Never Underestimate the Underdogs!

I must confess that I was in a catch 22 frame of mind on whether I should follow the FA Cup final between Wigan and Manchester City last weekend. The reports leading up to the final seem to suggest that it would be a routine victory for City. They just could not lose as it was their last chance to salvage some pride and win a piece of silverware from a season that has not gone not too well especially considering their new found status of reigning English Premier League champions.

I dilly-dallied and finally switched on the TV after the game was well on its way. One of the reasons why I switched on was due to the fact that I really like Wigan as a football club. I do not follow their fortunes every week (following Chelsea is proving to be quite hecticJ) through the league season but the Houdini acts that they produce at the end of each season is something which I just love and cherish as a football fan. The other reason for liking Wigan has been their Manager, Roberto Martinez, who loves signing his match notes with the phrase “Sin Miedo” (without fear). It seems Martinez is able to somehow instill this Sin Miedo approach into his team’s game during the last couple of months in the season and Wigan somehow survives for another year in the Premier League. However the statistic that compelled me to cheer for Wigan and in the process switch on the TV pertained to – the total cost of the Wigan team is $17 million and there are 11 players in the City squad who cost more than that individually!

I have heard a lot from my UK based colleagues and relatives / friends staying in the UK about the romantic notion that surrounds the FA Cup. It is the Holy Grail for the underdogs to topple the giants although as everyone knows the tournament has lost its sheen somewhat in recent years. I have never had the pleasure of watching it happen though and as I switched on the TV, I was hoping that my virtual support would spur Wigan to relive the romance that only be generated by football.

90 minutes on….I was ecstatic! Wigan had proved that nothing is impossible in football. The team stuck to their Manager’s approach of Sin Miedo, from the first minute till the end. The little known players of Wigan gave me and I am sure countless lovers of football goose bumps with their tenacity, fearlessness against much fancied opponents and desire to win. I became a fan of Callum McManaman instantly. He was simply unplayable and the way he wrecked havoc among the City defenders reminded me of a certain young Michael Owen tormenting Argentine defenders in the 1998 World Cup.

One couldn’t but notice the romance that was oozing out of the match. The winning goal was scored by substitute Ben Watson who broke his leg last November. Talking of broken legs, the Wigan Chairman, Dave Whelan broke his leg while playing the FA Cup final for Blackburn in 1960. Broken legs in football often spell disaster but when you are spurred on by Sin Miedo, good news is just round the corner it seems. I took an important lesson in life from the game and mighty Wigan’s Sin Miedo approach!

While staying up in the Premiership is likely to be very difficult for Wigan with only two games to be played, you cannot possibly rule them out, as yet. I sincerely hope all the miracles come together to help Wigan stay up and continue to enthrall us football lovers year on year. It would be a big loss not to have the team in the Premier League next year that embodies an unpredictable and quirky brand of football that is downright romantic.

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