Two years ago this July, an FFA Cup fairytale was written on a night that truly encapsulated what #magicofthecup means to the players and fans.
Melbourne’s self-described “pub team”, amateur outfit South Springvale from the third tier of Victorian football, were thrust into the national spotlight after a breath-taking shootout victory over South Cardiff in the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 on July 29, 2014.
The fans, the drama of the game, the whiff of souvlaki over the suburban ground Kingston Heath: it was a night to savour and one that set up the FFA Cup as something truly unique in our sporting landscape.
One of the men central to this story was shot-stopper Rani Dowisha.
It was his shootout heroics for South Springvale that saw the amateur club through to the Round of 16.
A pulsating contest finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.
Plucky South Springvale came from behind on two occasions to send the game into extra-time then a shootout, winning 4-3 on pens to spark wild celebrations.
“The crowd was excited, it was a big crowd, Fox Sports’ Adam Peacock was there, there was a big buzz around the stadium and the game itself was quite entertaining,” Dowisha told www.theffacup.com.au this week.
“The biggest thing was the atmosphere around the place.
“I remember the saving the last penalty in the boys just went absolutely berserk.
“The squad and the coach ran onto the pitch… I was absolutely stoked for such a small club like South Springvale to get onto the national stage and actually win a game for a tiny club like that was something pretty special.”
Gregarious Springvale coach Bill Lambropoulos told media after the game.
“FFA and Westfield, what they’ve done for us is incredible. They’ve opened the doors for grassroots clubs. No one even knew who we were, now we’re on Fox Sports and in every paper.”
The South Springvale boys continued on their merry way in the Cup as the players became one of the biggest stories of the first year of the FFA Cup.
Suddenly Dowisha, midfielder Alex Florea and others were the talk of the town with fans.
“Being the first year of the Cup, maybe other teams didn’t realise how much interest it would generate across Australia. And also revenue for your club,” said Dowisha.
“All the boys enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame! It was one of the most memorable nights of my career which I look back on very fondly. A great bunch of boys and a great club to be playing for.
“That is one moment that I'll cherish for a long time regardless of whichever club I'm playing for."
Now, the hero of that night has a chance to make some more FFA Cup history with Dowisha’s PS4 NPL club Green Gully one of the Victorian qualifiers in 2016 for the Round of 32.
With the talented Alistair Bray signing for Central Coast, Dowisha is now the number one at Gully and a regular starter.
And in Arthur Papas, Gully have a coach – like Dowisha – who knows a thing or two about Cup fairtyales.
The 36-year-old coach guided NPL club Oakleigh Cannons to the quarter-finals of the Cup in 2015.
Dowisha says Papas’s Cup experience and overseas CV (he’s coached alongside Zico in the Indian Premier League, at the AIS and as an assistant in the A-League) will be vital.
“It’s quite a young squad, spirit is much the same as South Springvale and Arthur Papas has come in this year and done a great job - there’s been a bit of a culture change.
“Under Arthur we’ve all improved. A great learning curve for a lot of the boys.
“It’s a Gully side that reminds of the South Springvale team, but a little higher in quality obviously.”
Papas’ men are one of the teams in the draw for the Round of 32 to be held at Fox Sports studios in Sydney on Thursday next week on June 30.
And Dowisha hopes Gully are drawn with an A-League team at their home ground the Green Gully Reserve.
"We'd love that type of challenge. Having said that, the boys are also keen on an interstate trip."