Sunday June 27, 2010
The tale of one City
By ASRIF YUSOFF
Before the money started flooding in, it was a football club on a rollercoaster ride with only one thing to boast – loyal fan support.
WHEN my boys were growing up, I taught them the truth. That there are only two teams in Manchester, England: Manchester City and the Manchester City reserves,” my father used to say.
And that’s the truth I believe in.
You see, I’m a Manchester City fan. No I didn’t omit “United”. I’m a supporter of Manchester City Football Club. The Citizens. The Blues. City. Or, in the words of one Sir Alex Ferguson, “the noisy neighbour” – probably because his team isn’t located in Manchester.
I’ve been a City fan all my life. And by “all my life”, I don’t mean since September 2008, when a takeover made it the richest club in the world. I was a City fan when we were playing Colchester in the third tier of English football. Those were the dark days when the only football action I got was scurrying for its result in the Sunday morning newspaper.
The fixation began from a fascination. As a child, I often wondered about my father’s fluctuating emotions when watching football. From shouting at the top of his lungs to grumbling words I couldn’t write down here, to the deafening silence when he switched off the TV in the middle of a match.
At that age, I couldn’t grasp the concept of cheering for 11 men who couldn’t hear a word even if you went berserk in front of the TV. At most, it would give the neighbours a headache. But seeing him so affected by the game was an eye-opening experience. There’s got to be something about it that made my then 40-year-old father dance like Billy Elliot.
From an observer, I slowly braved myself to start watching football together with him. While his sudden roars often put me at risk of premature heart attack, I began to understand the mechanism of the game.
I began to feel a connection with the team. I began to know the names of the players. I began to capture the drama, the mesmerising movements of the players, the difference a split-second decision makes, and, above all, the electrifying joy whenever the ball hits the back of the net.
And before I knew it, I was jumping and screaming like a madman alongside my dear father whenever City scored. I was officially a City fan.
Which also meant I had a hard time in school.
Of course, the other kids were supporters of either Manchester United or Liverpool. (Chelsea was yet a Russian billionaire’s fantasy football team at the time.) So following a team whose achievement was no more than winning the Second Division play-off proved to be difficult.
I still remember a discussion about “the greatest player in the world” among my friends. As they threw in names like Cantona, Giggs, Rush and Fowler, I howled Kinkladze, a City cult hero. A momentary silence followed, before they burst into laughter that shook the classroom. A day in the life of a schoolboy City fan.
City is known to often stumble at the brink of success. Lady Luck was rarely on our side, which has earned us too many “typical City”’ moments, among which was conceding a goal after the goalkeeper got confused when a balloon came in from the stands.
Not to mention that City is the only team in history to ever be relegated in the season – after winning the League. It could only happen to City.
Suffice to say, we’ve slipped on too many banana skins. And I shall end this painful paragraph here.
But therein lies the beauty of supporting this incredible football club. Following City teaches me a lot about life. Watching a 90-minute City match reminds me that life is full of uncertainties and twists of fate.
That there is always a silver lining. That you must be honest to yourself. That you have to remain optimistic – even if it means waking up at 3am only to see the players battered by a lower division team.
Through the years, City fans have gained a reputation for being some of the most loyal supporters in England. Their stadium attendance remains one of the highest, considering the club’s success, or lack of it. And that has fostered generations of passionate fans who have never lost the faith.
Here in Malaysia, the number of City fans is growing. But that wasn’t the case until the recent acquisition brought us a fortune.
My first meeting with the small group of City fans is still fresh in my mind. A group of gentlemen 10 to 20 years my senior who are never short of stories about their City misfortunes. All told with great humour. It was a time when City supporters were so rare that we’d approach any stranger wearing a City kit on the street.
Our gatherings were small yet colourful. It was always a family affair. The guys would bring their kids and, occasionally, their wives. And in the confused eyes of the children, I saw a glimpse of my bewildered self looking at my overjoyed father more than a decade ago.
This football club has done wonders in bringing families together. Perhaps, someday, it would be my turn to scare my kids when I jump up and down watching a City game. Someday, it would be my turn to tell my children the truth.
I hope they can handle the truth.
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