So, who put the ball in the ” Munichs’ ” net?
The walk from L-Stand at Old Trafford is a long one for some visitors. It is probably the most cramped part of the now huge ground, with the old reception immediately opposite you just a few yards in front as you leave the exit gates. The railway turnstiles and old club shop on your right and the new upper tier of K-Stand, together with those spilling out of the ground on the left, block you in on both sides. For some it is a long walk up the slope and across Warwick Road to the safety of the new coach park. Mind you, it’s not as daunting as the walk from down near Samuel Platt’s that Leeds fans made back in May 1998.
On occasion it is a considerably long walk up to the top of Warwick Road, further still to the tram stops and then on into town. Manchester city fans know this all too well which is why, when they came to Old Trafford on February 6th 2008, they observed the minute’s silence which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster in which 23 people, including eight Manchester United players and their very own Frank Swift, died. Let’s not kid ourselves, it was self-preservation not respect.
It is simply not possible that they miraculously managed to filter from their 3,000 allocation that day all their supporters who so freely refer to Manchester United as “Munichs” and mock the deaths. If they did then there’s no way they’d have sold out their end. If they were away at Ewood Park and had been asked to observe a minute’s silence it would have been a very different picture, a la Leeds for Matt Busby in 1994. Although at least Leeds were backwards enough to sing “Munich” en masse when we were in close quarters.
Many would have respected it, don’t get me wrong, but they were quiet during that minute of remembrance because they knew that the walk from L-Stand would have been longer and more harrowing than ever. They know that, we know that and no amount of purring from journalists, Alex Ferguson or anyone else associated with either club will change the mutual understanding that their “respect” was for their own safety, not the 23 people who died.
I still haven’t seen all of Sunday night’s BBC drama “United” but I did catch the last five minutes, which was long enough to see the closing scene in which Jimmy Murphy (played by David Tennant) sees the faces of some of the eight dead players as his patched-up team prepared to walk onto the pitch in the 1958 Cup Final versus Bolton. Views on the entire film are mixed but you can’t fail to have seen that last bit and been moved. Less than 24 hours later the vast majority of Manchester City’s 3,500 following at Ewood Park were heard loudly mocking those dead players and the other 15 people who died at Munich, which has come as a surprise to everyone except most United fans.
They remain the biggest revellers in the tragedy, surpassing Liverpool, who still have a sizeable number of supporters who think that it is something to laugh at, not that United are without any blame over Hillsborough, although on a much smaller scale than either of those two. This is demonstrated every time city put a team out and is obvious for those who care to listen. By all accounts “Carlos Tevez is a blue, he hates Munichs”. A chorus of “if you hate Man United” is always followed by “Munich, Munich, Munich” from a significant number of blues, not the minority their PR machine will no doubt refer to in response to the latest show of Munich-revelry at Ewood Park, where in celebration of their team’s most memorable modern-day victory – at Wembley versus United, not their one-nil win at Blackburn – they could be heard rejoicing “who put the ball in the Munichs’ net”.
There seem to be a good number of blues keen to defend the idea that it’s ok to collectively refer to United fans as ‘Munichs’. Like a lot of Reds, I’m not really that arsed any more about what they sing about us but city are on a PR offensive, insisting they’re having talks about how to tackle the issue because it messes with the idea that they’re salt-of-the-earth, good-humoured, proper football types. A number of journalists were posting on Twitter throughout the game, all referencing the new Toure song and how it sullied the name of their club. It wasn’t a night when decent-thinking onlookers will have been wanting to ‘Be Part Of It ©’. It didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the bumpkins.
This morning’s daily papers were less than complimentary. The oft-questionable Daily Mail make the questionable claim that Garry Cooke has “worked tirelessly to eradicate such chanting in recent times” and that city “have taken out banning orders against supporters caught on camera making aeroplane gestures”, following it up with this no-shit-Sherlock reminder that Cooke’s late nights and early mornings have been to no avail – “there remains a section of the City support who are undeterred by such action, which (sic) some going online last night to defend their use of the term ‘Munichs’ as a collective to describe United supporters as a whole, arguing it is not an offensive term”.
What exactly will come of such an inquiry we don’t know and we’re unlikely to find out within a generation such is the prevalence of the term “Munichs” amongst their divvy, ignorant support. Until the penny drops with city fans there will be those who will take it upon themselves, as they did in such numbers at Wembley last week, to educate them as to what is and what is not acceptable. Anyone who saw what went on in London will have noted that jovial references to a tragedy which prematurely ended the lives of 23 people, including eight great footballers, are most definitely not.
Here are some of the reactions from today’s press and web:
London Evening Standard (one for the lurking blues) http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard-sport/football/article-23944414-manchester-citys-fury-at-munich-chants.do