A Bluntisham man has been selected by the BBC’s Songs of Praise programme to join a choir, which will sing at the start of the FA Cup final.
Since 1927, the deciding fixture has been marked by a rousing chorus of Abide with Me as the teams come out of the tunnel onto the pitch.
And this year’s final between Arsenal and Aston Villa will hold true to form, except that the choir has been selected to represent the 64 teams that made this year’s third round of the cup – one singer for each team.
Even though Malcolm Lee has lived in Bluntisham for more than 30 years, his heart still lies in Wigan, Lancashire, the team he’s representing at the final.
“I’ve been a Wigan fan for 50 years and a friend said I should apply for the choir,” said Malcolm, who now only sings as part of the congregation at Bluntisham Baptist Church.
He had to write about why he should be chosen and told a story about going to the final two years ago between Manchester City and Wigan, at which the former were by far the odds-on favourites. It was Wigan’s first FA Cup final and they rose to the occasion, beating Man City 1-0.
His application was picked out from more than 1,300 entries.
“I remember going there on the train and I was the only Wigan supporter and all the Man City fans gave me a load of stick,” said Malcolm. “But they were really good after the game.”
Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s head of commissioning, religion, TV and head of religion and ethics, said: “We’ve had a great response to the competition which has really sparked the interest of those who have a passion for football.
“We wanted to make the competition open to anyone to apply hence why no singing experience was necessary.
“The concept was to involve the whole football family and to find the emotional and personal connection between football and singing. It truly is a once in a life-time opportunity to perform at the FA Cup final.”
Coincidentally, Malcolm’s mum Betty will be 89 on the day of the final, so he might have to follow Abide with Me with a chorus or two of Happy Birthday.