Punjab United v Broadbridge Heath: 'We talked about the FA Cup as kids'

Punjab United
Punjab United (in red) achieved back-to-back promotions into the ninth tier of English football
FA Cup extra preliminary round
Date: 9-11 August Coverage: Punjab United v Broadbridge Heath live on the Red Button and on the BBC Sport website from 12:30 BST on 10 August

"We used to talk about the FA Cup when we were kids and now we will be playing in it."

Gravesend-based side Punjab United will be competing in the world's oldest cup competition for the first time when they take on Broadbridge Heath on Saturday, a match which will be shown live on the BBC Sport website, app and Red Button (kick-off 12:30 BST).

The tie is a culmination of hard work and perseverance for chairman and manager Chipie Sian who, along with three others, formed the club in 2003.

"It is an amazing feeling to be competing in the FA Cup and the added bonus of being streamed live too," Sian told BBC Sport. "It is unreal and I am humbled to be playing in this.

"We are only used to playing Sunday league and Sunday cup competitions - this is totally different. The whole club and Gravesend is buzzing, we can't wait and this is what you want because people are able to see the good stuff we are doing.

"Four years ago I was dragging people out of bed on a Sunday morning and now we are playing semi-professional football in the FA Cup. It is unreal."

Punjab's team name was suggested by someone at the club as most players in the Sunday league were of an Asian background, while it also touches on their "roots" in India.

Their breakthrough came when switching to Saturday football, achieving immediate back-to-back promotions into the Southern Counties East League - the ninth tier of English football - and gaining semi-pro status.

In June, the club featured in BBC One documentary Our Lives, as cameras followed their fortunes and gave an insight into the dressing room.

The growth of the club means they have formed a youth set-up with 150 children involved in seven age groups.

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Sian, who is in the construction business with his brother, says: "The club has grown so quickly, it has taken us by surprise. I don't think we were ready for the two rapid promotions.

"We have so many good people around the club who put money in, anything from the sponsors goes back into the club.

"Gary Neville's Salford City gave us their old floodlights, which helped, and we got them installed at the ground.

"We have a good group behind me and that empowers me to keep going out there."

On Friday, the FA Cup trophy will be taken to the club's Elite Venue stadium, allowing supporters to take a picture with the famous silverware won by Manchester City last season.

Sian added: "We get crowds of over 100 but I am hoping for a few more on Saturday. All the kids will be coming down and hopefully we'll get a good turnout for our first FA Cup match. We are really looking forward to it.

"If we can get through on Saturday it will be a massive statement from us guys."

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