Many jokes have circulated the World Wide Web and social media alike about what year 2020 has been. From raging fires in Australia, civil wars in Lybia and Yemen, volcano eruption in Luzon to the world-wide outbreak of the Corona Virus – dubbed Covid-19.
The world went into lockdown during March, with South Africa following suit on 26 March. Many people found it quite exciting, stocking up on essentials like cigarettes and alcohol (while the rest of the world was stocking up on toilet paper) and finding that working from home would be unique.
Kids were having the most fun with schools closed. Parents on the other were wondering what they had done to deserve such punishment! The lockdown, though, was only supposed to last three weeks – it didn’t. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on 9 April 2020 that the lockdown would be extended to the end of April – and then it was extended further till the end of May with some restrictions being lifted or softened on 1 June.
We have had to live with supposed impending doom of the virus while trying to keep sane locked up like criminals while certain citizens of the population carry on like there is no tomorrow. Certain sectors of the economy have been devastated while some resorted to violence and destruction which forced the government to relent and allow them to carry on without fear.
Sport came to a standstill, leaving many hot-blooded South Africans dumbfounded and not knowing what to do with their Saturday afternoons. However, some international sport returned to our screens leaving some in utter happiness.
The recently completed English Premier League left Liverpool celebrating their first trophy since Noah disembarked the Ark, in front of a capacity crowd of about 5 medical personnel.
But there is one game left – just one! And that is the FA Cup final between the blue dogs of Chelsea and my beloved red pride of North London – ARSENAL!
We, as the Gunners, have had to endure some terrible periods starting with the decline of Arsene Wenger’s reign, through the Spaniard Unai Emery and into the start of his countryman, and former captain, Mikel Arteta.
Despite starting the resumption of the Premier League with a 3-0 thumping by Manchester City, who by the way scored over 100 goals in the league this season, and a 2-1 loss to Brighton, Arsenal went on to records four straight victories before a draw with Leicester and a bitter 2-1 loss to rivals Spurs ended the run.
But, and more importantly, Arteta crafted two magnificent victories out of nothing. A 2-1 league victory over champions Liverpool and then a 2-0 victory over City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
That victory over City left them facing Chelsea in the showpiece final – Arsenal’s 21st appearance leaving them all-time leaders in both final appearances and title victories (13), their last coming in the 2017 final against….Chelsea!
In that match, Alexi Sanchez gave the Gunners an early 4th minute lead which they held onto until the 76th minute when Diego Costa equalized for the Blues. But then Aaron Ramsey slotted what was to be the winner three minutes later.
Chelsea, now under their former captain, Frank Lampard, will be looking to repeat their 2019 Europa League final against Arsenal, when they trounced the North Londoners 4-1.
The sides have faced each other in two previous FA Cup finals with Arsenal winning on both occasions – a 2-0 win at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and then the 2-1 victory in 2017. Chelsea, who returned to the final the following season, lifted the cup with a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Wembley.
Both young managers will be looking to write their names into the history books but with Arteta enjoying his second consecutive FA Cup final, after being Pep Guardiola’s assistant in the 6-0 thrashing of Watford last year, the Spaniard will be hoping to lift his first trophy as a fully fledged manager in his own right, after guiding Arsenal to 15 victories in his first 27 matches in charge.