Monday, February 11, 2008

On cloud 9, floating around a Blue Moon – United 1 City 2

1:29pm, Denmark Hill South London.
We were running late after filming some McClintock. Rich and I tuned in to 909 in the car and thought the reception was out because we couldn’t hear anything, like a Big Brother transmission where birdsong replaces profanity. But it had happened – Blues “observed” the minute’s silence and from then on moral right was on our side (I told anyone who would listen for the rest of the day). On the micro level too I would become glad I hadn’t added to the misplaced noise with another post about the Munich chants in the run-up.

As we drove down Champion Hill, East Dulwich and Peckham Rye, United exploded out of the blocks but didn’t score. And eventually we started dominating, finding passes. We got to the pub to find Vassell had scored. Mwaruwari then doubles the lead. Ireland, Petrov, Hamman, Hart and of course Dunney and Micah were next-level. By the second half I had to check whether the Madeiran grease cake Ronaldo was still on the pitch after a performance which showed he has a bit more to do to really be a Best or an Edwards, and I had none of that knotted stomach, pounding heartbeat and tension upstairs that I get in the big games either at matches, listening in or watching via pub satellite – it was a spring walk in a Stretford park for City. The first-half goals were enough to seal the first win at OT since we put them down in 74, the first derby double since 70 and a level of pride possibly not seen since we beat them 5-0 at OT three years before the air crash, or certainly since the 5-1 in 89. I had all manner of ‘keep the hate’ type posts planned in advance of our inevitable win (!), but the diatribe of opposition is that bit less feasible when you’re still melting inside.

United did many things right before and on the day – they stuck to their guns about the silence, siralex Ferguson waved in tribute to the ‘impeccably’ silent Blues and, most importantly, they chose to hand out 73,000 red scarves and 3,000 blue ones. In the age where people are swayed by spectacle the old Celtic/Liverpool trick of mass scarf-waving may have just stopped one or two Blues from opening their mouths. Respect to all Reds who didn’t fill their forums with rouged prejudice either before or after too.

United’s most foolhardy move was undoubtedly the exact replica kit, while City’s rebranding still saw them in a polyester present. Semiotics-wise, they were now mired in the past and we were looking forward, in the here and now and concretising dreams of future glory. What we had all dreamed was unfolding in front of us and now it was all about reality matching fantasy.

This Munich disaster has always been relentlessly milked – but a bit of that will wither away now that Utd realise they don’t need it as their totem (their success in the 60s and 90s is pretty genuine and inspirational history too). The press had been rabid – blindly following every story in the build-up and building up the prosecution for City’s ‘idiots’ even before we’d done anything (City, well versed in such distortion, had to keep counsel on our forums and blogs). This is the modern malaise kind-of outlined in Nick Davies’ book – the fourth estate’s flat earth too blindly follows the pr spin of modern news output and only the most respected ‘columnist’ is allowed to interpret. Result – aeons of ethereal dreck. One of United’s main branded banners was Lest We Forget – how one earth did you think that was going to happen?

Portraying the head (and body) states, the day differed in the absence of that erstwhile tension and as the day wore on, and my smile widened, I began to feel my body slowly surging and buoying, mimicking a narcotic high on only beer as medication, anticipating the BBC highlights to come. Scoffers might say that’s how followers of a successful team (like Utd) feel all the time, but winning regularly breeds a certain amount of blasé familiarity while for us it was all vive la blissful difference.

A Blue born in NZ and raised in the south with only tenuous familial links to M/cr I was part of the first wave of delocalisation, where kids began to choose teams for spurious reason – the air crash if anything starting off the process. But I have been dyed in Blue wool a long time now, even though in one respect I am no worse than Zheng the mad Red from Tianjin. Each game like this ruptures sensibility, taking one’s attitude a little bit further away from where it was – maybe on a route to maturity or to being less in thrall to this now horrifically-branded global commercial pastime. When we came back from 2-0 down against Gillingham to equalise in the fourth minute of the old 3rd division play offs, I nearly collapsed in the emotional upheaval but came to realise that football should not treat you this bad; when we game from 3-0 down to beat Spurs 4-3 in normal time with 10 men I said, cynically after the ecstasy, that such a comeback has signed me up for another few years of Eastlands abysmality. It did.

3:23pm Final Whistle, pub in Honor Oak Park
Rich and I hugged in joy, not caring while the Chelsea fans kept an eye on us overstepping the mark on their turf. Some hate will stay extinguished: it’s fair to say that with the nemesis of continued Old Trafford defeat now behind us, a few Blues will now stop using the Munich word – a term of abuse I have found justification before because its meaning in our singing has long since evolved from 58 to what my mate Corky said was “the term of abuse they hate the most”. But others will return roughly to where they came before kick off. Many United and City fans will still hate each other – some will do our aeroplane gestures, they will sing songs about Marc Vivien-Foe, Poor Old City Fucking Off Home, even Russian submarines that have no relevance to anything not to mention Hillsborough and Heysel. And let's hope this was nothing to do with colours. We’ll still clutch defeat from the jaws of victory, while United will surely be the first team to play against Martians Athletic in Sky’s Galaxy League – they have a big following on the red planet. We may be the pride of Stockport in their eyes, but in ours they are the pride of Singapore.

Two weeks ago, we went red when City lost a cup-tie to bamboozling balloons, but the reason why we call ourselves “the best (not most successful, biggest, best masturbator, etc) team in the land and all the world” is that two weeks later manager, players and fans confounded expectation and realised the dream. Not Mad City, but maddening City. We might even win a trophy soon (yeah, us and Newcastle, football’s other sonadors). When this occasion at last brought the local back to the game while the prospect of Fulham v Wigan in Dubai looms, that can mean a lot more.

Before - MCFC Dubai (yes, we’ve globalised too)
Before and After – City fan David Conn (Guardian)
After - Burdened by History - Sam Wallace (Independent)
King of the kippax
Purely Man City
City fan on Flickr

Ebay removes Red scarf offers
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