Thursday, May 24, 2012

The English Premier League: High Drama

This is a little unusual, but Dave Tyrrell sent me something so tremendously enthusiastic that I'm using it in full. And it's a detailed account of the last weekend of the Premier League, but more than that, it's human drama. Here's Dave:
Heading into the last round of games in the English Premier League, the destiny of the Championship was far from clear. The top two teams, Manchester City and Manchester United, were separated only by goal difference after 37 matches. Whichever one recorded the superior result today would win the title, but if City matched United, they would come out on top.

The final fixtures looked easy to call - on paper. United were away at Sunderland, whose own season had long ago petered into mediocrity and 'oh well, there's always next year'. City were at home to Queen's Park Rangers, the team with the worst away record in the division...and who needed the points themselves, to try and prevent relegation to the tier below.

Games are not played on paper. Let us spin forward 90 minutes. United have won at Sunderland, by 1-0. But allow me to digress a little on the subject of my own team, Man City. A team I have followed for 35 years, travelling the length and breadth of England to follow. They have two known qualities - the loyalty of the fans, and the extent to which the team can find new and inventive ways to let them down. They haven't won the Championship for 44 years. As someone once said "If City were 6-0 up with 2 minutes to go, their fans would still be watching the game with their fingers over their eyes..". But in 2008 City were taken over by the Abu Dhabi royal family. They are now the richest sporting club in the world, way beyond the NBA, NFL etc. A highly priced, talent-laden squad has been assembled. Surely these people cannot succumb to the curse of 'Typical City' ? Surely ?

After 90 minutes at the Etihad, the score is.....Man City 1 QPR 2. As it stands, United have won the title. The degree of antipathy between the fans and the clubs is legendary - it makes Red Sox v Yankees look like a hippy love-in. This is a disaster of Biblical proportions - to have lost the title on the final day. To the Forces of Darkness. To the people you will face next day in work, or on the train.

But wait ! There are 5 minutes of injury time. And 2 minutes in, City striker Edin Dzeko heads an equaliser. United's game has finished, and their fans are starting to celebrate. Among them are people with radios and phones pressed to their ears. And then, their heads turn as one to Sunderland's giant scoreboard, where the result appears. Manchester City 3 QPR 2. A stroke of brilliance by City's talisman, Argentinian striker Kun Aguero, who's father-in-law is the legendary Maradona, has smashed a winner past the QPR keeper. 48,000 people are hugging each other in the stadium or shouting their relief to the sky. 44 years of hurt have been blasted away in one glorious, sky-blue second.

It is often said that people are too quick to ascribe significance to sports, over and above that which is due to them. In my more lucid moments, I agree with that analysis. But in the 5 minutes between 4.48pm and 4.53pm, on Sunday May 13th 2012, I ran through almost every emotional state possible. And it made the 35 years I had spent following City, and enduring the taunts of friends, neighbours, colleagues, all worthwhile.

Apologies for the length of this essay. Those of you who have suffered this far may wish to click on the links is a side-by-side montage of the reactions of the supporters of both teams, and one is the action as described on Sky Sports in the UK.
side-by-side montage
Sky Sports coverage

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