I am truly blessed. I don’t know why or how, but my life is blessed with great people and incredible, unexpected experiences. I knew many weeks back that I would be travelling to Manchester, UK in April for Soccerex. Prior to booking my flight I checked the EPL fixtures and was happy to see that the Manchester Derby was taking place on the evening of the 8th. So rather than getting in on the 9th as originally planned, I decided to get into Manchester on the 8th just so I could be in the city while the derby was going on, to be a part of the excitement. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to be in Old Trafford watching the match versus seeing it from some crowded central Manchester pub.
About 2 weeks before I flew to Manchester, I met MUSS India head coach Chris O’Brien in Delhi. As soon as he found out that I would be in Manchester on the 8th he asked if I wanted a ticket. My heart started pumping because I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would get a ticket to the match. I, of course, said yes and thanked him profusely and then later miserably failing as tried to hide this from my die-hard Manchester United supporting colleagues.
A couple of days after this conversation in Delhi, Chris was in Manchester and sent an email which I slightly expected but didn’t want to see. He said that unfortunately there is a ticket shortage and it doesn’t look like I will get the ticket. I was sad, but definitely understood and was thankful to Chris for his efforts.
So on the morning of April 8th I boarded my flight to London from Delhi and then lugged my 6 bags through the city and onto a train to Manchester. While relaxing on the train, I called Chris as we were planning to meet in a pub before the match so I could at least experience the derby excitement with longtime United supporters. When I called him, he sounded happy and asked me if I still wanted to go to the match. I of course screamed, “YES!!!” and he communicated that he had a ticket and I’d be accompanying his family and an MUSS India colleague to the match.
All of a sudden the exhaustion caused by the long, bumpy flight to London from Delhi and then the hell of lugging so many suitcases through the capital city all wore off and all I could think about was how lucky I am. I got to Manchester, checked into my hotel, showered quickly and headed to Old Trafford as fast as one possibly could. I won’t describe the entire experience, but I’ll certainly list my Top 5 highlights of the evening in no particular order:
- Sitting under the Manchester City FC supporters and hearing 1500 people fill an entire stadium for 90 minutes singing “Campeones, Campoenes, Ole, Ole, Ole”
- Pre-game game drinking in the pub across the street from Old Trafford and watching supporters from all over the world sharing their love for the Red Devils and predicting the goal scorers over multiple pints of beer3. Seeing so many global superstars on one pitch at one time4. My first sip of the sweet, warm hot chocolate that warmed my icy cold body at halftime5. Experiencing the match with MUSS India program director Vaibhav Gulati and MUSS India head coach Chris O’Brien who is hands down one of the best people I’ve ever met
I hope to get more unexpected or expected opportunities to experience big matches live in the future...