With 19 minutes passed at Rossett Park, and the score still 0-0 between Marine AFC and Tottenham Hotspur, something almost brilliant almost happened.
Neil Kengni, Marine’s right winger, caught the ball at the midline, galloped into a gap of space, took another step, and then hit a wonderful shot to the crossbar.
Joe Hart’s weird daydreaming gave him another layer of reverb instantly as the ball floated over his head. Cool, serene and completely at sea with his angles, England’s second most capped goalkeeper of all time was finally surprised with real footballer-style action from the ball hitting metal.
Kengni is an eighth level plumber in training. Fifteen centimeters lower and he would surely have achieved the hierarchically most extreme 1-0 lead in the history of English football and a moment of true Schmaltz Football Cup. It was just a blink at the end. Carlos Vinícius, it turns out, doesn’t care much about your magic. Vinícius is from Maranhão, a coastal region of a small town in northeast Brazil, perhaps, in a way, a kind of tropical Crosby. It certainly looked at home here, and pleasantly vindictive in its completion. In no time, Vinícius had made it 1-0, slamming the ball into the net from an inch before putting on a spectacular Kylian Mbappé-style celebration.
Soon he was tapping on a second. Lucas Moura curved a beautiful shot in the top corner to make it three. And Vinícius’ hat-trick came before the break with a nice floating shot over the goalkeeper. A final score of 5-0 was probably fair enough. Not that it really seemed to matter that much anyway that day.
Even in the best of cases it’s possible to overdo it with FA Cup chintz, those old goofy tales of mud and romance: sports aristocrats compared to rack stackers, teachers, roofers, nurses, pickpockets, dilettantes, flâneurs and all the the rest. break.
Included on a bulging TV list, at a time when hospitals have become terrifying places and when the nation is plagued with an urgent new strain of virus, this could have felt like a bleak, forced, even quite bleak occasion.
In case it was something else, and for that, thank you very much you must go to Marine. This was an uplifting play, televised live on the BBC on a gloomy, closed and atomized Sunday night, and bringing with it strangely comforting glimpses of a familiar and caring world.
After months of gazing at the dystopian hell of empty plastic mega stadiums, there was something wonderfully fascinating about the sight of the backyard crowd of spectators.
The Victorian terrace beyond the Rosset Park sideline revealed a varied lineup of sheds, barbecues, side turns and full-width extensions – a Betjeman-like snapshot of Lancashire suburban life. There were flashes of locals holding a glass, their breath smoking the air and radiant in the quarantined room like a quiet and reassuring Sunday night drama.
The show also had its goofy side. Marine went through seven rounds of the FA Cup threatened by Covid. They beat Runcorn Linnets and Frickley Athletic to get here. His winner in the last round was a detour in the extension of the back of a school teacher. Out-of-league football could even face another cancellation in the coming days. This was a freestanding window, lit in the dark and a gift in the middle of a horrible winter.
There was also an impressive turn from José Mourinho, who came to Crosby in his most courteous and aggressively respectful way, enjoying immensely the reflected show of his own wrinkled humility.
Word from the inner sanctuary of the Spurs was that Mourinho would be “preparing normally with great respect”, which, to be fair, does not sound so normal. Snipe, snark, covert tactics, that would be the utmost respect. So we looked forward to Mourinho’s provocative gestures of silence on the fences in the backyard. Would you punch a school teacher in the eye? Pushing an NHS Nurse? Gesture about your trophy to a sleeping retiree?
At the event, Mourinho also cured the occasion to perfection, choosing a strong team, speaking with genuine affection for the day and the opposition, and sitting center stage in a plastic-veneered dining chair through which it turned out. be a spirited top tie in the third round.
Dele Alli started and played well, highlighting the quality of his movement and his touch. There, too, he seemed happy, which is perhaps the same. At one point in the first half he fell while attempting a quick turn and caused a barrage of giggles and called for a simulation yellow card from the Spurs bench behind him. Footballers having a good time: we don’t need much.
Finally, there was another nice moment when 16-year-old Alfie Devine scored his first professional goal and his fifth of the Spurs game, a little jink inside and a shot near the post. He looked absolutely overjoyed, unable to pretend this wasn’t the best time of his life so far (sorry parents, friends, but let’s face it).
Marine AFC v Spurs will delve into the hazy remnants of the season from here. Should football be up and running right now? Here was a reminder of the best of this game: as a consolation, a rallying point and something in the day that is not illness and anxiety, as for a couple of hours in a dark week the FA Cup delivered its own little square light.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism