FA People’s Cup: semi-finals sizzle in the sun
After the wind and rain of round one, the semi-final weekend of the FA People’s Cup couldn’t have provided better conditions.
As Britain basked in the early-spring sunshine, there was a festival atmosphere, but with an initial 6,000-plus teams now cut down to around 600, there was also a fierce competitive spirit, with places in the Birmingham finals now within touching distance.
It all began with the exuberance and no-little-skill of our Under-14s and Under-16s teams…
Saturday morning – Girls’ and Boys’ Under-14/Under-16
The stars of our live-page coverage were undoubtedly Finesse Under-13s and Sprowston Girls Under-16s, who came through their sections in contrasting styles.
Sprowston reprised their form of round one, when they dismissed all-comers in Norfolk, with a similar display of dominance in Birmingham, culminating in a 7-2 victory in the final.
Finesse, by contrast, ground it out through two penalty shootouts in Wimbledon to prevail in a fiercely contested section, beating the highly skilled WHU Kicks – who also provided us with some great entertainment – 4-2 in the final.
Of course, we couldn’t be everywhere, but other qualifiers include (Boys’ Under-14) Sproatley Juniors, CS Colts, Summertown Stars, (Boys’ Under-16) New Mills, Barking, Sutton Coldfield Town, Handsworth.
And in the girls section, (Under-14) Elita 5s, Hebburn Town Honeys, Plymouth Argyle (Under-16) Hayes and Yeading Ladies, Rose Bridge Academy and not forgetting QPR Girls (and their Brazilian fan club)!
Saturday afternoon – Adult Female, Male Vets, Walking Football
We followed the fortunes of Norton and Stockton Ancients in the Adult Female category in Leeds as they battled their way to the trophy, sealing it in a penalty shootout.
Liverpool fans Team Full of Carraghers will have enjoyed winning the Male Vets category on rival territory in Manchester, Wokingham and District beat Larkhall Legends 2-1 in the final in Bristol, and Harraby Catholic narrowly overcame Grimsby Vets – 4-3 in the final – in Leeds.
Meanwhile, in the over-50s Walking Football, Plymouth Argyle won out in Bristol, Birmingham City lifted silverware on home soil, and Wokingham UB50 have qualified for the finals unbeaten in round one and the semi-finals.
Sunday morning – Youth Disability/Adult Male Disability League
Another glorious day – albeit an early start for some bleary-eyed mums on Mother’s Day with the clocks going forward – and it was the turn of our disability categories and Adult Males.
Youth winners include Cedarsfield, Bromley Valiants, Bradford DFC, while Pinfold Pumas and Mill Hill both go through from the Adult League in Manchester, Pinfold having come through a dramatic shootout in their semi-final against Danby Rovers.
Sunday afternoon – Adult Male Disability Premiership, Championship/Adult Male
Last up, the two remaining disability categories and the always fiercely contested Adult Males.
In Manchester, the Disability Premiership category was won by South Tyneside Ability, a 4-3 success against Deaf Rhinos sealing their place in the finals in Birmingham, but they’ve got their sights firmly on Wembley. (the eventual winners will receive tickets to the FA Cup final there in May the chance to lift their trophy there).
But the Rhinos gave us one of their enduring images of the weekend with their sign language team talk…
And they’re joined, among others, in the finals by Back of the Net, who won in Manchester, and Woolpack United, triumphant in Leicester.
To sum up – congratulations to all our qualifiers and well done to everyone who took part in a brilliant weekend’s footballing action.
We’ll be back with live coverage of the finals on 30 April/1 May and in the meantime, look out for our semi-final highlights on iPlayer and the Red Button.
And the last word goes to our goalscorers and a round up of Sunday’s best goals – see you in Birmingham next month!