I feel a bit hesitant putting in my “Why Blue?” since most “Why Blues” I have read here were written by people who were born in Manchester and supported them for a good 30 years, which does not apply for me, well, mind, I am only 34… But now you have asked twice, Heidi, so here I go:
The short answer:
Because I love Manchester, I love football, and I feel that passion, loyalty and humour/irony are some of the most important values in life and in football (for the supporters, that is, as far as the players are concerned a bit of skill should be involved, too).
The extended one:
In 1995 I had the opportunity to leave my home country Germany for a two year teaching stint in the UK. Asked for my preferences I chose Manchester, partly because of the job description and party because I loved the music from Manc bands like the Smiths or the Stone Roses (and I learned only recently that Ian Brown supports the other lot).
Being there, I really enjoyed the buzz and the mentality, the way complete strangers start chatting with you. Crowded streets at 2am, bars playing James’ “Sit Down” – this was an experience you cannot get in Konstanz, Spaichingen, or Rottweil (to name the places I had lived before).
On the other hand, I started to miss my friends and so it was alright to return to Germany. But I have felt attached to Manchester ever since, and Manchester comes only second in my “feel at home” scale, right after Mainz, where I was born. I have to come back at least once a year to say hello and to check out the latest developments in the city. Thankfully some places did not change too much, and my favourite restaurant around the corner in West Didsbury is still there.
So I do get rather angry if someone has a go at Manchester digging out old stereotypes of a dirty industrial town, like our German equivalent of “The Sun”, the BILD, did, when they were discussing the possibility of Effenberg moving to City. Well, if Effenberg read it and decided not to come because of what BILD wrote about Manchester, I am willing to forgive them.
That was the “Why Manchester?” bit, but Why Blue? Stupid question, you might think, because there is only one football team to come from Manchester… but it took a while before I realised that! While being in Manchester, I was rather reading NME instead of the Sunday Pink. And I only went to see four matches: Germany twice during Euro 96, the other lot vs. Leeds (I think – a friend of mine had a season ticket to spare for a match) and City vs. QPR. Although City lost, I liked the way they played in these Rösler and Kinky times. And they were my local team – when I was adventurous enough to cycle to work the safest option was going past Platt Lane.
But then it was time to return to Germany, and somehow I lost touch with City. Instead, I was soaking up the thrill of a great season of 1. FC Kaiserslautern, the team I have loved since they thrashed Real Madrid 5:0 in 1982: They had just returned to Bundesliga (Premier League) from their only season ever in Div. 1 (Zweite Bundesliga, where they played in front of a sold out Betzenberg most of the time, i.e. in front of an average crowd of a good 36.000 – a loyalty I was and I still am dead proud of, although I was not actively involved, because I was in Manchester and because I thought it was impossible to get tickets anyway) and in 1998 they went on from beating Bayern Munich in Munich straight ahead to becoming German Champions!
Right, you might skip the next bit because it is a bit off topic, but I feel I should not hide the dark side of my story. You might guess what comes next: The 98/99 Champions’ League campaign in which FCK proudly took part made me watch the other lot on TV. And made me even support them. Phew, now it is out. “Why?” I hear you cry. For a couple of reasons. Firstly, they had the “Manchester” in their team’s name. Secondly – and this might sound very odd – I remembered them as unlucky losers that played decent football – a bit like the Leverkusen of these days. I suppose because they lost against Dortmund in the Champions’ League. Anyway, the most important reason was that I do “dislike” Bayern Munich “with a passion” – to borrow Ernie Barrow’s words. And I usually do not call them “Bayern Munich”, but I do not want to start swearing. They have been dominating German football on and off the pitch for 30 years – that is for all my football conscious life! They buy all the good players, they often play destructive but still manage to win, and their fans are mostly little school kids or Red Arrogant Gits. And they threw FCK out of competition thanks to a very dubious penalty plus sending off. So all these things made me support the other lot in the Barcelona final and indulge in the fact that Bayern lost. This way. Punished. Ha, ha.
But after the night of Barcelona there was dawn and a new, sky blue bright day was about to come: Thanks to the English infrastructure of Gran Canaria (pubs, pubs, pubs), where I was on holiday, I was able to watch City for the first time since 1997 – and you all know what came next: Dickov, “Guy Butters with the responsibility…”, Weaver, party!
Back home, I had a good look at the Internet and I finally discovered MCIVTA – and thanks to you I have been able to keep in touch with City ever since. I felt closer to the club than while being in Manchester. This might be a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but it also speaks volumes about MCIVTA: You made me feel part of the big City family, and I am very, very, grateful for it!
So I followed City via the Internet during the 99/00 season and I was desperate that I could not find a pub at home to show the Blackburn match. To make up for it, I raided the bookshops of Manchester in my summer holidays 2000 and inhaled the books about City’s history.
But still, why didn’t I stick to the other lot? Well, they reminded me more and more of Bayern Munich. Everyone everywhere seems to wear one of their shirts, even little girls in Germany run about with “7 Beckham”. So this was not about Manchester anymore, this was the dominance I disliked so strongly about Bayern, Real Madrid and the likes of them. So, adding a bit of Keane and a bit of losing against Derby with their b-team on the pitch, a bit more Keane and some dose of Ferguson, they have made their way to the “dislike with growing passion” category in the football part of my mind and heart which once was reserved for Bayern exclusively…
Right, but back to Why Blue? Supporting City is for me about passion, loyalty and humour.
Passion: I was back at Maine Road for my first match since 1997 to watch City vs. Sunderland in August 2000. I got tickets in Platt Lane Stand row 5 – I have never been so close to the pitch during a match (even row 1 at the Betzenberg is further away – or so it feels), and I have never been part of such a passionate crowd – positively passionate, that is. The way everyone was singing “We love you City, we do” was so heartfelt I could hardly join in because of the lump in my throat.
Loyalty: I have to mention the 28.261 during Div. 2, a fact that really, really won me over. I am not sure how many would have turned up even at the Betzenberg after such a spell of non-success. In 2001 I decided to leave lovely Cornwall for a trip up to Manchester on a Bank Holiday Friday to watch them against Crewe. And approaching Maine Road by bus, it felt so good to see the sea of blue shirts turning up for a Div. 1 match and filling Maine Road (even the wet bits).
Humour: This label is a bit misleading on itself – what I mean and what I love about City is a mixture of irony and passion. So one of the highlights of City’s last Premiership season was reading in MCIVTA about the songs during the Arsenal match. Or the lyrics of Ernie Whalley when City went down again (“Finally a song to carry us into Div. 1, Adieu you Riverside…”). I copied it from MCIVTA and it stayed on my wall ever since, because it sums up how I feel about City: “But once again, my own true love / We never will be parted, you and I / We’ll be queuing up next August / For a Programme and a balti pie.”
Queuing up for the Newcastle match, I was rewarded with a dream of a game to watch. City is finally blessed with a chairman who knows what he is doing, a manager who loves what he is doing and players who have the skill for what they are doing. This is the icing on the City cake, and I will enjoy it as long as it lasts and dream about City playing in Europe (mind, they should manage an Intertoto slot this season or next, so soon there might be no more need for dreaming).
But I know that the essence of what City is about does not depend on success, and this is the reason to make me feel confident enough to end this “Why Blue?” with.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #849 on