Posted by James
May 28th, 2011. The day of the famed Champions League Final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC. I remember talking to my friends at school, “Rooney is going to score 2 goals, Messi will get one back but it will be too late in the end. I got Manchester United (United) winning it all!”
“Really?” My friend Mark wasn’t convinced. He thought Barcelona (Barca) would prevail and sadly they did winning 3-1. Long before this UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) final I was a huge fan of Manchester United. It is often considered one of, if not the biggest clubs in the world. Many people who side with United are considered “band-wagon” fans, just picking the winning team for a change. Not me! I fell in love with United because of Wayne Rooney, the prolific goal scoring machine and arguably England’s best player for the last decade.
As a kid, we didn’t have access to the fancy “European” sports channels, so I grew familiar with his work by the likes of YouTube and other internet sources. I remember watching him play, always so intelligent, decisive, powerful: the complete Striker. Rooney was my idol, I would always try to emulate his playing style whenever I played soccer. His style was my ideal way of playing so naturally I gravitated to him. And that sad day in late May as I cheered for United’s equalizer and then cried as moments later as Messi and Barca stole the cup marked an important moment for me.
Following this day, the US began investing massive amounts of money into the English Premier League. So for the next 5.5 years I would began seeing more of my favorite team and favorite player. Waking up early mornings and annoying my parents as I cheered for goals year after year. Yet despite the increased coverage I always felt like something was missing. To cement yourself as a real United fan one must make the famed pilgrimage to Old Trafford -their mighty home stadium. So when I decided I would be studying abroad this semester, this was one of my first concerns and largest trip budgets.
And this last weekend, my dream of seeing the Red Devils live at home finally came true. As the week progressed I remember feeling more and more nervous that something might go wrong, I’d miss the bus, or plane, the tickets might not arrive, something felt off. And then it hit, it just felt too good to be true. Something I’ve dreamt of for years was finally coming true.
Friday, September 9th
“Chirp, Chirp, Chirp, CHIRP, CHIRP!” My alarm sounds. I snooze knowing its 4 am. A couple minutes later I drag my corpse-like body out of my bed and begin getting ready. Today my dream is coming true!! Yet right now all I can think about is sleep. After only a few hours of sleep, I begrudgingly pack my bag and run through my checklist. As I come out of the bathroom I look at my watch. 5:10?? The bus! I grab my passport and tickets and burst out the door of Lafayette. As I board the 1st, then 2nd bus, then the train to Paris something begins to change in me. With each step of my journey completed the dream starts to become reality. Finally, I make it to the airport and walk on to my plane all smiles.
As I exit my cab and walk into the best hostel I’ve ever seen, I suddenly tense up: now the moment of truth. Did my tickets arrive? I walk up to the receptionist and begin checking-in. I “casually” mention that I bought tickets to the Manchester Derby and that they should have arrived. She notices my conflicting emotions of joy and anxiety. Finally she returns from the stockroom with an envelope in her hand, and my heart legitimately skips a beat. I began thanking her, probably too much, as I open up my package, once again all smiles.
Saturday, September 10th: The Manchester Derby
I wake casually around 10, shaking the night before. Late into the day, the true ability of football was witnessed as I became good “mates” with someone from my
hostel. His name was Sam, and he had flown 31 hours all the way from Sydney, Australia for this game. We both grab some traditional English breakfast and start making our way down to the game. The first timers and foreigners become interspersed among the locals in the massive crowds as we approach the stadium. As we near, we hear the singing and chants of the local United fans, all “preparing” for the game.
As Sam and I round the corner we see it! Old Trafford, instantly we both become children jumping up and down and shoving each other with excitement. “Oh my god, will you look at this Sam!” My heart is racing, blood pumping we begin a fast sprint to the stadium. As we find our separate gates and wish each other a good match, time stops. I scan my ticket and walk through the gate.
The security guard says, “Welcome to Old Trafford, and thank you.” As I move through the gate I almost yell, “No THANK YOU SIR!” And what happens next no words can truly describe, seeing that stadium gradually fill with fans, then eventually the players can’t be put into words, certainly not by mine. And while we did not win the match, much like back in 2011, it was a life changing moment. I can still hear the iconic roar and chants of fans throughout the game. One moment that will always stay with is linked below, click to experience a little of the Red Devils at Old Trafford.