I'm off to Wembley on April 6th for the FA Cup semi-final between Cardiff City and Barnsley. And I can't quite believe what has happened.
What a roller coaster few days.
Let me tell you about one of the kindest and most thoughtful men one would ever wish to meet. His name is Ali Yassine. Ali is the stadium tannoy announcer down at Cardiff City. The first time I came across Ali was when we were at Ninian Park for the fifth round encounter against Wolves. Ali made an announcement about my (and my friend's) presence at the game and this FA Cup "Road to Wembley" journey. He gave this blog a good plug. Not only once, but twice - before the game started and again at half time.
I had also read about Ali when he got a credit on the BBC Sport website as part of their "Quotes of the week" feature:
"Before we kick off for the second half, I have a very important announcement to make: 'We're the famous Cardiff City and we're going to Wemberleeeey. Wemberleeeey!!! Wemberleeeey!!!'" Stadium announcer at the Cardiff City v Hull game.
Then on Tuesday evening I had the great pleasure of having a long and interesting phone conversation with him. He had contacted me to offer help with getting hold of tickets for the big game. I had already received a possible offer of help from someone associated with the club. I had some generous offers of help from a couple of Cardiff City fans, fans I had never even met. All this generosity was overwhelming. And then Ali, who has been keenly following my story, suggested that Cardiff City FC should be able to help with tickets. Ali then set about passing on my details to the Media Manager and the Club Secretary and low and behold I today received an offer to buy a couple of tickets.
Ali had also worked on a "plan B" which involved his brother who is a season ticket holder, but that was not needed in the end. He has quite literally gone out of his way to help. Just talking to Ali one can tell that he is absolutely passionate about the game and about Cardiff City. He had some amazing stories to tell me and I could have listened to him for hours. I am very much looking forward to meeting Ali at Wembley in April.
If there is one thing I have learnt on this FA Cup run it is the generosity and friendship that has been expressed from a whole range of people, from all walks of life. From the wonderful Dartford fans, the amazing club committee at Eastbourne Borough, the guys down at Sittingbourne, the great people I have met or been in contact with at Camberley, Cambridge, Wolves, Watford and Middlesbrough, and not to forget the press and media girls and boys along the way. Once again, at the risk of repeating myself, I continue to be amazed. In a world where the bad guy gets centre stage in the news, it is so refreshing to meet and talk to genuinely nice people who all have one thing in common. This beautiful game.
So a really big "thank you" to Ali and to all at Cardiff City FC. Now it is just the simple matter of waiting for the game. I'm not sure if I can. Wemberleeeey, Wemberleeeey!
I am now off for a few days for Easter. Wishing you all a Happy Easter and I hope, whichever team you support, you get to see some great football over the holidays.