Blue Moon Rising
October 25, 2011

The following article was published in The Star on October 28, 2011.

That's way more than three minutes of injury time

At this point of writing, traffic into the Manchester City Wikipedia page is at an all-time high. New fans from around the world are gathering as much information possible about the club's history to claim they've been long time followers. Half of them, former supporters of Chelsea Football Club.

"I've been a fan since the club was known as St. Mark's (West Gorton) back in the 1880/81 season."

But that's the least of our problems. Glory hunters will always be there and they usually come together with success. Or even the slightest hint of attaining any. Gone were the days where I would stop and say hi whenever I see someone wearing a City jersey in the streets of KL. Doing that today would mean I’d have to approach every other stranger out there. Everyone is in blue with the name of an airline company on their chests. Very few of whom, have endured the pain of darker, “Typical City” days.

That aside, the crux of my dilemma now, as a City fan, is figuring out where to begin after witnessing what pun-desperate tabloid headline writers repeatedly call, "Demolition Derby".

It's been a few days now since Mark Clattenburg blew the final whistle of the 161st Manchester Derby at Old Trafford. (This time, without the obligatory “Fergie Time”.) But the buzz from the game is still resonating. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of attention that the game has garnered. We're talking beyond football fans here. We're talking women not posting about their multi-level marketing successes on Facebook but instead, the final scoreline of the match (1 – 6, in case you forgot). Some of them didn't even know which side was in red and which was in blue.

Nevertheless, that's how special this little derby has become. It will be remembered for many things.

We had initially planned to meet up in Hartamas, me and a few other long-time blue-blooded brothers of mine (I know). Unfortunately, with everyone all over the place, we had to call it off, leaving our Manchester born and bred friend Dave to be the sole survivor amidst the sea of red there. "I’ll be on TV! They asked why I’m the only blue here!" he texted us before the game. If only we could turn back time.

So there I was in my fading Man City t-shirt watching the game with my father at home in the living room; barely staying put and mildly hyperventilating -- a Derby Day standard. I thought it would be nice to catch the match with my old man, the man who made me a City fan and put me in football fandom misery for more than a decade. There was a sense of nostalgia in continuing a tradition of watching the derby together while screaming and cursing in front of the TV to the fear of our neighbors.

Only this time, there was little to be irked about. The only time I recall using profanity was when Mario Balotelli was booked for committing probably the most treacherous crime in modern football, asking a question.

"Why always me?"

Fresh from being rescued by the fire brigade after "his friend" shot fireworks in the bathroom and set his house on fire, Balotelli walked into the Theatre of Dreams in his typically coy and unperturbed manner, and graciously gave the Red Devils a nightmare. The first goal was a beautifully placed shot far beyond the reach of David De Gea and the second was a conclusive finish as a result of a clever play between David Silva and James Milner.

The question is not why, Mario. The question is why not. My "Why always me?" t-shirt is on its way.

Deeper in the heart of City's holding midfield was the formidable force that is Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry. Armed with their constantly misreported combined wage of £600,000 per week, Toure and Barry made closing down United's attacks look easier than styling Wayne Rooney's hair. Further down, with only Darren Fletcher's fluke goal beating him, it was a great day out as a spectator for Joe Hart. So much that there were reports of him discussing Glee episodes with Joleon Lescott in the middle of the match.

If the highly-inflated numbers of the English media are anything to go by, the trillions that Sheikh Mansour has pumped into the club have been, to say the least, totally worth it. The investment is for the long run and City's newly announced training center for grassroot development is a glaring evidence of just that. An aspiration surely shared by the Glazers.

On the red side of the pitch, one does wonder about the tactics deployed by Sir Alex Ferguson especially in the absence of their massive prospect wonderboy Tom Cleverley. And having Anderson, a product of their Paul Scholes Tackling Academy to wrestle Silva down at every opportune moment was a rather childish move. Evidently, United paid the price when Johnny Evans was sent off for doing wrongly what City kaptain Vincent Kompany did so professionally right to Danny Welbeck later in the game. Elusively pulling down your opponent without guilt (or getting sent off) is an art form not for the untrained.

The red card for Evans was proven to be the turning point of the game. From being rubbish, United became utter rubbish and the City Slickers capitalized like Simon Cowell on a bad X-Factor contestant.

The game opened up and lived up to its expectation as a mouthwatering affair. City defenders surged up the flanks in the form of Gael Clichy and academy graduate cum Balotelli lookalike, Micah Richards. With so much speed and splendor sandwiching the already lethal combination of Silva and Milner, and accidentally good positioning of Edin Dzeko, tragedy was written all over the green and yellow scarves of faithful United fans who have traveled from as far as London and Singapore. Sergio Aguero brought his club goal tally to 10, Dzeko scored two (one with his knee), and Silva waved his wand around the handsome goatee of fellow countryman De Gea and slot one in between his legs to turn the derby into a seven goal thriller.

I lost count at one point. Then again, who wouldn't? It was, as one Wayne Rooney used to say, a lesson in football.

But let's forget about the scoreline for a moment. The goals are all on YouTube. Let's shift our focus on the man who masterminded a victory that has surpassed the 5 – 1routing of our Silent Neighbors at Maine Road in 1989. With an English vocabulary of only five words more than Carlos Tevez, Roberto Mancini managed to gel a team of five Englishmen and six foreigners into a unit that was so entertaining and unstoppable, only the close-up of Ferguson incessantly chewing gum as his nose grew purple made me shun away from the TV during the game. Forza Mancini.

