North Lopham holds FA Cup - for a day

The FA Cup has been fought over by UK football clubs for more than a century, with teams battling in the giant amphitheatres of Wembley and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

The FA Cup has been fought over by UK football clubs for more than a century, with teams battling in the giant amphitheatres of Wembley and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

But on Saturday the coveted trophy was in the village of North Lopham, near Diss, being lifted up by the scores of football fans who packed into The King's Head pub.

For competition winner and Chelsea supporter Gary Stodel, 43, of North Lopham, having the trophy for the day was not only a lifelong dream, it was a chance to support to his wife Polly.

Mrs Stodel, 37, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February this year and has since been undergoing chemotherapy at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in Norwich.


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The celebration on Saturday was about the couple, who have a one-year-old daughter, squaring up to a “shocking year” and raising awareness and money for the Big C - which pays for equipment and research to fight cancer in East Anglia.

Mr Stodel took the cup to The King's Head on Saturday afternoon and people who held it and had their pictures taken with the trophy were able to give donations to the Big C.

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“I am a big cup final fan, this is an unforgettable day and it is really nice to be able to share it with people in the village,” said Mr Stodel.

“I collected the FA Cup programmes as a child in the 70s and it seems bizarre to think I have had the FA Cup sat on my kitchen table.

“We have had a pretty shocking year since the February diagnosis and we have had to think and stay positive and try and turn that negative around.

“Cancer is a scary and horrible thing to face but if you can face it full on it does make a difference.”

The event raised £440 for the Big C and people travelled from as far afield as London to see the trophy, with Breckland Council chairman Peter Francis among the fans.

“I compare having the trophy to having a good bottle of wine, if you drink it by yourself it makes you ill but if you share it around it is much nicer,” said Mr Stodel.

“The treatment and support we have had from the N&N and the Big C has been fantastic and this is a way of saying thank you.”

Sharon Hulbert, from the Big C, thanked the Stodel family.

She said: “As a local charity we depend on donations and fundraising initiatives such as this to help us fund research into cancer, cancer equipment and the care and support of those who are affected by this illness, with all the money being spent in Norfolk and Waveney.”

Mr Stodel won the chance to have the cup for a day after entering a competition run by Hertfordshire-based Know The Score Books.

The publishing firm's managing director Simon Lowe said: “We were delighted when the Stodels won to be able to put the cup to such good use to raise money for the Big C and to bring it to a tiny village in the middle of Norfolk where it would never come normally.”

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