drunk at the beautiful game

One other thing on the bucket list of all sports enthusiasts should be a drink to warm the cockles of your heart.

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Preferably quaffed, with a nod to my earlier comment, during the half-time interval of an FA Cup tie when your team are 1-0 down to a bunch of computer programmers.The wonderful elixir is the one I wolfed down while covering Baffins Milton’s FA Vase tie for The News. Non-league football is, in many ways, the heart and soul of Pele’s beautiful game. And the heart throbs a little faster when you see – as I did last Wednesday – the evocative words ‘Bovril - £1’ chalked on a board. It was blisteringly hot – it always is, I think that’s the law - but I’ll tell you this: It was lovely.

Now I don’t feel so guilty about my caffeine habit

Three cheers for a research team from Queen’s University, Belfast, for discovering coffee drinkers – I regularly quaff seven mugs a day – have a lower risk of the most common type of liver cancer.

Compared to those who did not drink the stuff, coffee drinkers were more likely to be older (I’m 50), male (yep, no transgendering here), from less deprived areas (Devon!) and have higher education levels (does an A-level in sociology count?). They were also more likely to consume higher levels of alcohol (I’m a journalist, so yes), and less likely to have diabetes, cirrhosis, gallstones, and peptic ulcers compared to non-coffee drinkers. Hurrah! I might up my intake to eight...