Steph Doehler is a Manchester United fan and respected football blogger. In this article she takes on the challenge of the age old debate of conflict between local United supporters, and the very vocal global MUFC fanbase.
It’s not a rarity for me to log on to Twitter and see United fans arguing of some football related issue. When it wasn’t Michael Carrick it was Jonny Evans but those discussions seem to have fallen wayward this season, so perhaps it would be nice to think fellow supporters of the same club could just get along and enjoy the view of the league table as we reach the climax of a rollercoaster season.
Don’t be silly. Of course that won’t happen.
And thus, I log on to Twitter this morning to see a very interesting debate has begun between the merits of local and non-local Manchester United supporters.
Let it be said from the outset, I am not a local Manchester United supporter. I was not born in Manchester. I don’t live in Manchester. I don’t have any family living in Manchester (I’m sure that’s the reason most “outsiders” use isn’t it? “My mum’s brother’s best friend’s cat hailed from there…”). My reason for supporting United was simple, my best friend did. He brought a poster into school one day of Eric Cantona, who had just moved across the Pennines to Manchester, and me being an impressionable youngster made the decision there and then to start supporting “his” football team – ironically enough, his father was a Manc! Anyway, enough of my life history.
The locals put forth a quite compelling argument. The ones I follow never once criticised the “out of towners” for being United fans. Far from it. Most local United supporters are savvy enough to recognise that were United not the global commodity they are today, chances are they wouldn’t have generated the success they have in recent decades. Afterall, we all know money talks in football. What the locals did say, however, is that they have an extra special affinity with the club that perhaps we will never understand. And you know what – despite many fans finding themselves incensed with the comment, I totally agree with the statement.
I’ve been very fortunate over the years to support a highly successful football club. Did I know they would turn out that way when I made that decision to follow United? No, of course not. But the fact remains, I made that choice. Many local supporters aren’t afforded that decision. United or City…that decision is often made for them with family influences and like. Instead in my family I have a West Brom supporting father and a…ahem….Liverpool supporting brother who spent much of our growing up calling me a glory fan. Something I could understand if it wasn’t for the fact he started supporting Liverpool in the 80s!
When United lose I sometimes receive a pi$$-taking text from my dad. If we score a dodgy penalty I’ll get a tweet from my brother, and when I get into work someone may or may not make a comment. Live in a community whereby you are surrounded by your greatest rivals day in, day out and I’m convinced a United loss is a lot more painful than it is for me. Yes, we can all sit here and compare stories about how depressed we get when United lose, how it ruins our weekends and so on, but more often than not the non-locals don’t have to live with the ramifications of said loss. Case in point – who do you think found the 6-1 derby loss more painful? Us non-locals who could dust ourselves off, get up the next morning and try to shut it out. Or Mancunians, who had to go to work the next day dreading bumping into that particular City fan with a smug grin on their face?
I’m fortunate, I don’t personally know any City fans. Locals can’t escape them.
At no point did a Manchester based United fan say they were “more of a supporter” than the rest of us and yet some felt that’s what they were insinuating. I don’t agree with that. How do you actually measure that anyway? By becoming a “Top Red” on Twitter, saying things like “GGMU” and so on. It’s like some pathetic penis-measuring competition sometimes, “I’m a bigger fan because I am a verified member of the MUFC Family.” Jesus Christ, give me a break. The ironic thing is no self-respecting, match going Manchester United fan would ever say things like that.
It’s difficult to truly define what a “real” fan even means these days – not just in relation to United. I know some supporters of my local clubs who rarely go to games, who don’t make that 25 mile journey to their club’s stadium but because they support their local team they are better than me, even though I regularly embark on a 200 mile round trip to follow my club. It doesn’t make sense, does it?!
The bottom line is I have a connection to Manchester United. They are the football club I have chosen to follow, through good times and bad. However, I would suggest that the manner in which I experience United is very different to how locals do. In exactly the same way I believe supporters within this country experience it differently to overseas fans. There is no way of suggesting which is any “better or worse” and it’s a pointless exercise to try to do so because most of us haven’t experienced our fandom outside of our current situation. I am fortunate that I don’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to watch United play. I am fortunate that in order to attend a game I don’t have to get on a plane.
As Manchester United fans we all want what is best for our club. We all want to win games and trophies. But let’s not be naïve. Our kinship to United is very different to local fans, that’s inevitable, but it’s not a bad thing. We shouldn’t feel offended that this is the case. We aren’t “less of a fan” as a result of it. It’s just a way of life.
Now let’s all stop bickered and start being part of this United family that so many people rave about…
We college mates have a group on FB where we talk all things football. I regularly take the piss out of a dude who supports Liverpool. In one such particularly vile thread, he called me a ‘Glory Hunter’ 😀 given the fact that we both are Indians, I laughed hard at that mention because for me it implied that I supported Manchester United only because they started winning trophies only recently, as compared to Liverpool’s heritage.
My association with MUFC was also an accident, when while changing channels one day during my teenage, I chanced upon a PL match with Becks playing. A worshiper of football, I liked his game that day and MUFC in general and decided to follow this team, no matter what. It kinda hurts when we’re called ‘fans from countries where clubs have a presence only to sell t-shirts’ because we do have genuine opinions about the game.
