I was born in Portugal and from a very young age had an inexplicable passion for football in general and for S.L.Benfica in particular; born in F.C.Porto heartland with a family of their supporters there was no reason for my affiliation, much less the crying and refusal to feed myself when results weren't what I desired, thankfully I was young maybe not as young as you would like but young nevertheless.
Every year I anxiously waited for the derby's and big European ties, sadly there was a fair bit of disappointment but I loved football so it wasn't so bad, those were dates in the calendar never to miss and at club level one more date would always make it to my must see, the FA Cup final, shown every year in Portugal in the 80's and 90's.
So, I grew up watching the greatest cup competition in the world and I loved it, from Di Mateo's free kick to win it for Chelsea to Giggs wonder goal against Arsenal, it was football at his best, unpredictable and exciting where form and name counted for very little.
Actually for Giggs goal I was in England already and maybe football wasn't as important to me as before but I would still know every player, every result and every team, football was still paramount and the FA Cup final was still the best game of the season.
Last weekend it was the 3rd round, the first one with the big boys and to be honest I paid very little attention to it; watched a bit of Liverpool's win and though the goal was spectacular I couldn't tell you who scored it since it was scored by one of the youngsters; I mean there is nothing wrong with giving the fringe players a go but it was Everton, Liverpool's derby rivals who presented a full first team line up and probably should have won the match.
Unfortunately this tells me that Liverpool has other priorities, the same could be said for most of the other so called big teams, what sadly means that the FA Cup is no longer as relevant and it should be because it represents everything that is good about sport.
This situation has been evolving from the start of this century, since Man United not taking part due to commercial engagements through all the second string teams for the FA Cup ties, the slow demise of an old friend or at the least the loss of the way things used to be.
A Champions League place for the winner might revitalize it; I hope something like that happens if not, farewell old friend, from the bottom of my heart hope for better days and the glory you deserve, thank you for the memories, I will keep in touch but I can only match what you give.