Following the news of UEFA’s decision to hand Manchester City a two-season ban from the Champions League, City fan Freddie Pye gives COPA90 his reaction.
If I was to summarise my overall reaction to Friday night’s news around Manchester City and UEFA in a few words, I’d look no further than the first sentence of our club statement:
“Manchester City is disappointed but not surprised by today’s announcement…”
As is always the case with City fans, the news was met with a large proportion of light-hearted comedy. Let’s be clear: City fans have been through a lot worse in recent decades. And I mean A LOT worse.
You only have to go back to 2001, when the club was relegated from the Premier League under Joe Royle, or even the financial situation prior to promotion in 1999, which almost saw our move to the current stadium fall through.
This has always made being a Manchester City supporter feel relatively unique – the ability to make self-deprecating jokes about our own club.
This isn’t to say I’m not disappointed, let’s make that very clear. Everyone is well aware of the serious ramifications that could come about as a result of our two-season European ban – from player recruitment in a summer described as a ‘planned overhaul’, to the uncertain future of Pep despite that being dismissed as ‘bulls***’ by sources close to the Catalan, to, perhaps most importantly, retaining key players.
Some City fans even believe Friday’s potentially damaging news will have a positive impact on the fanbase going into the latter stages of the campaign – specifically in the Champions League.
The idea of now being the ‘supervillains’ of world football could ultimately pull together our entire fanbase in what has been a season of relative disappointment, especially in the Premier League.
There’s also a train of thought that the possibility of not participating in the Champions League for the next two seasons gives the players and staff extra motivation to achieve the ultimate prize and win the tournament this season.
That said, given the toxic relationship between City fans and the Champions League in recent years, there’s also a feeling of simply not being bothered by a European ban – a feeling that may seem alien to clubs who already have an established romance with the competition.
For so long, the club has never challenged the toxic narrative that’s been allowed to fester and, as a result, it was inevitable something of this severity would come about.
In fact, in this particular situation, the real worry seems to be about UEFA’s attempts to tarnish the entire reputation of Manchester City as an organisation – attempts that will certainly not go down well with chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, who is insistent on flexing the club’s financial muscle in the form of top legal representation.
What’s perhaps most frustrating is the media narrative that’s been created around City since the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group. It brings me back to that line in the club’s statement: ‘not surprised’.
For so long, the club has never challenged the toxic narrative that’s been allowed to fester and, as a result, it was inevitable something of this severity would come about, given the almost obsessive hatred towards City from some corners of the media.
There’s a sense among some fans now that the club MUST become proactive rather than submissive and reactive, and it’s taken something as serious as a UEFA ban for them to wake up to it.