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Arsenal 4, Aston Villa 0

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, football man
Pass me the ball as fast as you can
Dribble and kick it and mark it with “T”
And slice through the air for goalie and me.

I watched the FA Cup Final yesterday; the first time I have watched a football match for at least 20 years, maybe more. I thought “Why not? Time to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve heard of the teams. They are both in the English football Premier League. Should be good exhibition style football. Switch on the television.”

So, armed with a superb Jaipur IPA, a few nuts to chomp on, notebook and pen, I watched the game. Here’s what I observed.

Let's Play Pat-a-CakeAbout 95% of the game was what I call pat-a-cake football played mid-field: from me to you, back to me, back to you again, over to him, back to me, and so on until the ball is successfully intercepted by the other side and the pat-a-cake starts again. I don’t find this exciting to watch but I am impressed with the accuracy of ball placement and with dribbling skills but it’s oh so slow until the ball gets near the goal mouth. Then a lot of scurrying and scuttling, jostling and jersey-pulling takes place and, with luck, someone scores. That happened four times in this match and I must admit two of the four goals were stunners – the first by Theo Walcott (“T” in the limerick above) and especially the second by Alexis Sanchez.

When I watch rugby internationals I often shout out at the players even though they can’t hear me. I call these shouts involuntary exclamations. Yesterday, I recorded only two such exclamations. The first occurred 10 minutes into the game when a foul took place that caused the fouled player to roll over three times. Three times! I was impressed with his theatrical expertise at extracting the most from the moment. The referee was not. There was no penalty awarded (well, not that I was aware) nor yellow card and play resumed.

The second involuntary exclamation was when Sanchez scored his goal. That goal was just tremendous and made up for all the boring pat-a-cake play.

Some trivia for you.

I compared the camerawork with that of the rugby internationals about which I complained to the BBC earlier this year. You can see my complaints here. I must say the FA Cup camerawork was much better than the rugby camerawork. Most times I could see the game as a whole rather than close-ups of players or spectators and I appreciated the ability to see how the ball was moving up and down the pitch between the players.

Continuing the comparison, I noted that the replays were kept down but I would still like to see a Replay caption alert on the screen; the number of times useless statistics was flashed on the screen was extremely low (just twice); there were only two commentators, not three; and the use of a skycam was kept to a minimum. Well done the BBC.

I was lost in admiration with the carefully sculpted gel-laden hairstyles of some of the players, especially Bellerin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Bacuna (nice 2-tone style) and even Sanchez. All Arsenal players incidentally. Could this be the secret weapon that helped them to victory? Are they forbidden from heading the ball if it comes their way?

The hymn “Abide with me” is traditionally sung before the start of the match and despite my lack of religious beliefs and my aural dyslexia, I was moved to see and hear 90,000 people singing their hearts out.

Did I enjoy the game? Most of the time, I would not use the verb “enjoy”. I would say it was interesting to watch the ball skills of the mid-fielders but I wasn’t mesmerised by their skills. So, for 95% of the game I just watched wondering what the crowd were roaring at.

Finally, I loved the pink football. Nice touch.