Arsene Wenger says The FA Cup is a competition and one that means the world to him and his players.
Speaking ahead of his side’s Semi-Final tie with Wigan Athletic, the Arsenal boss said it is the chance of glory open to everyone that makes the competition so special - and recalled fond memories of watching the Final as a schoolboy growing up in France.
He said: “We all play to win something but of course if you are in The FA Cup everyone can dream to win it at the start of the season.
"The league, maybe six or seven clubs can think about winning it at the start of the season – but the Cup is a dream open to everybody and that is the beauty of The FA Cup.
“Last year Wigan won it and this year they are in the Semi-Final. This year you have Sheffield United who is in the Semi-Final, and having that kind of dream open to everybody makes the competition special.
“So that open dream is what makes this competition special – and it’s only in football.
“If you play basketball or rugby or any other sport you cannot open the dream to other people other than the top teams.
“If in basketball a top team plays against someone from division two – then absolutely no chance, unless you give them a 30-point lead. Only our sport can create that excitement, because it’s uncertain.”
Wenger has a long and distinguished history in The FA Cup – having reached the Final on five occasions, going on to lift the trophy on four of those.
And he recalled special memories of growing up in the village of Duttlenheim, in the north-east of France -watching the Final alongside his school friends.
“It was a dream when I was a kid to watch The FA Cup,” he added.
“It was one of the few competitions you could watch on black and white on television in France.
“I don’t recall the two teams from the first Final I saw, but what stays in my memory is the place where I sat at school – we had to pay about £1 to watch and I just remember what struck me at the time was that the ball was white and the pitch was perfect and immaculate.
“I also remember that the players looked very calm and the players were relaxed at that time, you could see them joking together on the bench – that has always stuck with me.”
“The Cup is a dream open to everybody and that is the beauty of The FA Cup”
The last silverware Wenger and Arsenal lifted was indeed in The FA Cup – as his side overcame Manchester United on penalties after a tense 0-0 draw at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
It has been a long nine years since that spring afternoon back in 2005, and it is a barren spell Wenger said he fully focused on ending this term.
“Our record recently has not been so great – but this season we are back at Wembley and it’s great.
“It’s an important competition – as you know we will not fight for the championship any more so it’s an important competition for us, definitely.
“But don’t imagine I don’t sacrifice every day of my life to win a trophy – everybody fights for that.”