Big weekend, this, for football. Soccer that is for my American friends – Sarcre, as they pronounce it, trippingly on their tongues.
And what was the highlight for me?
Well the semi final at Wembley was good between Chelsea and Spurs and the latest news is that Aston Villa are beating Birmingham City 1-0 – in fact I've just heard they won.
Today Arsenal are meeting Manchester City in the other semi final – again at Wembley Stadium – but that is not the highlight either.
But . . when the players lined up to go on to the pitch, they each had a child with them, maybe aged about ten or so, possibly younger, of both sexes. They waited in the tunnel and I'm sure there was a lot of banter, some of the players of the opposing team hugged the ones they knew and liked (presumably).
And when the time came they all marched on to the pitch.
In these times when football gets a bad name because of some of the fouling and gentle kicks in the ankles and some drunken behaviour from some of them and sexual crimes against others, it's nice to see the guest mascot policy, where kids write in to get drawn from some hat, or whatever, for the pleasure of walking out with some of their heroes.
The Sunderland manager, David Moyes, was criticised recently when he half told someone off for asking a stupid question on air – you could hear the banter in his voice; the trouble was the stupid question was asked by a woman so suddenly it became a sexist remark. One person saying he wouldn't have said it if it was to a man; maybe not; maybe he would have given him a thick ear.
His team, Sunderland, have a mascot with a terminal illness. A little five year old boy who has cancer and has just recently had a set back by a new growth at the bottom of his back – the manager was obviously involved in getting Bradley Lowery to meet his hero, Jermain Defoe and here we have a picture of them. See how he holds on to Jermain for security:
But back to yesterday's game – the highlight for me was when the players stood in the tunnel, bantering, hugging and then marching on to the field of play. We noticed one of the mascots, a Spurs mascot, was marching rather smartly and proudly and then we noticed; he didn't have any legs. But out he strode with his heroes.
Here he is: Chelsea are in blue and Spurs are in white and the little lad has false legs:
Hardly noticed – but we noticed him and so did his family.