Absolutely brilliant post. Well done, I agree with all of it.
COME ON UNITED!!!
It is very individual and has a lot to do with respecting local fans or not and also the traditions of how to behave as a fan. It isn’t ok to travel to see United and not knowing any songs or not wanting to mix with the locals. There are foreign fans that will be more passionate than local fans not just at games but every day of their lives and after all it’s not a competition.
United as a club is very diverse when it comes to what type of people that support the club. The political views are all represented among the fans and that was one thing I was hoping this article would touch upon. The tension between various groups of United fans can be quite tense and I have seen this first hand.
The growing cry among some local fans that they are more genuine comes with the rising popuarity of the EDL and the ongoing patriotic movement within the UK that traditionally have very strong roots in the north and particularly in Manchester. It is a standpoint that “we can make it on our own” without the help of foreigners who are not like us anyway deep down.
Respect the local fans and mix with them and you will be accepted as a genuine fan.
haha yeah true true… I’m from between liverpool and manchester and often get told I’m a glory hunter for ‘choosing’ united (though i was simply brought up with them anyway)… One guy said to me ‘I’d hate to support united, it must be so boring, all they do is win… so when you don’t win it must be horrible’. I agree on one level, yes defeats are awful, but winning trophies is fantastic! It’s not like there’s no competition; I presume it must be similar to teams low in the league who have their own few personal rivals who are near them in the table… i asked him ‘would you not like your team to win the league?’, to which he replied ‘no’ … Somehow i think his pride got the better of him! 🙂
I used to live in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.. Currently I live in Leeds! When I was young only at age of 7 I started to follow our local club back in Saudi (Al-Khaleej) its no where by top clubs in Saudi, not like (Hilal) which United played against in 2007/08 and I paid for a flight from Dubai to Ryadh on that day to watch United in action for the 1st time. Anyway, my dad used to take me with him to Al-Khaleej home games since that young age.
In the summer of 1998 the world cup was taking place, when I was as young as 8 years old, and everyone in the country was talking about our 2nd attempt in the world cup and the whole country was crazy about football. Very little amount of people knew about foreign football at the time and those who know about it only knew about the great footballers such as Ronaldo, Zidan, Figeo, and Rivaldo. So the majority were following players rather than football teams. That is from where the attention of international football came to us as middle eastern, not just Saudis or Emirates.
On that world cup I was watching not supporting any team, until Beckham was sent off against Argentina. I started to follow the Arabic news about him. And I was impressed of how passionate the English people were about football. I remember my dad, who did his Engineering degree in America in the 80’s, reading an English online article about Beckham and Sir Alex and he liked how the old man dealt with Beckham situation. Obviously that came just on time with the 99 season and me and dad were following United since then rather than following our local club.
I grew up but I didn’t had much fun by discussing United games because not many were following United at that part of the world at the time! And I was too young to get bored. United grow up on me as I am growing. But still I couldn’t find many people around me who like United or even any English side as most of the people in middle east are in love with Barelona and Real Madrid. Because most popular players like Zidan, Ronaldo Fiego, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and even Beckham go to these clubs! Unitll that wonder kid from Portegal broke through United team coming from Lisbon. then I found little people starting to get attached to the club.
I finished my high school and it was time to go to Uni. I was in serious position on where to study. I experienced studying at the US on 2006. It was the summer again when I went there to do an English course just a year before my final year in high school. It was on time with the world cub, I was so crazy about football, I used to spend all my day after school watching football yet no one in the USA would know that there were a football world cub is going on. I was so disappointed. So I decided not to go to the US to do my bachelor degree! I shocked my family when I said I am coming here to England to study because no one in my family has ever come here to study, everyone in the family is graduated from US. But I made my decision and I was clear about it I have to be close to United or I would never study!
I came to England I came to Manchester the town of my childhood team! how was it?! it wasn’t brilliant. I found in Manchester many glory hunters!! it was 2008 and many of the fans were only Ronaldo fans! they weren’t true reds as they say as soon as he left the club in 2009 I found many of them not as passionate about the team as they were on his days with us!
Somehow and for personal and academical reasons I had to move to Leeds University this year. So I came again a bit far from United and I found the lost passion here as I still had to travel to see United and talk about United with those on the train who are talking about United and every United fan I talked to who is not from Manchester in Leeds, Saudi and Dubai are more passionate about the team than those who live near by Old Trafford, to my mind at least.
Football now a days became more international and now I can find Shitty, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea… fans around the world. They all passionate about their teams and likes to take piss on you if your team lose! For me, united became a part of life. And I can not tell you how many people I have convinced to support United for the right reasons rather than for the club who buy more glorious expensive players. But, its hard to battle them because there are so many out there in the middle east who support Madrid and Chelsea because they buy star shows players. And guess what?! there are a rapidly growing number now in Middle east who support Shitty, especially at Dubai but what worries me more is the people who are not from Dubai as there are many Arabs now started to love Shitty because Sheikh Mansour is their owner so they feel the club is part of the Arab family! Its annoying and I am having a battle in the Arabic media now to raise United popularity there again!
Thank you if you read this, I don’t know why I wrote it though !!