It was an obscure English cup match played in front of only 4,407, but Tuesday’s win for AFC Wimbledon in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy had a deep symbolic value, historic importance and emotional force.
It was their first victory over their nemesis, MK Dons – the club that murdered the original Wimbledon and dragged their corpse 60 miles north.
Wimbledon were one of the great underdog stories in English soccer – the “Crazy Gang” led by notorious hard men like Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu who rose from England’s fifth division to its first in less than a decade in the 1970s and 1980s, famously beating mighty Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final.
Only 20 years ago, Wimbledon finished ninth in the EPL, above the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City. But stadium and ownership problems prompted a gradual financial and results decline. Ultimately, the club was bought by an impresario who managed to persuade the authorities to break with European tradition and move them, American franchise-style, to a city north of London without a professional team.
Twelve years ago, many of Wimbledon’s disgusted fans formed a new club, AFC Wimbledon, which has gradually risen up the soccer pyramid. It entered the Football League in 2011, bearing a deep enmity towards “the franchise”. Though MK Dons and Wimbledon have met twice before in Cup competitions, this was the first win for AFC – and it happened on the road.
The winning goal in the 3-2 victory was scored by Adebayo Akinfenwa – a 225 lb. journeyman striker who is officially the strongest player in the world – according to whomever compiles the stats for FIFA 15, anyway.
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