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Tony Grist

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The European Cup Final [May. 22nd, 2008|09:36 am]
Tony Grist
I have mixed feelings about Manchester United. 

On the one hand they're too rich, too greedy and some of their players behave like trolls.

On the other they have a beautiful mythology- centred upon the tragic loss of their brilliant young team- the Busby babes- in the Munich air disaster 50 years ago. Also they're my home team. Because of them everybody in the football playing world has heard of Manchester.

I don't normally watch big football matches, but last night was special. Two English clubs in the final of the European cup- one of them Man U with its big red heart and the other Roman Abramovitch's Chelsea-  a rich man's enormously expensive wind-up toy. Abramovitch has created Chelsea out of next to nothing by spending vast amounts of money. Man U spends vast amounts of money too, but they've always been a great team with a a proud history, and a succession of iconic managers; their growth feels organic; they're family.

And that sense of them being family was highlighted by the sentimental decision to let Bobby Charlton- greatest of the surviving Busby Babes- lead the term to the podium to collect their medals.  Bobby Charlton was the Cliff Richard of football- professionally nice- only really, really gifted as well; a Cliff with the talent of Elvis. My granny had a budgie called Bobby Charlton. The guy presenting the medals tried to put one round Charlton's neck, and he stopped it happening; I'm not worthy, I'm just the mascot- though no-one would have grudged it him- and he left the podium with the medal (probably Manager Alex Ferguson's) in his hand. What a gentleman!

It was a great match- even though it did go to a penalty shoot-out. Both teams gave their all. And in the event the better (meaning nobler, prouder, more beautiful) team won. And isn't Ronaldo wonderful? Once in a while a footballer comes along who makes the dumb business of hacking a ball round a muddy field look like an art form.  In my youth there was Georgie Best. Now there's Ronaldo. A week or two back he was thinking of flying south to play in the sun; now it seems he's set to remain in Manchester. I'm glad. The world's greatest player belongs in the world's greatest team. 

Go on, you Reds!

[User Picture]From: dadi
2008-05-22 09:44 am (UTC)
I've seen the match too and definitely the Reds would have deserved to win without the shoot-out. You are so right.. they are a TEAM, while Chelsea is just a sum of good players, which is not the same. And Ronaldo is truly one of these godly figures which even to me, veteran soccer fan, make this game that more fun to watch!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-22 10:25 am (UTC)
Man U's victory felt like a moral victory. It was right that they should be champions of Europe in the year that saw the 50th anniversary of the Munich air crash. A lot of the commentators last night were talking about "fate" and "natural justice".

But I do feel sorry for John Terry. How horrible for him to fudge that penalty!
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[User Picture]From: zeeshanmn
2008-05-22 03:10 pm (UTC)
I had been waiting for the Champions final as a lucky break from the current 20-20 cricket scene in India.

I loved yesterday's match. But I didn't love it the best. Somehow, the whole idea of judging a match on penalty corners puts me off.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-22 03:36 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. To decide a match on penalties is little better than spinning a coin.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-05-22 04:04 pm (UTC)
Bobby Charlton was the Cliff Richard of football- professionally nice- only really, really gifted as well; a Cliff with the talent of Elvis. My granny had a budgie called Bobby Charlton.

None of this is mythology I know. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-22 07:14 pm (UTC)
I've always thought it strange that the United States plays its own, esoteric version of football and not soccer like the rest of the world.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2008-05-22 10:12 pm (UTC)
its own, esoteric version of football and not soccer like the rest of the world.

To be honest, I know nothing of American football mythology, either; I was not raised in a sports-oriented family and it has never been part of my identity to care. (My grandfather follows college football; baseball is unavoidable simply because I grew up in New England. I have several close friends who will talk about nothing but the Red Sox from now until November. I ignore them.) But reading your post, I realize that the only footballer's name I know off the top of my head is Alec James, which is (a) more than half a century out of date and (b) only because my grandmother knew all the words to "With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm," and this makes me feel culturally illiterate.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-23 07:36 am (UTC)
I've never been a football fan, but English culture is so soaked in football it's impossible not to pick up the information by osmosis.

Cricket's my game- or used to be. In recent years it's been going the way of everything else and becoming tacky and shot through with scandal.

There's too much money in sport.
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