Julio Arca: Why I shed tears and what Wembley REALLY means to me
Julio Arca shed tears of joy after South Shields blazed their way into the FA Vase final.
And the Argentinian midfielder said the 6-1 aggregate win over Coleshill Town on Saturday would live with him for the rest of his life.
Despite all his achievements in the professional game and successful years in the Premier League with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, Arca has never played at Wembley.
He will now get that chance on May 21 when Shields take on Cleethorpes Town in the final.
The 36-year-old opened the scoring with a stunning strike from distance just before half-time, with the Mariners going on to win 4-0 on Saturday in front of a ground record crowd of 3,464.
Arca said: “It’s something you will remember for the rest of your life. The fans were fantastic, the result was great and we achieved something great for the club.
“We made history.”
Arca was visibly emotional after the game, and could not stop the tears as he left the field to a rapturous reception.
As well as those being tears of joy for himself and the team, the midfielder said they were also for all those behind the scenes at the club.
He added: “I got emotional because we achieved something fantastic.
“But it was also because of all the people behind the scenes who are working so hard, which the fans might not see.
“So many things go into making this what it is.
“It’s the work that goes on to get the pitch the way it is, to look after us, to provide for all the people who come to the games.
“It means a lot to everyone and of course for the fans.
“The town was behind us and the people were really supporting us.”
Shields held a 2-1 lead from the first leg heading into Saturday’s game, and had been billed as heavy favourites to qualify for the final.
However, that did nothing to calm the nerves of the team ahead of the match.
Arca added: “This is what you dream of.
“Everyone had been tense, and I was tense before the game.
“From the morning, I could feel the nerves.
“Once we started the game, we knew what we had to do, and we did well.
“I wish I could go back to the beginning of the game and experience it all again.”
Arca’s goal came just moments before half-time and provided the platform for Shields to go on and kill the tie off in the second half.
It was a stunning strike, with the midfielder unleashing an unstoppable effort from 20 yards – something which almost caught even him by surprise.
He said: “I don’t score many goals like that, and I never have!
“I thought I’d have a go and see what happened. The ball came to me and I just hit it.
“Luckily for myself and the team, it hit the back of the net.
“From that, we started to push on in the game, and in the second half we controlled it better and scored some fantastic goals.”