In hindsight, we know both men have great respect for each other. Before the game, as a part of the mind game ritual of the league, Mancini called Ferguson his "teacher" in coaching while the great Scotsman reciprocated by saying that the way Mancini conducted the Tevez saga was a "management masterclass". Surely one of the journalists must’ve told them to get a room.

In his post-match interview however -- still probably chewing gum -- the most successful manager in the history of the game called the defeat the "worst of his career". We're talking about the same man who was once asked if United will ever go into a derby as the underdog. He conveniently answered, "Not in my lifetime."

Well, tick tock Fergie.

Alas, the game was still only worth three points. And we’re barely halfway through the league. Sure it was the biggest derby win ever. Sure it was United’s first home defeat since April 2010. Sure City is five points ahead at the top. But we need to remember that there is still a long way to go.

United is still in the running to win the league and City players must not get ahead of themselves. Same goes to the fans. The plethora of 6 – 1 jokes on the Internet is starting to get tiring and I for one sincerely hope we let bygones be bygones and move on. Facing the taunts of “CHAMP16ONS” and all is a small price to pay if United go all the way to retain the title. And they have proven that they are capable of doing it in the past.

So United fans, cheer up. Every cloud has a Silva lining.

KL Blues Community Gathering - October
October 11, 2011

Taken from the KL Blues Facebook page. That's me trying to sing but instead ended up looking like Rocky Balboa. "Adrian..."

The Sun was just setting after a long hot weekend in Damansara Damai. But in the heart of the Damansara-Sungai Buloh border suburb, Hot Pot Cafe was just waking up from slumber, cruising into the evening with the return of the KL Blues Community Gathering.

It’s been more than a year since the last gathering. And the local Blues scene has been on a break, or hibernating, if you will. The bands have been playing, here and there, but it’s been many moons since the last congregation of makers and lovers of the music. Time was nigh for the community to make a comeback.

The owners of Hot Pot, Dino and Doc Fazah, experienced musicians in the industry themselves, were gracious enough to host the celebrated night. It was a milestone, so to speak, for KL Blues as the event marked the beginning of the organization’s journey to continue its mission in keeping the Blues alive. Hot Pot would be the first of many venues that the community plans to tour to in spreading the music and the love that comes together with it.

Fresh from the historic reunion of Blues Gang the night before at the Dua Raksasa concert with Sweet Charity in Stadium Merdeka, Zizi and Jim got the ball rolling with their energetic rendition of evergreen Blues classics from the back in the day. One does wonder how they managed to lift the spirit of the floor and keep the energy high after a long night at the stadium. We all know that Jim is a seasoned runner, so perhaps we could ask Zizi next time he’s got any petua; and if it involves Tongkat Ali.

Taking over the stage were newcomers Minetrane. Formerly of The Big Pink and The Terence Chong Blues Band, Minetrane is made of four white-collar musicians who have been keeping a close eye on the expertise of their predecessors to keep on learning the tools of the trade. Gathering songs that they have performed separately earlier in different bands, Minetrane paid tribute to the likes of Stevie Wonder, BB King, Bill Withers and Jimi Hendrix. With Dino joining and adding some spice on the piano, it was certainly a good night out for the community’s latest four-piece act.

As the evening got warmer, with faces familiar and new filling the floor, crowd favorite Bluestreat came up to bring their game on. The band had previously, in an earlier KL Blues series, graced the grounds of The Duke in Duta Vista for their Tribute to Dire Straits gig. It’s not every day that you come across a band capable of paying an ode to Mark Knopfler and friends. But Bluestreat is not your everyday band. Performing their own compositions as well as Classic Rock tunes of Pink Floyd, Bluestreat got the crowd moving and dancing to the beat like a bonfire in a dark starry night.

Joining them soon after, making his special appearance for the night, was the Godfather of Malaysian Blues himself, the one and only Ito of the legendary Blues Gang. The writer was in Stadium Merdeka the night before amidst the thousands witnessing the return of his band on stage. But to be inches closer to the man at Hot Pot was certainly a night to remember. With the crowd dancing to his Malaysian Blues anthem Apo Nak Dikato, Ito was joined on stage with his son. It was a father and son fare that signifies the inheritance of the local Blues scene to the next generation; for the old, to pass the baton to the young.

Speaking of the young, closing the night was local harp extraordinaire Zhin Wong and the musician who’s known by all, and has been everywhere, Aznan Aziz. They had earlier joined Zizi and Jim for a beautiful rendition of the Muddy Waters classic, I’m Ready and John Mayall’s Crocodile Walk. But when they took over the stage as the clock ticks closer to midnight, the energy of the place remained upbeat with Zhin’s energetic and soulful mastery of the harp and Aznan’s gorgeous singing and guitar works. The passion in these guys brings chill down your spine.

With Monday looming closer to the end of the weekend, the first “return” of the KL Blues Community Gathering ended on a high note. It has successfully paved a way for the next episode of the series and the crowd simply couldn’t wait as it has now created a buzz in the community. So stay tuned, and keep on sweatin’ the Blues!

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

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