Superstitions and a 'celebration of women's football' – bosses prepare for FA Cup final

Jonas Eidevall and Emma Hayes
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall will lead his side out at Wembley for the first time

Driving a few extra miles to avoid a black cat, thinking about “everything that could possibly go wrong” and skipping the emotional rollercoaster – Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall is meticulous in his preparation for Sunday’s Women’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

The two sides will go head-to-head at Wembley Stadium (14:00 GMT) in front of more than 45,000 fans in last season’s delayed finale.

“These are the games we want to play in or coach,” said Eidevall, who said earlier this year the closest he had come to being at Wembley was when he and his wife had tickets to see Adele perform but they could not make it.

He added: “We all wish it could be like this every week if it could be possible. I hope we can embrace, live the moment and be present in it. That would always be a good start.”

It is a meeting between the top two sides in the Women’s Super League, with Arsenal a point clear of their London rivals.

Swedish coach Eidevall said he will be “panicking” about whether Arsenal have done enough preparation until on the day itself.

“On game day I feel very, very confident. Before it, I think about everything that could possibly go wrong because I need to prepare for it,” said Eidevall.

“I have to do everything and rewatch all the videos two or three times again before we start working on it with the group. Then when we reach gameday, I am 100% sure that we are ready. I know I will reach that point on Sunday.”

Eidevall recalled a night in Germany a few years ago when he received text messages saying several of his players were injured on international duty and he left an eight-course dinner with friends as it “ruined” his night.

As well as keeping his nerves intact, Eidevall said he welcomed superstitions as it is “healthy” to have some control – even if that means making yourself feel “a bit silly”.

“I don’t let any black cats cross my way, ever. I don’t harm any black cats either – that’s important to say!” he said. “But I have sometimes been driving around for a couple of miles just to not cross them.

“If [Chelsea manager] Emma Hayes sees this, she will probably buy 1,000 cats and send them over to our road.”

‘A celebration of women’s football’

Steph Houghton lifting the FA Cup trophy
Manchester City’s Steph Houghton, who lifted the FA Cup last season, will be one of several captains celebrated at Wembley on Sunday

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes is more familiar with the occasion having already led the club to two FA Cup successes.

Should the Blues win on Sunday, they will have secured a treble of trophies from the 2020-21 season with both domestic cups and their league title.

“We’re always competing for trophies every year so yes, this is a trophy that is part of last year’s success and one we want to win, but I don’t think we’ll be defined any more by winning it,” said Hayes.

“We are a successful team, we are a competitive team and we compete year-on-year for every title. That’s what I’m most proud of because it’s difficult to stay at the top end.”

As well as chasing the treble, Hayes said Sunday’s final – the 50th anniversary of the competition – will be a “celebration of women’s football”.

“For me, the FA Cup final is about everybody who has come before and the women who have built the game to this level,” she added.

“It is a special day in the women’s football calendar. I want to celebrate that, not just for my own team but for everybody who has been involved in it throughout their lives.

“I salute every single one of those women who have provided the opportunities. They have sacrificed so much to make sure the women’s game is where it is.

“I hope it’s a brilliant spectacle and one where everyone can celebrate the leaps and bounds made in women’s football.”

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