Manchester City 1,  Inter Milan 0  May 13, 2023

Manchester City 1, Inter Milan 0 May 13, 2023

Consider the newspaper photographs the day after. See the unrestrained euphoria of the fans who congregated together on Saturday night to celebrate the victory of Manchester City over Inter Milan in the European Champions League final.

It was a raucous time in Manchester after the match. Inevitably, a few fans got over-excited. There are always some who the TV cameras pick out in the belief that they express the devotion of the fans. They don’t. If anything, on Saturday, they sullied a hard-fought win against a stalwart Milanese side.

But forget the ‘look-at-me’ probably drunk idiot, who climbed on the bus shelter. He should be traced and made to pay for the damage he did; equally the clots who got on the police vehicle, that, they seemed not to understand was there for their own safety.

Instead, enjoy the moment like the real Manchester City fans. For them, what a night it was, best depicted in millions of stretched-wide smiling faces, not only on the streets of Manchester and Istanbul where the game was played, but in homes right across Britain and in many other parts of the world where football is played and loved.

Nor were all these happy people simply celebrating the success of the team they follow. For many of them, it was better than that. They were, and no doubt still are, rejoicing in their own victory. Because it’s personal with them.

Obviously, it was the Spanish manager, Pep Guardiola, and the  players like the extraordinary Brazilian goalkeeper, Edison Santana de Moraes, their baby-faced giant Erling Haaland, and their goal scoring Rodri, who achieved that win for their club. They and the rest of the squad  have been brilliant all season.

But the players, whose stay at any major club will inevitably always be limited by the rigors of time and fitness, can’t ever be the soul of the club, although some may like to think they are. Nor is the rich, and in this case, usually absentee, owner of Manchester City the heart of the club.

The real heart and soul of Manchester City Football Club, indeed of any football club, is the fans.

If you don’t happen to be a football fan you may legitimately wonder why so many people become so excited about twenty two young men chasing a ball around a foreign field. Put like that, it does indeed sound silly.

But the players on that field are more than mere footballers. They, in their two teams, were, on Saturday night, living representatives of millions us who would never have the skill, athleticism or dedication to set seriously set foot on a pitch.

The Manchester City team, may, like all Premiership clubs, be made up of extremely well-paid mercenaries collected from various parts of the United Kingdom, Europe and South America.

But the moment they put on that sky blue shirt they, together as a team, are transformed into an extraordinary, living, breathing body that in its travails between the goal posts, is the physical presence on the field of millions of ordinary people: bus drivers, office workers, nurses, farmers, van drivers, accountants, even journalists.

So, although it was a team of brilliant athletes who won the treble on Saturday, because Manchester City also won the FA Cup and the Premiership, the first time any club has achieved that in one season, it was also a victory for every man, woman and schoolboy or schoolgirl who identifies with them. It was their victory, too.

Quite why many of us follow a certain team and become thrilled or depressed by its success or failure isn’t often easy for non-sports fans to understand. Loyalty to one team can be passed through families from father to son: for others it may be purely due to locality,  a variation on the us against them view of the world; then there are those who  associate a football club with a certain time in their life, when devotion to a certain team came via a kind of osmosis from the place they were living.

I’m one of those and am a Liverpool FC fan, and although it hurts to see the message on the T-shirt that Pep Guardiola was wearing on Saturday night, ‘The best team in the land’, I obviously have to admit that it’s true. This season Manchester City have also been the best in Europe.

Last season it was almost the turn of Liverpool FC. Then they were beaten in the final,  1-0 by Real Madrid.  So, when I saw the frozen faces of despair on the Inter Milan players at the end of the match on Saturday I knew how they, and all their supporters, were feeling. Losing hurts.

ut winning? For a club, its supporters, indeed for whole city, and for everyone who enjoys sport as it should be enjoyed, there is nothing quite like it.


Ray Connolly’s latest novel, Kill For Love, is on sale from Amazon.