By Barry He
LONDON, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Being from Sutton has never been the most interesting fact about myself. The interest in my local team's upcoming 5th round fixture against Arsenal on Monday evening has caught international attention, as Sutton United is set to make FA Cup history on Monday.
If they win they will be the second non-league team -- unfortunately, only after Lincoln, who became the first on Friday -- to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals in 103 years.
I was in shock three weeks ago when I saw the letters spelling out Arsenal appeared on the television after the draw. My little borough, named by the Department of Work and Pensions in 2014 as "most average place in the UK", had challenged a god.
A lot of shouting and texting happened, and not just in my house. When I spoke to Dan Fitchett, striker for Sutton United, on the phone he said: "I was at home with my girlfriend watching it at the time and when it happened, I got about 30 different phone calls with people saying, 'Congratulations! And oh, can I get some tickets?'"
Tickets sold out instantly of course, with queues going all the way round Gander Green Lane (I had to sidestep them on my way to work). They probably inconvenienced the player's commutes too.
Fitchett's day job in life insurance telesales is a little different to life at the Emirates. He juggles it well though, "my work is flexible, I can still train twice a week and do the games on Saturdays. Main concern is the football!"
Living just round the corner from Gander Green Lane, the home of Sutton FC, I played football in the grounds during the school holidays. The showers never really worked. Apparently they still don't.
Fitchett verified: "It [the prize money] would definitely change Sutton United in the future, putting money into the academy and trying to get young players through in the local area. It'll also help improve the facilities, changing rooms and a few leaks that have been going on, things which wouldn't have been a priority otherwise."
It is worth noting that the salary Mesut Ozil earns in half an hour would be enough to pay for new plumbing for all the changing rooms.
Fitchett was realistic and relaxed when I asked which Arsenal players he's worried about facing ("All of them!"). Still though, there's confidence at the prospect of facing a team over 100 places above them. "Anything can happen really, it's 11 vs 11 at the end of the day, we'll go in and approach it professionally like any other game."
"What are you score predictions?" I asked.
"Oh, good question! Haha," Fitchett said. "It's going to be tough, If we can get a draw then that would be a great result, a replay and we could to their grounds and have a good day out there too. But good question, let's hope for a positive result!"
Many of the Sutton FC team have their own premier league heroes, with Fitchett confessing to be a lifelong Liverpool supporter. His Auntie used to bring him to games when he was a child, but now the chance to face the top of the Premier League is a reality come Monday. There are also many Arsenal fans within the team, with some previously playing at the club.
English football history will be made on Monday. Very few people get a chance to meet their idols, but how many less get a chance to beat them?
(Barry He, 23, is an account executive for tech start-up public relations in London. He has been living in Sutton for all his life.)