Picture the scene.
It’s Champions League game night. You’re getting ready to watch the match on your widescreen Dolby sound enhanced TV in super high definition. You’ve just had your pizza delivered and you have your stash of drinks and snacks by your side, all set for 90 minutes of pulsating action. The teams are lining up at Etihad Stadium as you snuggle up in your favourite armchair ready to cheer on the blue boys from Manchester. The flags are waving as the music starts up for the Champions League ‘anthem’…
And then a cacophony of boos ring out around the stadium with seemingly thousands of Mancunians engaged in this act of defiance, showing their displeasure towards UEFA with their jeers, catcalls and whistles which almost deafen the sound of the music.
A similar scene has been played out in living rooms up and down the country and around the globe for several years already and looks likely to continue into the future. So why do Manchester City fans boo the jingle of the greatest club competition in the world?
That’s the question I posed to hundreds of City fans last week.
The shameful treatment of Man City fans by UEFA in the October 2014 CSKA Moscow episode was by far the most infuriating in a long line of incidents and was the one that riled City supporters the most.
Let me explain the circumstances behind this infamous game which left hundreds of City fans properly incensed and seriously out of pocket. The result of the game is of little consequence when the shenanigans behind the scenes are taken into account.
Due to repeated transgressions by their fans, including a racist incident against Yaya Toure twelve months earlier, UEFA declared that CSKA Moscow must play this game behind ‘closed doors’, which meant that fans from neither club could attend. The nodus here was that City fans had long since stumped up for non-refundable flights and hotels, with costs running into several hundred pounds since the Khimki Arena in Moscow was not an inexpensive place to travel to from Manchester.
UEFA showed its disdain and scorn for fans of the beautiful game by ignoring all City’s protestations. Notwithstanding the fact that City devotees had already committed their hard earned cash to the trip, UEFA maintained its position that no fans would be allowed into the stadium.
If this blatant disregard for fans wasn’t enough of a travesty, City fans were left stunned and bewildered when during the game, CSKA chants broke out amongst the 600 plus people that had been allowed into the ground. The subsequent explanations offered by CSKA Moscow left us all agog and had a farcical quality to them.
They claimed that UEFA sponsors and partners accounted for 360 of the 650 people allowed into the ground. If the UEFA sponsors were CSKA fans they said, that was hardly the fault of CSKA Moscow!
Of the other attendees, we are left to assume that they were made up of the media, delegates from each club and families of the child mascots that accompany the players onto the pitch.
City fans were already sniffy with UEFA for their implementation of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations which were simply an attempt at thwarting new money clubs (such as PSG and Man City) from intruding on the cosy cartel of clubs that helped themselves to the bulk of the spoils from UEFA competitions both in terms of prizes and money.
They wanted the rich to remain rich and force those unable to compete on an equal financial footing, to doff their caps and remain in their place.
Other issues that have been a cause for a sense of katzenjammer amongst City fans include UEFA’s pitiful attempts at dealing with racist incidents and doling out inappropriate punishment for serial wrongdoers whilst hitting other clubs much harder, who have transgressed far less seriously.
For instance, Porto were fined €20,000 for their fans’ racist abuse of City stars Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure during a Europa League game, yet UEFA fined City €30,000 for being one minute late back on the pitch for the second half of a game against Sporting.
There is also a continued sense of corruption in the bastions of footballing power that are UEFA and FIFA.
The scant censure given by UEFA to its own president, the now disgraced Michel Platini and the claim that he had a ‘man to man’ agreement with the similarly disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter, over the payment of £1.35M nine years earlier, are just some examples of how UEFA ride roughshod over rules and treat the footballing public with contempt.
It was then with some irony that UEFA launched a case against City back in 2015 for booing the Champions League anthem! With so much going on in European and World football at the time, this was what UEFA felt was worth putting time, effort and money into investigating. You really couldn’t make it up!
So, City fans have every right to have booed UEFA’s jingle all these years.
To finish, I’d like to quote City fan Sally Mott:
‘I think it is our duty to protest. UEFA are a disgrace, they deserve every derision we can send their way.’
I couldn’t agree more Sally.