Manchester City’s love/hate relationship with UEFA’s golden goose

Words By Stephen Tudor
February 27, 2017
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It is one of the most beautiful competitions to play. Maybe not the most important, but the most beautiful.”

So said Pep Guardiola ahead of last Tuesday’s carnival of chaos that was Manchester City v Monaco and it’s hardly surprising that UEFA’s golden goose brings out the Spaniard’s romantic side considering his impressive Champions League pedigree with all its accompanying memories. Twice he has been hurled aloft in triumph by his Barcelona players while three successive semi-final exits at Bayern Munich presumably only strengthened his reasoning that the tournament is the ultimate litmus test to quantify greatness. For Pep it’s the stage that facilitates, and sometimes rewards, his obsessive quest for innovative perfection.

24-hours later his team stood lined and tall for the Champions League anthem, an anthem that was drowned out by vociferous booing from the majority of the sell-out crowd. Outside the ground those waiting to get in cupped their hands together and loudly joined in. One I saw discarded his burger to do so. For City supporters the tournament is anything but beautiful: it is an artificial edifice created by a corrupt governing body that has repeatedly and consistently treated the club and its fan-base appallingly. It is a Disneyland run by a coven of cronies intent on poisoning their fairy tale through fair means or foul.

This clear conflict in perception could easily have led to a divisive impasse between a coach who thrives off a unified vision and fans who soundtrack his dream with a cacophony of catcalls. Then there’s the club itself whose hierarchy defines growth by how much of a foothold it establishes in European competition. It’s hard to imagine them being too chuffed seeing their all-consuming aspiration be compromised by negativity from within.

That there has been no impasse, divisive or otherwise, is to the credit of everyone concerned and has largely come about by an obvious distinction being made on each and every match day. When the players emerge to warm-up prior to kick-off they are greeted with encouraging applause. When the whistle blows to begin proceedings the City faithful become the proverbial twelve man, as illustrated against Monaco when their fiery, ground-shaking support propelled belief and urgency into their trailing side. It is only throughout the farcically-pretentious, faux-grandiose ‘anthem’ that Blues show their displeasure, a protest timed to starkly show that it is not the tournament itself that aggrieves them – and certainly not their participation in it – but the trumped-up self-serving organisation behind it.

Ask any City fan why they hate UEFA and the answer will vary from person to person, which only goes to prove how many egregious acts have been committed as the old guard desperately attempt to retain the establishment as we’ve known it.

Some would point to the slew of ridiculous refereeing decisions that have been so costly in previous seasons, decisions that go far beyond subjectivity and into the realms of the bizarre. A conspiracy ceases to be so when a clear and constant pattern emerges and it is also suspicious when so many of these non-existent off-sides and over-looked penalties are dished out by novice or inferior referees whose very appointment to the game is a surprise in itself.

Added to this of course were the ‘Group of Deaths’ that City coincidentally found themselves in one year after the next. Let’s park that one next to paranoia for now though and move on.

Others would look beyond the competition to UEFA’s introduction of the deeply flawed FFP regulations that was quite obviously designed to protect the wealthy few while handicapping the newest – and unwelcome – diners at the top table. How odd that its stringent measures were greatly reduced the moment it began to impact on the likes of AC Milan and Manchester United. UEFA’s arbitrary £49m fine handed out to City and redistributed to their rivals meanwhile still sticks in the craw, a fine imposed following a swift changing of their rules when they realised to their horror that City were on track to meet all previously agreed requirements. Yeah that one still burns quite a bit.

Lastly there are the grossly unfair and ethically dubious disciplinary actions taken. In 2012 vile racial abuse of Mario Balotelli by Porto supporters saw the Portuguese club fined 20,000 Euros. In the return leg City were fined 30,000 for entering the field of play precisely one minute later than permitted.

Two years later a spate of racist incidents saw CSKA Moscow forced to host their Champions League tie against City behind closed doors. The decision came too late for some Blues who found themselves seriously out of pocket after booking flights and accommodation yet repeated – and perfectly reasonable – requests to UEFA for refunds have fallen on deaf ears. To make matters worse half a stand of CSKA Moscow fans were allowed to cheer on their team having bought tickets through UEFA’s precious sponsors.

Coming full circle, past the point of parody, there was even a failed attempt last year to fine the club for allowing its fans to boo the Champions League anthem. Even UEFA eventually thought better of that one but while it’s amusing that they regard a tune partly conceived by the bloke who wrote the score to Robocop as being some sort of sacred cultural artefact it also reveals the measures they’re prepared to go to further persecute a club they have undisguised distain for.

