And the Reds Go Marching On!

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Writing this piece is a little out of character for me, as I am not exactly a big sports nut; however I would like to share with all of you an experience, as indeed it may be termed, that I had in October of 2012.

I’ve spent a number of years in the UK, primarily in my childhood, living in and around the city of Manchester. At the time, I hadn’t quite caught on to such social symptoms as football fanaticism, or the die-hard support one generally pledges towards a favoured sports team.

However, when I’d been brought back to India, I quickly realised the significance of having lived in that great city, which besides being the Industrial and Commercial centre of Great Britain, also houses that which is probably the most famous soccer stadium in the world – Old Trafford.

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So when I went back to England to meet Dad, who was living there for almost a year at the time, last year, besides having an amazing trip in which I relived many cherished experiences and moments of my childhood, including double cheeseburgers, page 3 of The Sun, such expressions as ‘wickid’ and ‘bloomin’, the British museum and the Music Experience at the O2 Arena, I convinced Dad to let me and my brother sneak a peek into the Mighty Red Army’s home ground, Old Trafford stadium, home of the Manchester United Football Club.

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Best, Law and Charlton. Me, Pater and Mater!

I have been a faithful, though not fanatical supporter of the great club throughout my life, and even to a lay supporter like me, the significance of entering the hallowed grounds was enormous. For the first time in my life, as I crossed the triple statue of Best, Law and Charlton before the massive entrance of the Club, and walked into the Tour area, through the stands, and paused at the corner of the massive football ground, I began to understand what might drive a man to become a soccer hooligan.

There was no match on, obviously, but the atmosphere of the stadium, including the expressions of wonder on the faces of all the other people taking the tour, and the pomp and pride in the tour guide’s voice, was charged with history, heritage and exaltation – a modern Babel, so to say, where people, regardless of linguistic or ideological barriers come together to build something great, revolving around something that is the pinnacle of the progress of human achievement and adrenaline-fueled ego.

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The guide took us around the stands, telling us facts about the club, the players and the politics and game of chance surrounding membership and securing season passes. Everybody got busy, taking pictures of themselves and their companions on the grounds of the stadium.

We proceeded to the interior of the club, where we got to sneak inside the dressing room, where all the celebrated players’ jerseys were hung, each as a shrine to the player whose name was emblazoned against the iconic red. More pictures, and then we walked around the place independently, oohing and aahing at every wall or sign we’d seen on TV, as the players gave interviews between play.

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We were taken to the legendary East Stand, constructed in the memory of the players who perished in the Munich Air Disaster of 1958. I took pictures of the eternal light lit there in memoriam, solemnly saying to myself the Club’s emphatic proclamation: We Will Never Die.

Finally, we were led into the Manchester United Megastore, where we all engaged ourselves in buying a myriad of souvenirs for friends and football fans back home. Some of my friends, energetically, enthusiastically and very specifically demanded that I bring back commemorative Man Utd socks! One can imagine the volume of sales at the store, given the enormous hordes of Man United fans across the globe!

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I walked out of Manchester United, glowing, feeling as much a part of the club’s hallowed history as anybody else who’d had the privilege of taking the tour, however far removed of course, from the legends who have played the great game there throughout the years.

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