Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Derby Day In Manchester

Text and images by Evan Fuhs - du Nord reader, fellow Twin Citian and Asst. Coach at Augsburg College.

Derby Day in Manchester

Just before the players take the field for the match, the lights go out in the City of Manchester stadium, and then the senses are overwhelmed. I see an enormous image, presumably the Manchester City crest, engulfing an entire stand. At the same time, the loud speakers start spewing what must be the club’s anthem. Only seconds after the lights are off, flares erupt throughout the United supporters section. They know the lights will go out; they know that song would be played, and they are ready. The flares lit a booming chorus of “Glory, Glory, Man United.”

Two weeks ago, I traveled with two friends to Manchester to see our favorite game and our favorite team play in some of the game’s great venues. We saw 2 premier league games and of course the epic Carling Cup derby, where the event described above took place. Over the course of our short trip, we saw:

Man Utd vs. Burnley at Old Trafford
Bolton vs. Arsenal at Reebok Stadium
Man City vs. Man Utd at City of Manchester Stadium

As soon as I was close enough to the City of Manchester stadium, I ran up to the first street vendor I could see to buy a derby scarf – half united colors and half city colors. I wrapped it proudly around my neck, being careful not to show any allegiance to either team while outside the stadium. Nevertheless, in my heart, I was praying for a dramatic away victory for United.

After my pat down, conducted under the supervision of a riot-ready police officer on horseback, I entered the away fan’s concourse. Barricades separate the home and away concourses, offering my fellow United fans relative protection from the home supporters. Nevertheless, my scarf partially slipped through my jacket, leaving only the city colors exposed. One United fan saw the wrong colors and offered me a reminder of exactly where I was in the stadium as well as where I was in the world. He offered some choice words in a barely comprehensible accent and a push into a wall, before turning to rally a few of his friends against me – the perceived City supporter. As he turned, I ducked out to the terrace to catch up with my friends., and I made sure to adjust my scarf accordingly.

After the twilight chorus of contesting club anthems, a referee’s whistles blows to remind those who care that there is actually a football match to be played. As Tevez and Rooney dart around the field like they are both late for dinner, the fans chant on almost oblivious to the match. In the away section, few supporters actually face the field. Rather, they look over 3 rows of empty seats, an aisle of double-stacked riot police and 3 more rows of empty seats to curse, cheer and jeer the other fans.

I came to England to see world-class soccer. As a coach, I wanted to learn more about the game, by seeing the tactics and techniques played out. I saw just how Fabregas slows the game down and Tevez speeds it up, but more importantly, I saw how much these people love this game and hate each other. In fact, the majority of their cheering is not in support of their team but against the opponent. The United fans constantly remind City of exactly how many years it has been since they last won a trophy by chanting “34 years…34 years.” Over the Stretford End in Old Trafford, fans display an odometer-like sign, showing a count of how many years it has been since City beat Newcastle in the League Cup. “34 years…34 years.”

While the barricades in the stadium limit the fans’ common hatred to explicit songs and the occasional missile, gates outside the stadium only extend to the nearest street. After that, home and away are mixed, colors must be hidden and riot inevitably ensues. I couldn’t count the number of people that got knocked down by a billy club and handcuffed. Wandering around to find a cab, I managed to find the back of a van filled with hungry, yelping police attack dogs. Going the other direction, I found a cab whose driver continuously affirmed “we should not be here. I want to get out of here.” Of course, the ever-lasting parade of SWAT-type vans, squad cars, those riot-ready mounties kept us dangerously close to the stadium for far too long. Thankfully, we were in a cab for most of the action, yet the cabbie never failed to remind us of the looming danger.

No one would deny that the Vikings hate the Packers or that we all hate the Yankees. Yet, these are merely rivalries. The chants, flares, scarves and police presence in Manchester make a United versus City match a derby.


Blogger blinky said...

F United! "The tourists team" - CITY FTW!!!

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Its an image of a blue moon, not the crest.

+1 to Blinky's comment, CITY FTW!

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does that blue moon represent the last time City won a title.

34 Years, 34 Years!!!

Go United!!!!

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cool read, thanks for sharing


3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tourists being united fans. why am I not surprised.

The blue moon is rising


2:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts