38. Football

I love Football.  It is the sport of the people, open to everyone on every level of all ability.  Like both my Dad and Granddad I support Wimbledon.  We beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the FA Cup in 1988 which is still to this day one of best remembered games of all time.  Well, it was Wimbledon FC from 1889 until 2002 when the team was callously franchised off to Milton Keynes and became MK Dons so we the fans started our own club:  AFC Wimbledon.  That’s right, we are a fans owned club.  You buy an equal share, you own it.  Since our inception in 2002 we have gone from the 9th tier of the English football pyramid to the 4th: Football League 2, or Division 4 as my Dad and I still call it.  Wimbledon (the old Wimbledon) was once a Premier League team, not a very good one, but one all the same.  For 14 years we were in the top flight, scalping the big boys, but the financial gulf between us and the big clubs eventually became too great.  Then, after we were relegated to the old Division 1, which used to be called Division 2, we went into decline with shoddy owners, careless management and still no home ground.  See, we had to leave our ground – Plough Lane –  in 1991 because it was too small to re-develop (we were told) into an all seater, as they all had to be after the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, so we moved in with our then-enemies, Crystal Palace FC at Selhurst Park, and it was from there that we eventually died…

The iconic Dave Beasant. Football in the good old days

See.  I know my club back-to-front; my passion for them is matched only by my passion to keep breathing.  Whenever anyone asks me who I support I have to explain all of the above so people know about both the injustice and the glory.  You know what I get back in response?  “Ok, so which Premier League team do you support?”  Stop it!  You know nothing.  I just told you who I support.  I support Wimbledon.  Not United, not Chelsea, not Arsenal, not Liverpool, not Spurs and certainly not Manchester City.

Obviously being an old Wimbledon fan as a kid I could never be accused of being a glory-hunter, but I grew up around them.  I went to school in south-west London surrounded by Manchester United fans. Manchester?  That’s 267 miles away.  “Yeah but my uncle’s best mate’s dog lives there”.  Oh, I see.  How loyal of you.

You may all now be beginning to wonder how on earth any of this is relevant to living in UAE.  Well, in case you have been living in a box, on Sunday Manchester City won the Premier League in dramatic style. Manchester City is owned – as of September 2008 – by Abu Dhabi.  And that makes it relevant.

What make’s me laugh is the people I see in my local bars.  I kid ye not they all once used to wear Manchester United shirts, Real Madrid Shirts or Barcelona Shirts.  Occasionally you would get an Arsenal shirt.  “Yeah I have supported Barca for years, I love them” they would say with gusto.  But now they are all wearing “Citeh” shirts.  “Yeah I have supported Manchester Citeh for years, I love them” they say with a hollow pride.  The hypocrisy burns like the fires of hell of damnation.  On the terraces in the old days crowds used to chant at each other “WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU WERE S#@T!!!??!” We used to sing that to Chelsea quite a lot as they hammered us 3-0 and I hear Citeh fans receiving the same treatment now…

I don’t understand how some people can be so fickle about the beautiful game.  I mean Manchester City isn’t even a real team anymore.  It’s a load of supposedly best players in the world fused together in the vain hope that they will gel as a team.  Do you have any idea how much money has been invested in Man City since 2008?  $1 billion.  No hyperbole.  $1 billion.  Yes.  On a football team that only won the league by goal difference.

Still, the league title has always been bought, that’s nothing new.  The team with the biggest budget generally wins.  Take something that already exists, throw money at it and reap the rewards.  Where’s the graft?  Where’s the magic?  Where’s the soul?  But I don’t care. Wimbledon may only get an average attendance of 4,500 in League 2 but supporting them has a magic about it like no other.  Stick your millions and your Premier League titles.  We don’t rely on outside investors.  I enjoy explaining to the gormless no-hopers all about my team.  I’m a Womble till I die.

Sigh…ask me one thing I miss about home.  You may guess the answer quite easily…

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One thought on “38. Football

  1. WOW, you really do know your soccer, (I have to call it soccer, I’m from the States). Do you at least invite over some friends and watch the games on TV, while you enjoy a beverage and some snacks? Is that even what people do when they watch soccer? I hope you find something here that can tide you over until you return home!

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