Yes, it's me. The oil rag, the glory hunter, the mercenary fan who watches his team of mercenaries play soulless football against passionate, salt-of-the-earth teams who've never before heard of mega-rich owners and high transfer fees. Yes, I've been a City fan only since the summer of 2008, when Sheikh Mansour benevolently agreed to pour a billion pounds and the souls of puppies and the essence of rainbows first into the pocket of Robinho, and then followed it up with those of Tevez, Toure and (Balo)Telli. I know not of City's expoits before 1993, having not graced the planet with my presence until then, nor can I recount to you the exploits of Paul Dickov and Nicky Weaver in the '99 promotion playoff final.
My first vivid memory of actually watching football is actually one that is quite recent-ish. Having been born into a cricket-crazy family in Dubai (Abu Dhabi's illustrious neighbor city), I had never actually watched an entire football game before I was invited to watch what I now know to be the final of the 2007/08 Champions League. As we all know, it was our cross-city rivals in red who lifted the trophy that night; but I actually have almost no recollection of the game itself. Indeed what I remember most is falling in love with the beautiful game, soaking up the intensity and passion showed both on the field and in my mate's living room by both sets of fans, who were evenly represented there that night. I came away wanting to be a part of that, and vowed to truly get into it next season.
But then where should my allegiance lie?. "We have Ronaldo!", said my friends of a United persuasion (Ha!); "Chelsea is the team of the future" cried a few; "You'd look great in red!!" screamed the representatives from Islington and Merseyside. The football leagues in the UAE and the Middle East are nowhere close to the level that would stoke supporter passion as intense in the Premier League. This may improve in the future, but for now I had to make do with the Premier League or maybe the La Liga. I finally got my answer that August.
Unbeknownst to those who label us all glory hunters, almost all City fans in the Middle East cheer the team on for the same reason our Mancunian counterparts do; they're the home team. This was never about the money or the influx of extreme talent. Sure, I was more excited about the arrival of Robinho than that of Zabaleta but then again, who wasn't?. The transfer wages that seemingly kept increasing year after year after 2008 was never the reason I supported City (ironically, I felt supporting any of the existing powerhouses would itself be a case of glory hunting and jumping on the bandwagon). "Where were you when we were shite?", City fans might ask. "Right here, I just didn't know I was a City fan yet".
This doesn't just go for City fans too; a Red Devil classmate of mine, when it came down to it, chose the university that was closer to his beloved Old Trafford. He's been a season ticket holder for three years now and goes to almost every home game (not letting pesky things like midterms and final projects get in the way). Another shells out a substantial amount to travel from Birmingham to Spain to watch the Clasico every year. If I wasn't studying here on the other side of the Atlantic, I would be going nuts at the Etihad every chance I got (lower legal drinking age may be a factor). These are people who will defend their adopted club just as fiercely as the people who're born into football allegiances. And at the end of it all, isn't that really what the sport is about?.
So I'll be here next year even if we lose out to Gerrard's Liverpool or Mourinho's Chelsea. Heck I'll be here ten years from now even if we become a mid-table side struggling to avoid the drop zone (hope it doesn't come to that). For all of us here on the blue half of Abu Dhabi, the '08 Manchester City evolution finally gave us a team to root for. It gave me a chance to relive City history through the fantastic words of Simon Curtis on ESPN FC, who is the inspiration behind this blog; an opportunity to listen to the excellent Ian Cheeseman and Shaun Goater on BBC Radio Manchester on matchdays when I have to be at work; and a reason to constantly check City's live update feed on MEN.co.uk when I should be taking notes in class (those sound like plug-ins but they're not).
Also, I look pretty darn good in Sky Blue.