I’ve hesitated to mention this until now, because, well, it’s nothing to do with writing, and it’s only about the little football team I’ve supported my whole life through thick and thin… mostly thin.
But there was something about what happened last Sunday that has made it more than that. Something in the astounded reactions from all over the world this week that has made me think this is bigger than it being just about my team, bigger than just being about football, bigger than ‘just a game’. (I know it is only all of those things really, but oh god, it feels like so much more now).
In case you don’t know it, the Premier League title was decided on Sunday and decided in possibly the most dramatic fashion ever witnessed, in the last minutes of the last game, in injury time, with a team needing to score two goals to claim their first title in 44 years. A team famous for perennial failure. Famous for their uncanny knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and looking for all the world like they were going to do exactly that yet again, being 1-2 down at home to a team that were only just hearing on their radios that they were safe from relegation.
But somehow, this time, they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and got those two goals.
More than one fellow fan said to me afterwards ‘Andy, if you wrote that as a screenplay, they’d reject it for being too far fetched!’, but I’m with the commentator who said in the heat of the moment: ‘Hollywood! Make this movie!’
Because this is one of those moments where life is pure Hollywood.
If you’ve never really been into football, or any sport, and you don’t really get what all the excitement and emotion is about, then watch this. It’s the moment where sport achieves the visceral power of the greatest art, be it opera, film, theatre.
Experiencing it live, at the moment it happened, it was merely our own little triumph. But all this week, the internet has revealed the larger story: that millions of people around the world were celebrating with us.
And this is where it becomes clear that our lives are a succession of competing narratives fighting for control of our existence. Because most of us City fans were convinced that the whole world hated us, resented our good fortune in winning the lottery of billionaire owners willing to fund a title charge. We thought this because the press told us that this was the story. No matter how much we claimed that this was the only way for any small team to break the hold of the cartel of clubs that have ensured their own dominance of the game since carving it up for themselves 20 years ago, that in fact, despite our millions, it is we who are the plucky underdogs.
Indeed, this is essentially the narrative of my own novel about supporting City and what it means to live with that failure your whole life (available from all good ebook stores and in paperback, people).
But it became clear all week that as Kun Aguero’s last gasp shot secured us the title, the world roared with us.
It was clear in the succession of match commentators around the world who screamed their delight, it was clear in the scores of grainy Youtube videos from bars and living rooms all over the world showing neutrals celebrating, the Sunderland fans roaring when news came through of our victory, the video of the QPR fans in our own stadium who, as soon as they heard that they were safe from relegation, immediately began roaring us on to score against them and celebrated when we did!
Fans from teams all over the world have congratulated us and said again and again that they have never celebrated another team’s goal like that in their lives; Argentinian TV are running the goal in every ad break and celebrating like their nation has won the World Cup (three of our players are Argentinian, including Aguero), and this is an account I’ve read this morning, typical of the many I’ve been hearing all week:
A friend of mine who lives in London isn’t a football fan at all and so wasn’t watching, but had the windows of her flat open and heard the roar go up and the cheering start from houses all around her. It made me realise all over again just how huge Sunday was, not just for us but for so many people. If Hollywood wrote a script about a final day, they couldn’t make it any better than the reality was.
There’s that Hollywood thing again.
Of all the Youtube videos I’ve watched again and again and again this week, still shaking my head in amazement, this is the best, and it truly captures what it was like to be a part of that moment.
Is it too late for the Oscar nominations?
Man City fan since 1974