I am far from being a conspiracy theorist. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and Al-Qaeda were responsible for 9/11. Yet with every fibre of my being I insist to you now that City fans are entirely justified in booing the Champions League anthem because UEFA have acted in an entirely unsavoury manner towards the club since their post-takeover rise to prominence. Quite how unsavoury perhaps we will never know for sure.

Since Guardiola officially took charge at City last summer I have read a great deal about the contrasting attitudes from coach and fans towards the Champions League. He a staunch advocate of its merits, who sees the rose not the thorns; Blues cynical and bitter through personal experience.
Each article, to various extents, discusses the possibility of the talismanic genius bringing the fan-base around to the idea that the tournament can be something cherished and loved.

The truth is the very opposite applies and it is Guardiola who must let the scales fall from his eyes. He is on the side of the damned now.

Seconds after Sergio Aguero was upended by the Monaco goalkeeper last Tuesday and shown a yellow card for his troubles I saw it: the same gasp of disbelief from Pep that I emitted years ago when a late, late goal by Balotelli was ruled out for an imagined infringement. He’ll come around, I thought. Maybe in seasons to come he might even join in with the booing.

“It is one of the most beautiful competitions to play. Maybe not the most important, but the most beautiful.” Pep Guardiola

Ask any City fan why they hate UEFA and the answer will vary from person to person, which only goes to prove how many egregious acts have been committed as the old guard desperately attempt to retain the establishment as we’ve known it.

Some would point to the slew of ridiculous refereeing decisions that have been so costly in previous seasons, decisions that go far beyond subjectivity and into the realms of the bizarre. A conspiracy ceases to be so when a clear and constant pattern emerges and it is also suspicious when so many of these non-existent off-sides and over-looked penalties are dished out by novice or inferior referees whose very appointment to the game is a surprise in itself.

Added to this of course were the ‘Group of Deaths’ that City coincidentally found themselves in one year after the next. Let’s park that one next to paranoia for now though and move on.

Others would look beyond the competition to UEFA’s introduction of the deeply flawed FFP regulations that was quite obviously designed to protect the wealthy few while handicapping the newest – and unwelcome – diners at the top table. How odd that its stringent measures were greatly reduced the moment it began to impact on the likes of AC Milan and Manchester United. UEFA’s arbitrary £49m fine handed out to City and redistributed to their rivals meanwhile still sticks in the craw, a fine imposed following a swift changing of their rules when they realised to their horror that City were on track to meet all previously agreed requirements. Yeah that one still burns quite a bit.

Lastly there are the grossly unfair and ethically dubious disciplinary actions taken. In 2012 vile racial abuse of Mario Balotelli by Porto supporters saw the Portuguese club fined 20,000 Euros. In the return leg City were fined 30,000 for entering the field of play precisely one minute later than permitted.

Two years later a spate of racist incidents saw CSKA Moscow forced to host their Champions League tie against City behind closed doors. The decision came too late for some Blues who found themselves seriously out of pocket after booking flights and accommodation yet repeated – and perfectly reasonable – requests to UEFA for refunds have fallen on deaf ears. To make matters worse half a stand of CSKA Moscow fans were allowed to cheer on their team having bought tickets through UEFA’s precious sponsors.

Coming full circle, past the point of parody, there was even a failed attempt last year to fine the club for allowing its fans to boo the Champions League anthem. Even UEFA eventually thought better of that one but while it’s amusing that they regard a tune partly conceived by the bloke who wrote the score to Robocop as being some sort of sacred cultural artefact it also reveals the measures they’re prepared to go to further persecute a club they have undisguised distain for.

I am far from being a conspiracy theorist. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and Al-Qaeda were responsible for 9/11. Yet with every fibre of my being I insist to you now that City fans are entirely justified in booing the Champions League anthem because UEFA have acted in an entirely unsavoury manner towards the club since their post-takeover rise to prominence. Quite how unsavoury perhaps we will never know for sure.

Since Guardiola officially took charge at City last summer I have read a great deal about the contrasting attitudes from coach and fans towards the Champions League. He a staunch advocate of its merits, who sees the rose not the thorns; Blues cynical and bitter through personal experience.
Each article, to various extents, discusses the possibility of the talismanic genius bringing the fan-base around to the idea that the tournament can be something cherished and loved.

The truth is the very opposite applies and it is Guardiola who must let the scales fall from his eyes. He is on the side of the damned now.

Seconds after Sergio Aguero was upended by the Monaco goalkeeper last Tuesday and shown a yellow card for his troubles I saw it: the same gasp of disbelief from Pep that I emitted years ago when a late, late goal by Balotelli was ruled out for an imagined infringement. He’ll come around, I thought. Maybe in seasons to come he might even join in with the booing.

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