The Scottish Cup - the oldest knockout trophy in world football - made an unexpected appearance at Bayview Stadium as the Scottish FA brought the Power of Football to Fife in recognition of the inaugural Autism Football Association Scottish Cup.
The first tournament of its kind anywhere in the world saw the young Rangers side follow in the footsteps of Giovanni van Bronckhorst's team - who clinched the 2022 Scottish Cup – and get their hands on the same iconic Scottish Cup trophy.
The Scottish FA has supported autism charity Team United since its launch, with Scotland Head Coach Steve Clarke hosting a Zoom Q&A with the players involved during UEFA EURO 2020 preparations.
The charity aims to break down the social barriers faced by children and young adults living with autism, whilst participating in sport. With 10 teams contesting the mini tournament in Fife, the players and organisers were in thrall of the most famous and historic piece of silverware in Scottish football – whose value was recently estimated by the Antiques Roadshow to be worth in excess of £1 million.
The Scottish FA's strategic plan, The Power of Football, was created to inspire the nation, transform lives, and build a united game. By bringing the Scottish Cup to Bayview the governing body is making good on its promise to connect Scottish football’s diverse communities and encourage lifelong participation whilst removing barriers.
The competition was also organised under the auspices of Scottish Para Football - the world’s first ever Para-Football Affiliated National Association.
Ian Maxwell, Scottish FA Chief Executive, said: "Team United are an inspiration to all of us in Scottish football. The work undertaken by Ann Brown and her team is incredible and I have been fortunate enough to see first-hand the positive impact the events and competitions have on the young people who live with autism and the families who support them.
"The Autism Football Association Scottish Cup is an extension of the Scottish Autism League and provides young people with autism the opportunity to play the game they love in a safe space, tailored for their needs. Football is a remarkable sport that can be a force for good across all of society. That's the unifying principle of the Scottish FA's Power Of Football strategy and I am so happy to see it come to life in this way at Bayview."
Ann Brown, Team United's football development manager, added: "Just like when we organised the Autism league, we did not know what to expect, but we are thrilled by the success of this tournament. The kids had a great time and the presence of the oldest cup in world football was just the extra spice needed to make this a day to remember.”
This is not the first time that Team United have broken new ground, with the club also responsible for the launch of the world’s first Autism league in 2021. The one-day tournament consisted of two groups of five, who battled it out to be crowned the first ever Autism Cup champions.
In addition to eventual winners Rangers, Bonnyrigg Rose, Hibernian, Bayside, Dundee West, Greenock Morton, Murieston and three different Team United Selects were in action.