Saturday, August 31, 2002

"Up for the Cup"

The FA Cup. Britain’s premier sporting competition. Football at its finest. The great leveller. Small boys, jumpers for goalposts. The big event the first Saturday in May where the entire nation will grind to a halt for a game of football. It’s got magic. It’s got style. It’s got corporate sponsorship. So when the FA Cup Sponsored-By-AXA-Insurance came to town as part of a national tour of supermarkets and shopping centres, I had to be there. Had to.

The Cup
"Oooh, isn't that the FA Cup?"

I suspect there are at least twelve FA Cups doing the rounds. How is it possible to be in so many places at once? One minute it’s on display at Harrogate Steelworkers Sunday XI, and the next it’s in the car park at Tesco’s somewhere in Cornwall.

There MUST be some kind of quasi-military operation moving the silverware about the country, hoping against hope that two FA Cups don’t turn up in the same place at once. It’s like Disneyworld. There are dozens of Mickies, Minnies and Goofies running round the place, and it would be an end-of-the-world matter/anti-matter explosion if two of them actually met.

So, it was a rainy Sunday afternoon that I dragged the family out to Savacentre in Reading on the pretence of “getting a pint of milk” and “Ooh, look, isn’t that the FA Cup?”

There it was, sitting rather forlornly in the middle of a half-empty car park, under a stripy gazebo next to its glum looking minder, whose sole purpose in life was to try to enthuse us enough about The Cup to buy life insurance. No. Chance.

Photos: One Pound. We’re having some of that, so crowd round, everybody. Now Adam was only two years old at the time. He’s not to steady on his feet, so when he stumbles on the edge of the rather cheap looking carpet, it’s life-flashing-before-your eyes, everything-going-slow-motion time.

He grabs the first thing he can to steady himself, and it just happens to be one of The Cup’s huge handles. My life, it should be pointed out, has been cursed by the application of Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion, and here he comes again the great wiggy bastard.

The Cup rocks on its base, and we watch in horror as the lid catapults off and bounces off the dais.

“Oooh shi....” says the minder, suddenly realising where he is, and that his job is now hanging by a thread.

DANG! The lid is now happily rolling across the floor of the gazebo and with a DUNK! bounces down the step and into the car park. It’s free. And it’s heading towards moving traffic. I can scarcely bring myself to look as the Lid of The Cup trundles towards a passing van, goes straight between the wheels and out the other side. The minder is trying to speak, but he can only move his jaw up and down with no sound coming out.

The Lid bounces off the wheels of a supermarket trolley, and with a tinny WAP-WAP-WAP-WOP-WOP-WOP! comes to rest between the unforgiving jaws of the sliding doors of the supermarket.

The minder runs across in a cold sweat and retrieves his precious lid. It is completely unmarked by its dash for freedom.

“Don’t worry mate”, I say encouragingly. “There’s at least another dozen Cups out there. Who’s going to know?”

“Yeah,” he replies, perking up a bit, “Keep quiet about it, or they’ll all want one”.

We got our photo in the end. For free. Result.

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