Monday, February 06, 2006

The Red Devil

Source: New Yorker (no online content)
6th of February 2006
The article has been painstakingly typed out and can be found here
The Sporting Scene
Why is an American financier risking everything on English football?
By John Cassidy

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the following is the text that relates to FC:

Some United fans have abandoned the club for F.C. United of Manchester, a semi-professional team founded after the takeover, which competes in the North West Counties Football League, a division ten rungs below the Premier League. F.C. United plays home games at a stadium in Bury, an industrial town about ten miles north of Manchester. One evening, I drove to the stadium, paid an entrance fee of seven pounds, and found about two thousand people, most of them men between the ages of twenty and fifty, settling in to watch F.C. United play Eccleshall F.C.

The F.C. United players, who include a plumber, a schoolteacher, a stock boy, and a window fitter, were wearing red and white-Manchester United's colors-and, in the stands, a fan had unfurled a large banner that read "FC UNITED. MUFC EXILES." Another banner said "OH, FC UNITED. THE ONLY TEAM IN MANCHESTER THAT’S NOT IN DEBT." The atmosphere was festive; despite the crowd's small sire, the sound of its singing filled the stadium.

At halftime, the score was 3-0, with F.C. United in the lead. In the bar under the stands, I ran into Jules Spencer, one of the organizers of the anti-Glazer protests, who is on F.C. United's board. Over the summer, Spencer and his colleagues raised a hundred thousand pounds for the team, from four thousand donors. Each donor became a member of the club, a not-for-profit organization modelled on the "associo" scheme, which is common in Spain. "Ultimately, it means the supporters hold the power," Spencer explained. 'They own the club. They elect the board."

F.C. United continued to dominate its opponent in the second half, running up the score to 7-1. Some of the team's supporters teased Eccleshall's goalkeeper, yelling "You fat bastard!" every time he touched the ball. At Premier League grounds, fans can be arrested for swearing, but here they could curse with impunity. "F*ck off, linesman!" a middle-aged man sitting near me screamed whenever an officiating decision went against the home team. "F*ck off!"

With each goal by F.C. United, the chants grew even louder. Some were familiar-"United, United, top of the League!” others were new. The previous day, two Manchester United fans had accosted Alex Ferguson at an airport in Hungary, where his team was playing a game. According to the English papers, Ferguson told the fans that if they didn't like what was happening to United they could watch Chelsea instead. Word of the encounter traveled fast. The F.C. United fans sang in unison:

And Fergie said:
Go watch Chelsea.
Are you having a laugh?
We'll be watching FC.

(with thanks to J. Stephen Hartsfield of MUST-USA who scanned, tested and edited the piece)