Mad City
May 14, 2012

The following article was published in Blue Moon on May 15, 2012.

Even at this point of writing, it still hasn’t entirely sunk in yet. The little sleep that I had was with my eyes open. And all that’s left of my voice is the hoarse sound that Clint Eastwood makes when he coughs.

But to quote a famous Manchester United chant, “This is how it feels to be City. This is how it feels to be small.”

The task was simple. Beat QPR and City wins the league. (Given United doesn’t win 25 - 0 at Sunderland.)

City was playing at the Etihad, a fortress where they had only dropped two points all season. QPR, on the other hand, had the worst away record in the league. Nevertheless, they were fighting to avoid relegation, there was no love lost between Mark Hughes and Manchester City Football Club, and Joey Barton was back with a vengeance. Okay, forget that last one.

So I dared not point any of the following before the game but now that it’s all over, I’ll say it out loud…

Even with nine fingers already on the trophy, deep down inside, after all these years of following the club, I could still feel the potential banana skin. As much as I wanted to deny it, the match had “Typical City” written on it. Because no matter how rosy things might appear to be, this club has a rich history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

And I never wanted to be more wrong in my life.

But I guess by now even the most armchair of United fans would know the outcome of that fateful afternoon. There’s probably no need to relive every second of that tumultuous 90 minutes. Even if I wanted to, there’s no way of stringing the right sentences to describe the ultimate rollercoaster of emotions accurately. Just search for “city qpr” or “mental torture” on YouTube. You’ll find highlights of the match.

When Jamie Mackie scored the second goal for QPR, my life as a supporter of my beloved club flashed by me.

The day my father showed a poster of Paul Walsh in the early 90s, and told me that blue is our color. The morning I spent scurrying through the football results in the Sunday newspaper; when we were in the third tier of English football, playing York away. The abuse I got for wearing a kit known only for the brand of printer it bears. And more recently, the endless torrents of posts on Facebook and Twitter whenever City stumble even after spending their alleged billions.

I was already preparing myself for the lonely walk to the car, passing by the rows of United fans already gleaming at the prospect of swiping the title right under City’s nose. Friends were sending me text messages indicating the bombardment of abuse that was about to come my way.

I was so helpless I couldn’t offer any retort to their mockery. We were flirting on the thin line separating the club’s greatest and most heartbreaking moments.

Football though, is a funny game. And with City, it gets a bit funnier. Leave it to this club to make things hard on themselves and win by the skin of their teeth.

Just as our morale was at its lowest, with footage of City fans crying and biting their scarves making its way onto the screen, Edin Dzeko headed in the equalizer for City with a few minutes of injury time left. His last goal for City came back in February.

As the clock ticked faster and news that the other games had ended came into the corridors of the Etihad, the Manchester City offense which has been dominating 103% of the game’s possession surged toward the plane parked by Messrs. Hughes and Fernandes. Melodies of Blue Moon filled the air.

Balotelli to Aguero, he dribbles pass Onuoha, and smashes the ball into the back of Kenny’s net. Time stood still, and in goes the goal that would go into history as one of the greatest comebacks of the game. I don’t even remember what happened next.

It was the football equivalent of a photo finish. City came back from the dead. If there’s any team that would win the league this way, it could only be this club. Heck it was them for real.

And Vincent Kompany lifted the Premier League trophy for the club for the first time in 44 years.

Half way across the world, I sat in sheer contentment and recalled an old adage of the long-time City fans around here.

“All I want is to see City on TV next season.”

Forza Manchester
May 09, 2012

The following article was published in The Star on May 13, 2012.

“Blue moon, you saw me standing alone. Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own.”

In the shower, in the car, on the can, those seem to be the only words lingering in my head these past few days. Not as a celebration. Far from that. For nothing has been won yet.

But as a pacifier. A feeble attempt at calming myself down. Because 345,600 seconds from this point of writing, Manchester City will play the biggest game in the club’s history. And I’m nervous as hell.

Imagine the feelings of going out on a first date, getting your exam result, going into the operation theatre and calculating your tax return, all mashed into a blob of heavy matter stuck right smack in the middle of your chest; refusing to go away until the fat lady sings.

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating here but hey, some people do get goosebumps doing their taxes.

After an insane season of ups and downs, it has finally come down to this for the title contenders. We have been following each other’s trails and watched each other play other teams -- converting ourselves to hardcore fans of the each other’s opponents for 90 minutes. And we’ve cursed at the sight of each other grinding that odd win after an ugly performance on the pitch.

The mind-games played by both managers have been intense with one trying to push the right buttons and the other, playing things down and keeping his Italian feet on the ground.

In the case of this particular title race, those who say real champions don’t depend on other teams, are not entirely accurate. For here we are, heading into the final day of the season. Fighting to the end as only one of us shall prevail on May 13th. Lucky May 13th.

The title will stay in Manchester. That’s for sure. But which side?

Never short of optimism and chewing gum, Sir Alex Ferguson has already said that United fans may have “the biggest celebration of their lives” come this weekend. But before one could claim Fergie as getting ahead of himself, certain quarters of the Red Devils faithfuls had already printed “Champ20ns” t-shirts for sale in March, with eight games still to be played. So his timing wasn’t too far off.

Roberto Mancini, on the other hand, would still probably say it’s not over even if City wins the thing. The composure shown by the debonair gaffer and restraint shown by the players are nothing short of admirable. And it’s no mean feat. Usually verbose with their spelling-error laden posts, the players have been rather quiet both on Twitter and in the media.

Maybe they were handed a memo from the club’s upper echelons. About how much winning the title would mean to the fans.

44 years is a long time. Tears have been shed, and blood has been bled. As bad as that sentence sounds, most City fans who have endured the darker days of Creaney and Negouai would know what I’m talking about. (“Who?!” asks a newer fan.)

And over the years, the club has seen managers of many forms and shapes come in and out of the organization. One of them, may have a point to prove on Sunday. City’s opponent, Queens Park Rangers, is managed by an ex-United player who was allegedly ruthlessly dismissed from the club even after a stellar performance of breaking the record for the most number of consecutive draws in a season, or something like that. So it won’t be easy.

With a superior goal difference, the bookies are raving about the odds being on City’s side. But as a fan who has learned all the life lessons that the club could offer, I am not counting my chickens just yet.

So I’m with Mancini. It’s not over ‘til it’s over.

Come on City.

Photography by Azalia Suhaimi

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