As per tradition, the FA Cup is about underdogs. It’s about giant killers. Oh, and in 2018, the third round is about free pizza, too.
Fleetwood Town, from League One, the third tier of English football, held Premier League side Leicester City to a 0-0 draw in the first of 25 FA Cup games on Saturday. The underdogs, playing at home, hit the post in the final minute of stoppage time. But they’ll take the replay, and all the money that comes with it.
They’ll also take a year’s supply of free pizza from Papa John’s.
Specifically, Fleetwood goalkeeper Chris Neal will.
Papa John’s stepped up to sponsor Fleetwood for the weekend’s match, which was selected as one of several TV games this weekend. It’s a perfect example of the value of the competition to a club as small as Fleetwood. It gives third-, fourth-tier and non-league teams opportunities to glean revenue from sponsorships, and from shares of the TV contract, that they can’t attract for weekly league games.
Part of Papa John’s’ sponsorship agreement was a lovely stunt. It offered Neal, Fleetwood’s first-string keeper, free pizza for a year if he kept Leicester off the board for 90 minutes. And he did just that.
To be fair, Neal didn’t have too big a part to play in keeping the clean sheet. Leicester – with Jamie Vardy, who used to play for Fleetwood, sidelined by injury – didn’t even have a shot on target. So perhaps Neal will be sharing the pizza with his defense?
That would probably be a good idea, because eating Papa John’s is a surefire formula to make yourself worse at soccer.
But Neal was asked after the match what he planned to do with all the free pizza. His response?
Fleetwood Town's keeper Chris Neal won a year's supply of pizza for his clean sheet vs Leicester City!
RT if you're jealous. https://t.co/hTUMc8qDsv
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 6, 2018
“Eat it,” he said with a laugh.