The Tale Of One City
June 27, 2010

The following article was published in The Star on June 27, 2009.

With my old man at the City of Manchester Stadium Clearance Store, where we won't be shopping had the owners bestowed their wealth to the supporters as well

Before the money started flooding in, it was a football club on a rollercoaster ride with only one thing to boast – loyal fan support.

WHEN my boys were growing up, I taught them the truth. That there are only two teams in Manchester, England: Manchester City and the Manchester City reserves,” my father used to say.

And that’s the truth I believe in.

You see, I’m a Manchester City fan. No I didn’t omit “United”. I’m a supporter of Manchester City Football Club. The Citizens. The Blues. City. Or, in the words of one Sir Alex Ferguson, “the noisy neighbour” – probably because his team isn’t located in Manchester.

I’ve been a City fan all my life. And by “all my life”, I don’t mean since September 2008, when a takeover made it the richest club in the world. I was a City fan when we were playing Colchester in the third tier of English football. Those were the dark days when the only football action I got was scurrying for its result in the Sunday morning newspaper.

The fixation began from a fascination. As a child, I often wondered about my father’s fluctuating emotions when watching football. From shouting at the top of his lungs to grumbling words I couldn’t write down here, to the deafening silence when he switched off the TV in the middle of a match.

At that age, I couldn’t grasp the concept of cheering for 11 men who couldn’t hear a word even if you went berserk in front of the TV. At most, it would give the neighbours a headache. But seeing him so affected by the game was an eye-opening experience. There’s got to be something about it that made my then 40-year-old father dance like Billy Elliot.

From an observer, I slowly braved myself to start watching football together with him. While his sudden roars often put me at risk of premature heart attack, I began to understand the mechanism of the game.

I began to feel a connection with the team. I began to know the names of the players. I began to capture the drama, the mesmerising movements of the players, the difference a split-second decision makes, and, above all, the electrifying joy whenever the ball hits the back of the net.

And before I knew it, I was jumping and screaming like a madman alongside my dear father whenever City scored. I was officially a City fan.

Which also meant I had a hard time in school.

Of course, the other kids were supporters of either Manchester United or Liverpool. (Chelsea was yet a Russian billionaire’s fantasy football team at the time.) So following a team whose achievement was no more than winning the Second Division play-off proved to be difficult.

I still remember a discussion about “the greatest player in the world” among my friends. As they threw in names like Cantona, Giggs, Rush and Fowler, I howled Kinkladze, a City cult hero. A momentary silence followed, before they burst into laughter that shook the classroom. A day in the life of a schoolboy City fan.

City is known to often stumble at the brink of success. Lady Luck was rarely on our side, which has earned us too many “typical City”’ moments, among which was conceding a goal after the goalkeeper got confused when a balloon came in from the stands.

Not to mention that City is the only team in history to ever be relegated in the season – after winning the League. It could only happen to City.

Suffice to say, we’ve slipped on too many banana skins. And I shall end this painful paragraph here.

But therein lies the beauty of supporting this incredible football club. Following City teaches me a lot about life. Watching a 90-minute City match reminds me that life is full of uncertainties and twists of fate.

That there is always a silver lining. That you must be honest to yourself. That you have to remain optimistic – even if it means waking up at 3am only to see the players battered by a lower division team.

Through the years, City fans have gained a reputation for being some of the most loyal supporters in England. Their stadium attendance remains one of the highest, considering the club’s success, or lack of it. And that has fostered generations of passionate fans who have never lost the faith.

Here in Malaysia, the number of City fans is growing. But that wasn’t the case until the recent acquisition brought us a fortune.

My first meeting with the small group of City fans is still fresh in my mind. A group of gentlemen 10 to 20 years my senior who are never short of stories about their City misfortunes. All told with great humour. It was a time when City supporters were so rare that we’d approach any stranger wearing a City kit on the street.

