I don’t usually write opinion pieces, but I felt this particular case warranted a special approach. These past 72 hours have been hard for me. I want to share my thoughts on the past few days in football. As someone who loves this sport and a rebel ex-Super League club, these 72 hours were extremely hard.
A Day of Darkness
Sunday night a part of my soul died. I remember Sunday morning and afternoon waiting on the official announcement to come out. I was hoping it was not true. My stomach dropped when it was confirmed. I felt sick. The whole idea of a “Super League” hurt my soul. Guaranteed spots for 12 or 15, whatever number they came up with, and only five non-permanent spots open, and a ton of money. It went against everything I fell in love with about this sport.
I am not a fan of the American sports model. I do not like closed systems. I do not like the lack of consequences for a poor performance. I especially do not like the rewards for poor performances. To see football intend to implement this model, truly hurt my soul in a way I can not fully explain. It felt like a slap in the face. I felt like I was losing the very thing that drew me to the sport in the first place. What made it unique and special and different from all the sports I grew up around, was being taken away. It felt so doomsday-ish.
I spent most of Sunday night just trying to wrap my head around what was happening and what the league would look like. I could not do it. There was not enough information available. I tried not to think too much about who was involved, and just figure out what exactly was happening. However, the longer I looked into the situation, the less I was able to ignore the love of my life was involved.
The Club I Love
First, I want to say I fell in love with Manchester City because of the story of the club. Founded by workers who just wanted to play football and have fun, to winning the city of Manchester their first football trophy, to the relegations and promotions, then mid-table mediocrity, and finally to an owner and invester that seemed to come out of a fairytale. A cub with a story that started in 1894.
The decision to join the Super League hurt so much because it was a slap in the face to the 127 year history of the club. The history of working people who made this club. The people who came before me who attended matches in the third division. Those that supported the club though the times when there was only pain. No billionaire owner and a trophy or two or three every year. The times when managing to stay in the league was as big as winning it. The Super League with it’s guaranteed places and no conseques based on poor performance was in direct contrast to everything the club had done. There would not have been a club for H.H.S. Mansour to buy if a structure such as the Super League’s had existed.
A Pain Like No Other
It took me awhile to come up with a way of describing the pain I felt to the non-football fans all around me. No one could seem to understand why I was constantly on the verge of tears. Or why I kept looking at my aquamarine heart ring on my finger that I wear everyday to show the love for my club. No one understood why I kept skipping Wonderwall and Levitating every time they came up on my playlist.
It was Tuesday morning when I finally came up with something that the people around me would understand. I told them, “Manchester City is the love of my life and we had a huge fight, but I still love them. Even though maybe I should not.” It kind of clicked for them after that. Maybe forming attachments that powerful to a football club means I need to talk to my therapist, but it is the truth.
Manchester City is the love of my life. This club is one of the first loves I have ever had. It means the world to me. It goes beyond trophies and money. Even with none of those things, it would be my love. And that is where the hurt came from the most. It has never been about the money for me. It goes so far beond that. It is so much deeper than that. And yet the club sold out for the money. The thing I care the least about. They joined this Super League to make more money and turned their back on everything that made this club, MY club, so special. Joining the Super League was an act of betrayal that cut too deeply.
That said I understand why they made that decision. With the other top clubs joining and the amount of money being promised, there was an element of join or be left behind. At least in terms of finachials. The owners have spent over a decade investing in the club to compete with the “old boys” of the Premier League and all of Europe. Letting them earn 300 million guaranteed a season would have set the club back again and I understand that. But no amount of money is worth compromising club values and the entire beautiful game for. It was an unacceptable decision, even though I understand the reason.
The Nightmare Ends
Tuesday afternoon I will never forget. I was hearing rumors all morning that Chelsea and Manchester City were wanting out. The story having been that they were the last two to join and the least committed to the project. The Chelsea fans’ protest outside of Stamford Bridge gave me so much hope. When the reports started coming in that Chelsea was preparing to leave, I hoped to God City would follow suit. My hope was reported to be reality very shortly after that.
I am always hesitant to believe reports, so a part of me was still trying to come to terms with the fact it might not be true, but deep inside I felt that City had come to their senses. I cried when my watch vibrated with the “Club Statement” Tweet. I did not even have to read it to know what it said. Between Guardiola’s comments earlier in the day and the reports, I just knew. I knew it was over. I do have to say, I was shocked at UEFA’s response. They have never liked us, but here they were praising out leadership for seeing the error of their ways.
“However, in making that choice we failed to remind ourselves of the unbreakable link between the passion of our fans and the right to have the opportunity to earn success. It is a truth that is fundamental to the DNA of Manchester City and the Board deeply regrets taking a decision that lost sight of the historic values of the Club. We made a mistake and we sincerely apologise to our fans for the anguish caused by the last 72 hours.”Ferran Soriano, MCFC CEO in apology letter to Manchester City fans
It takes a lot to admit that a mistake was made. And it takes a lot of strength and courage to publicly apologize for it. While I wish the Super League had been rejected outright, the board listened when we needed them too. It should have never happened in the first place, but it did. It will take time for the wounds of the past 72 hours to heal and the scar will never fully fade.
However, the board and the owners of my club have done way too much good for the club I love and the city I have never been to, but has etched itself on my heart, to let one mistake, even as monumental as it was, ruin the good thing we have. Re-gaining trust will take time, of course, but I believe that eventually the bridges will be mended. Manchester City is still my love after all, and I know those in charge love the club too and they only did what they thought was best, even though it was wrong. Mistakes happen. That is life. We fight and hurt each other, but we share a love for our club.