Edin Dzeko joins the noise

Edin Dzeko’s recent move to Manchester City appears to have reopened old wounds for one half of Manchester.  In his first interview upon arriving, his clever band of PR people just could not resist the temptation to reignite the ‘your city or mine’ debate with the other half.  Dzeko’s comments of

“I have heard a lot about the fans and that most of the people from Manchester are Manchester City fans”

Was clearly a well thought out move to gain immediate favor with his new adorers whilst simultaneously riling his new rivals.

Dzeko’s comments were clearly no more than a bit of fun, but for the people of Manchester the debate remains very much alive.

First off, I am not from Manchester and have never lived there.  I have flown out of there once on my way to Majorca, but that’s it.  I don’t pretend to understand fully the debate, but I feel I qualify in some way to contribute by virtue of the fact that I am a rational human being who has lived in A city.

Why is this debate so passionate, especially in places like Manchester?  I really have no idea, but here is what I would suggest.

Football teams were originally far more community oriented.  They started popping up all over the country at the dawn of the 20th century as people from different groups, professions and communities came together to compete.

There was therefore a very real sense of identify associated with each and every club.  Something to be proud of.

Times are very different now.  Whether we care to acknowledge it, Manchester City are owned by Arabs and managed by an Italian.  Manchester United are owned by Americans and managed by a Scotsman?    Any remanent of identity is fast fading.  Incidentally, I would be very curious to know if the  ‘’Manchester City is the true club in Manchester’’ debate was raging during the 60’s and 70’s.  Perhaps it was.

Manchester United are the best supported club in the world, but that is only down to some very clever branding and marketing which took place in the early 90’s.  Having more supporters outside of Manchester does not reduce the number of supporters within.

But ultimately though, what does it really matter?  If you held a gun to my head I would tell you that there are indeed more Blues in Manchester than Reds (despite this being impossible to prove).   However football is now such a global enterprise that my answer is surely mute.

The premier league is a brand, and a highly successful one.  Not a chairman in the league truly believes that the heart and soul of the club must be protected.  It’s true, some clubs are much better run than others, but they all want more fans, because more fans mean more replica shirt sales, which mean bigger Christmases at the chairman’s home.

Football is no longer local, it is global.  In time the attitude’s of the City fan’s, and Mr Dzeko’s, will catch up with the clubs ambition.

I hope so, for their sake.

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4 Responses to Edin Dzeko joins the noise

  1. Neil says:

    Ask fans from any large population centre – Manchester to Merseyside, Istanbul to Rio – and I’m certain an overwhelming majority would tell you that this attitude is the one element of modern football that they wouldn’t swap for a boardroom full of Abramoviches and the love child of Ferguson and Mourinho in the dugout. Local rivalry is a significant element of being a football fan and often an essential part of the identity of a football club. It is something that rich foreign sugar daddies, international branding and unprecedented, arguably unjustifiable investment can never artificially create.

    I live in Edinburgh but am from Manchester, I was a season ticket holder, and I still go to as many games as I can afford to. My dad was brought up in Manchester – one of seven kids raised by a single Mum in Wythenshawe – and went to as many games as he could too. In the 60’s this meant he could afford to go to Maine Road one week and Old Trafford the next – and still get a pie and a programme. Times have changed, football is no longer just a sport, but a serious high-risk-high-investment industry. People are being priced out of attending regularly and clubs are run by people with neither a grasp of their heritage nor ambition to stay there in the long term.

    Don’t get me wrong, investment usually means progress and almost always means excitement, but it’s not hard to argue that clubs can face losing their identity. The passion, banter, animosity and ultimately enjoyment that stems from local rivalry can’t be bought; it is to many one of the biggest factors distracting from how corporate and sterile modern football can feel.

  2. Gavin says:

    Great response, thanks.
    A few things though. While I admit I perhaps didn’t make my point entirely clear, I should clarify that I do not have any sort of problem with local rivalry. I was questioning Manchester City supporters line of rivalry which seems to simply go ‘we are more local then you are”. It just seems like a completely redundant point. Manchester United have strived for years to become more global, and have had remarkable success. Like it or not, Utd’s identity now lies in it’s international appeal. In a bizarre way, saying that City is more local than Utd can even seem like a compliment, underlining that they have indeed set out to achieve what they wanted to do. That may be a stretch, but I think there is logic there.

    Fans are paying more money then ever to clubs, while losing more and more control. It is a situation which needs to be addressed, but while it continues, all clubs (international corporations?) lose the identity that the fans are still clinging to and renders playground arguments as useful as whether you prefer Microsoft or Apple.

  3. Neil says:

    It’s fair to say that there is a notional debate about who is the “real Manchester club” – the idea that a season ticket at Old Trafford comes with a return train ticket to King’s Cross – which, given United’s almost unparalleled global success, adds a unique element to local rivalry.

    That aspect of the City United relationship is generally made more of outside of Manchester than within it. But there are obviously exceptions (the Tevez poster, the ever eloquent and reasonable Gary Neville’s media output) and it’s interesting that the “we’re more local than you arguement”, shamelessly embraced by City’s new PR team, can seem to sting United fans in Manchester more than you’d expect. Global fame is obviously no bad thing, undoubtedly lucrative, but I’m not sure how many United fans on the ground in Manchester care how many people support them in China, the U.S. or anywhere outside of Britain. Ultimately, a football club is a community, no one wants to feel like there’s is being outsourced or loosing touch with its grass roots – and why jibes like Dzeko’s seem to irk so deliciously.

    O course, it can smack of Napoleon Syndrome, possibly even (in a whisper) jealousy – and given City’s exponential increase in media exposure in recent years, hypocritical. But I do find it interesting that City’s drive for global expansion feels very much rooted in and tangibly centred on Manchester.

  4. uBosna.com says:

    this is all part of the game, its all competition

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