Our gatherings were small yet colourful. It was always a family affair. The guys would bring their kids and, occasionally, their wives. And in the confused eyes of the children, I saw a glimpse of my bewildered self looking at my overjoyed father more than a decade ago.

This football club has done wonders in bringing families together. Perhaps, someday, it would be my turn to scare my kids when I jump up and down watching a City game. Someday, it would be my turn to tell my children the truth.

I hope they can handle the truth.

I'm not here!
June 18, 2010

Guys, meet Tony.

He's 4. He enjoys watching Ben 10, playing Ben 10, drawing Ben 10, and screaming at cats. He likes to eat Twisties, Snickers and Play-Doh. And when he grows up, he wants to be a policeman because his friends are afraid of the cops.

In case you're wondering, Tony is not in love with the pole he's hugging. He was playing hide and seek. And he was hiding.

As you could probably tell, he was the first to be found. I was there when it happened. It took the seeker 30 seconds to find him... before they got into an argument. Tony said he was Tony's twin and the actual Tony was hiding elsewhere.

"I swear!" he convinced.

I, for one, was fascinated by the whole account. Witnessing Tony confidently hiding behind a pole half his size reminded me of something I learned not too long ago: believe.

Helping You Helping Us
June 09, 2010

Dear Malaysian Customer Service,

Hope this letter finds you in good health.

And by "good health", I hope you're not making people listen to Kenny G until the next available operator comes back... from his week-long annual leave.

It wasn't too long ago since our last engagement. Such a lovely day it was. I'd just switched back to Streamyx after I was disappointed with P1 WiMAX. As impressive as their huge 'Potong' billboards were, they forgot to mention that to get connected, you'd have to be on the roof holding the modem like a ballerina.

As I was saying, my separation from Streamyx was cut short. We were reunited at TMpoint, the "one-stop center for excellent customer service and communication solutions in Malaysia". A motto so convincing I was adamant that they'd serve me in no time. At least until I got my number (3889), and noticed the currently served number (3018).

But how could one not be giddy walking out of that place? With a 'Streamyx In-A-Box' from their 'Blockbuster Deals', I simply couldn't wait to "Transform My Home" and "Boost My Internet Experience". If only they'd blown up "3-Business Days Activation" in large fonts as well.

Alas, Internet service providers are Internet service providers. They could throw a picture of people enjoying their Internet service underwater and you'd still buy it.

I did.

I only wish that they could be a bit more honest, you know. A lesson or two from the immigration office wouldn't hurt. Those guys never do false advertising. And that's simply because they advertise nothing.

It's true. They won't tell you that the lines won't be longer than the ones at Disneyland. And you'll only get a number for longer lines at the end of it. They won't tell you that only two of the fifteen counters are open. And the other thirteen counters are still out at lunch. (It's 4pm.) They won't tell you that the KIOSK machines have been broken since 1998. And they serve as the security guard's smoking area these days.

Alas, there is nothing wrong with that. Because they never promised anyone the "ultimate passport-renewal experience".

But you're not all, entirely bad apples you know. Domino's Pizza gives me a free pie whenever they're late for delivery. Even by a minute. Which is why I refuse to answer the door any earlier than 31 minutes after I order.

And then there's Integricity, who's hosting my website. I e-mailed them about a problem the other day and their guy called me personally and got it fixed within minutes. He even offered me some cotton candy at the end of the call. If only my mom allowed me to take candies from strangers over the phone.

All I'm saying is, Malaysian Customer Service, as often as you cause headache to the people of the nation, you really do have the potential to make us happy. For starters, try putting on a smile at the counter. You can't be constipated all the time now, can you?

Looking forward to seeing you.

Not too soon though.

A. Customer

P.S: I'm still on hold here. Kenny's playing Songbird.

Photo: Azalia Suhaimi

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

  • Asrif, b. 1983
  • Subang Jaya, Malaysia
  • asrifomar[@]gmail[.]com
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