On the field, the Champions League is undoubtedly the world’s premier club competition. Teams, managers and their fans categorise each season’s success on whether or not their team has qualified for the Champions League. The appeal is obvious – Europe’s top clubs with their multi-millionaire players, all pitting their wits against each other every other fortnight, at some of the world’s most notorious footballing Meccas. What’s not to like?
Well, for City fans in the past – plenty!
The corruption scandals that have embroiled UEFA and indeed, their brother FIFA, have been aired for all to see in the past 18 months but City in particular were one of the first clubs to highlight the twisted nature of European football’s governing body. The multiple run-ins with UEFA over Financial Fair Play, CSKA Moscow’s behind closed doors debacle, booing the ‘anthem’ etc, etc. All of which are so mind-bogglingly corrupt they’re worthy of their own articles. They could all however explain the general feeling of apathy from some fans towards the competition.
So as we approach our 6th consecutive Champions League campaign, could this be the year that City fans, players and the team as a whole finally get to grips with the competition?
Of course, any City fan knows we’ve been subjected to some rather bum draws – both in and out of the group stages. And while last year there were clearer signs of improvement – particularly in terms of understanding what it takes to win a Champions League game – it will always be a question mark against the club until we win it.
With Guardiola at the helm though, we are arguably in our best position ever to have a crack at European football’s Holy Grail. Whether or not this is THE year remains to be seen.
Our group stage promises to be fascinating. The home games will provide stern tests and City officials seem to have finally taken notice of the fans’ views over ticket prices. All 3 cities and the away games that come with them will of course be strongly attended by travelling Blues.
Barcelona and the Plaza Real has become a regular haunt for City fans, Mönchengladbach’s old town will once again provide excellent hospitality and Glasgow is, in Champions League terms, up the road!
However, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was a tad disappointed when Ian Rush finally managed to open that final ball, in what felt like a poorly choreographed episode of Deal or No Deal, to discover we were not able to get an early flight to somewhere new and experience great beer and different culture in the company of fellow Blues – not to mention the hope of 3 points!
The unknown promise of European football watching is surely one of the greatest carrots for the paying, travelling fan. Rocking up somewhere, immersing yourself into the local area and watching your beloved team play is something we’ve been very lucky to experience as City fans in recent years and has been surreal.
And perhaps that’s the sentiment that best fits the fans view of City’s Champions League experience so far – a surreal, fleeting, “We’re not really here”, booze-filled, midweek jaunt, before the real thing starts again at 3pm on Saturday!
Written by Sam Hayes
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