FA asks Armed Forces to present The FA Cup at Saturday's Final.
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Inspirational soldier Corporal Mark Ward, who was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in Afghanistan, will present The FA Cup to the winning captain at this weekend’s Final between Manchester City and Stoke City.
Corporal Ward is The FA’s Guest of Honour at Saturday’s showpiece and will represent the Armed Forces after being chosen by the Ministry of Defence for his inspirational leadership and selfless bravery as a section commander in Afghanistan.
Serving in the Mercian Regiment based in Catterick, North Yorkshire, Corporal Ward will join the reception party on the Wembley pitch ahead of kick off to wish all the players good luck, present them with their medals after the final whistle and finally hand over The Cup to the winning team.
“The FA has been a long time supporter of the Armed Forces and has donated thousands of Wembley tickets for service personnel and their families through charity Ticket for Troops," said FA Chairman David Bernstein.
"The FA Cup has a special connection as it made a visit to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan earlier this year accompanied by England Under-21 Head Coach Stuart Pearce.
“We should never forget the bravery and sacrifice our forces make and I hope this gesture by The FA will give the 90,000 crowd at Wembley on Saturday the chance to show their respect and appreciation.
“Reading Corporal Ward’s citation for the Military Cross is truly humbling. His bravery and commitment to his platoon whilst in Afghanistan was outstanding and I am delighted he is able to join us on Saturday representing all of our troops around the world.”
Corporal Ward will be joining a long line of distinguished dignitaries who have presented The FA Cup to the competition winners over the years. Last year The FA’s President Prince William handed The Cup to winners Chelsea and in previous years The Queen, Princess Diana, Sir Bobby Robson and Sir Winston Churchill have all had this prestigious role.
Speaking about his role Corporal Ward said: “I’m a bit nervous but extremely proud to be doing this on behalf of all of our troops. Football is a massive part of Army life both playing and supporting.
"I’ve always been a big fan and also play in my battalion’s football team. When we are away on tour if there is ever a chance to get together and watch a game we do and I’m sure lots of troops will be watching The FA Cup Final on Saturday. It’s a welcome diversion from the day job.
“Getting awarded the Military Cross was an extremely proud moment in my life but I have to say this is ‘up there’.”
Corporal Ward has chosen the manager of his Battalion’s football team, Colour Sergeant Jason Jones, to come along to Wembley with him. “I served in the same battalion as Mark in Afghanistan for six months last year," said Colour Sergeant Jones.
"His courage and mental attitude is fantastic but on top of that he is a very genuine and down to earth lad and a great ambassador for the British Army.”
Corporal Ward is a lifelong Manchester City fan but despite any disappointment if his team doesn’t win on the day he has made it clear he will be honoured to hand the trophy to Stoke City.
He added: “This is a once in a lifetime experience. Beyond any club allegiance I am a true fan of football and to be at Wembley for such a prestigious event as The FA Cup Final, let alone handing over the trophy, is a real privilege.” You can pick up the official FA Cup Final matchday programme from Wembley Stadium, or various WHSmith and Tesco outlets, priced at £10 including a £1 donation to official FA Charity Partner Action for Children
You can also buy your copy online, click here*...*Programmes ordered after Monday 9 May will not guaranteed to arrive prior to The FA Cup Final.