Arsenal v Aston Villa - FA Cup Final

Kim Milton Nielsen: Work/life balance and the appeal of the FA Cup

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Arsenal v Aston Villa - FA Cup Final
Arsenal celebrate lifting a second successive FA Cup back in 2015.

I have always been lucky when it came to juggling my day-to-day job with football and I am just as lucky now that my day-to-day job is football.

Even though us Danes have a winter break, like most of the European leagues, we still had meetings at the Dansk Boldspil-Union (or DBU, our equivalent of your Football Association) right up until Christmas Eve.

Even so, I was able to sample England’s mild Christmas and I brought my wife Soes over with me the weekend before the big day as she has enjoyed visiting London many, many times.

Not only is it advisable for a top ref to get away from the pressure and talk about other things during the week, I also feel it is vital that referees have a good relationship with a genuinely understanding employer. While I was refereeing I was fortunate that the small company I was with grew to the point where I was regularly able to delegate tasks in my role as IT manager.

Therefore I did not face constant demands to be behind my desk, while the timing of all the technological innovation could not have been better from my perspective, as it was so new when I was initially given the department to look after.

The timing of my latest UK trip, on the eve of the FA Cup 3rd Round, reminded me of another trip we made with my wife’s son from her previous marriage and my daughter, which must have been back in 2005.

Everybody in the football world knows about the FA Cup, of course, and I ‘innocently’ suggested to the family that we make a short diversion to Wembley for that year’s final, to which they agreed.

So the plan was hatched and I had the job of securing four tickets… that is until Graham Poll just laughed at me down the phone! “I’m sure we can help, but that won’t be much use to you Kim,” he said. I was puzzled. “We wouldn’t be able to get you to Cardiff as well, I’m afraid!”

If you did not know, this was during the rebuilding period for Wembley, when finals were played at the Millennium Stadium… in Wales.

There are nowhere near as many spectators at our own version of the cup as there are for league games, and Danes have always had a higher interest in the English one, not only the final but the whole competition. It’s amazing that even the non-sports fans show an interest, and I have noticed this through the volume of ‘likes’ on social media as well as in conversations with the public.

Even before Danish football was broadcast live at home we could watch FA Cup games, and Wembley has enjoyed a reputation in our country as the best venue from a spectator’s point of view for many years.

When I was a kid my uncle was one of the first to get a colour TV and I remember everyone invading his house, and not just on the big day in May, back in those good old days of only one or two channels!

The names of Wolves, Nottingham Forest and Derby County readily come back from those times and you would be surprised how well the average Dane would do in a quiz on English teams and grounds.

So there you have it, I’ve still never been to a final myself, and there have been so many memorable games that stand out in my mind, besides those which happened to feature the likes of Jan Molby or Peter Schmeichel.

Good luck if your team has made it through to round three… and what an occasion to be a referee!

Vi Ses, Kim