My team of the week award goes to Havant & Waterlooville F.C., a small English soccer club from Havant. H&W (not to be confused with A&W F.C., who defeated Real Wendy's in last week's Fast Food Cup) play in the Football Conference South, which is the seventh overall tier of the English soccer table, with the Premiership obviously standing at the top of the pyramid. The Conference South and the EPL aren't usually mentioned in the same breath, but that will all change two weekends from now when the Hawks from Havant play Liverpool in the fourth round proper of the FA Cup. Reason #5450 of why I love England is the fact that it's not just the fourth round of the FA Cup --- it's the fourth round 'proper.' Brilliant. [/Gervais]
A little background for non-soccer fans. The FA Cup is the yearly knockout tournament that is open to literally every team in English soccer, provided they have a suitable grounds to hold a match. 731 teams entered this year's competition since just about every bloody little town in England has their hometown club. I can't blame them. Remember during the NHL strike a few years back when a few crackpot hockey writers proposed returning the Stanley Cup to its roots and opening it up as a challenge event to teams across Canada? The FA Cup is sort of like that, and it happens every year. Teams are drawn against each other at random, though the upper-tier teams get byes until later in the competition (League One and League Two won't enter until the first round proper, and Championship and Premiership teams not until the third round), and it's basically a one-and-done format until it comes down to two teams who square off in May at Wembley Stadium. The beauty is that the draw is totally up in the air. You could conceivably have the likes of Manchester United traveling down to some fifth-tier team's soggy small-time pitch. FA Cup history is full of Cinderella stories like these, but Havant has one of the all-time best runs going right now. H&W are officially the lowest-ranked team to ever reach the final 32 after they knocked off Championship (second-tier) side Swansea earlier today.
Now the Hawks will travel to Liverpool to face one of the true giants of British (and world) soccer. To put it into perspective, this is like Samantha Stanky getting into the final 32 of a Favourite Simpsons Character tournament and facing Mr. Burns. This is Barf's Burgers from You Can't Do That On Television facing A&W F.C. in the Fast Food Cup. This is Cypher from the X-Men getting ready to take on the Hulk. Man, Cypher was a lame character. You know what his mutant ability was? He could instantly translate any sort of language, be it verbal, physical or technical. That's just super. So if you're trapped under a car and Cypher is on the scene, don't worry. He'll be able to translate your dying screams to any passersby who don't speak English.
But Havant is no Cypher. They actually deserve their spot in the big dance. So good for you, little H&W. There is a very good chance you'll be destroyed by Liverpool (or, more accurately, the Liverpool reserve squad), but hey, you never know. I know I'll be rooting for you, if for no other reason than I want to hear my Liverpool fan friend Kat screaming in horror from across the Atlantic.