Source: The Guardian
When two Austrian tourists were promised 'a trip to United', they hadn't planned on an afternoon at Gigg Lane, as Tony Howard explains
FC United's appeal has gone intercontinental as people from across the globe descend on Gigg Lane to see what the fuss is about. Foreign television stations have been a permanent presence at games, and last Saturday, two Austrians made the pilgrimage for the North West Counties Division Two Trophy clash with Nelson. Once they'd got over the fact it wasn't technically 'Manchester United' they were going to see, they had a great day.
Wolfgang, an architect from Vienna and student girlfriend Martina, wanted to take in a match while in Manchester, and staying just a mile from Old Trafford, it made sense to them when their hosts promised to take them to see 'United'. What didn't make sense was the fact they were soon walking past the ground, where Rooney et al were set to play Fulham, to the Metrolink tram stop and on their way to Bury.
Wolfgang follows Rapid Vienna in his home city, but prefers to watch English games on television. "The quality of the football in Austria is not the highest," he said as we travelled to the ground. "So we watch English football instead to get our entertainment." Unfortunate then that he chose probably the worst game so far in FC's history as they went down 1-0 after extra-time in a frankly dire affair.
What made the day enjoyable for the two Europeans was what happened off the pitch in the stands and watering holes. That is, once they'd grown tired of people in the pubs mishearing their nationality and constantly asking what was happening in the latest episode of Neighbours.
Sampling a pint of bitter after the match, Wolfgang said: "All the way through the game the fans sing. And it is loud. Then afterwards everyone seems to have a party, even though the team lost everyone is drinking and singing. Everyone is happy!"
The politics strike a chord too, as back in their home country supporters of Austria Salzburg are considering 'doing an FC' and forming their own club in the aftermath of the takeover by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. In a warning of what could happen at Old Trafford, the billionaire has changed the club's name to Red Bull Salzburg, altered the club's badge and colours, swapped the fan's popular end and, more shockingly still, banned anyone who's protested about it.
So, they may have seen a terrible game of football but when the Austrians return home they can tell those in Salzburg all is not lost. They can relay tales of how fans can successfully build their own club and bring enjoyment back to football - even when getting beat.
Friday February 10, 2006