On Sunday night I attended an event called #I AM UNITED which was hosted by Manchester United and Airtel at the spacious Blue Frog lounge in Delhi. The purpose of the event was to bring together thousands of die-hard United supporters in India for an evening of football viewing (Manchester United vs. Swansea), drinking (open bar all night) and paying respect to one of the greatest coaches of all time (obviously Sir Alex Ferguson).
From what I had heard, somewhere around 15,000 people had registered for tickets online and, in the end, only 2,500 die-hard United supporters were able to get in. I’m not a United supporter however I attended the event as a guest of the Manchester United Soccer Schools and was genuinely excited to be there as I love Blue Frog, was looking forward to watching the match and was interested in being around so many of Indians who are passionate about a club which plays its matches thousands of miles away from their country.
I arrived at 7:00pm thinking I was going to be one the first ones there, but entered the gate surprised to see t over 1,000 people dressed in red scattered all over the venue. I soon found my friends from Nike and Manchester United Soccer Schools and engaged in catch up conversation while also trying my best to digest the madness of what I was seeing around me. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, classes were everywhere singing, laughing and just genuinely happy about life. I quickly concluded that it would be almost impossible for any other football club in the world to generate this many passionate supporters at a football viewing party in Delhi or anywhere else in India especially relying solely on social media for promotion.
The rest of the evening went by the Manchester United playbook. A late Rio Ferdinand goal sealed the victory for Sir Alex Feguson’s last home match. Fergie made a classic and powerful on-pitch speech thanking his players, staff and supporters and finally Manchester United were awarded the much deserved Premiership trophy in front of their raucous home crowd. I enjoyed the evening experiencing and discussing the beautiful game’s potential in India with friends from AIFF, MUSS, Nike, The Football Link and Amity University.
My favorite part of the whole evening were the tears. Most people can fabricate laughter, can fabricate anger, but very very few can fabricate tears. And on Sunday night I saw so many grown men crying while Sir Alex Ferguson was on the big screen saying his good byes to all of the faithful supporters. I’ve actually never seen a grown man cry in India even though every day we all see so many things which could bring even the toughest man to tears, however on Sunday night tears of Indian men were flowing for a Scotsman who has decided to stop coaching his UK based club after 26 years. Humans are truly funny beings.