A Tale of Two Citehs

I like rivalries. I find they add a spice to the game. This is within sensible reason of course. I see no reason to ever let feelings over a game spill over into violence. I’m no fan of mocking the sick or deceased.

Not that I’m all loving and huggy toward rival fans either.

One of my favorite things about the game away from the field (and of course, in the stand) is royally ribbing the blue hell out of followers of an opposing team.

It adds to the fun and raises the stakes as you dread running into one of your counterparts after a bad result at their club’s hands.

That’s not to say their isn’t some animosity. I support a couple of teams that attract their share of dislike. Through my support of Man United, I have encountered a level of vitriol you’d only otherwise be subjected to if you’d bought an NME journo a copy of Phil Collins’ “But Seriously…” for Christmas.

Meanwhile, San Jose Earthquakes fans despise a Los Angeles Galaxy they perceive as the pet project of the Major League Soccer brass, while NorCal are very very unhappy about the fact that SoCal utilises some of their water.  It was this latter disgruntlement that allowed me, when the ‘Quakes once again hosted the Galaxy in the larger Spartan Stadium venue to maximise the visit of David Beckham, to quip: “Seems fair.  You fill our swimming pools, we fill your stadium”.

On that note, I’d like to make a brief aside to point out a quote former beloved ‘Quake, Goonie and Bash Brother, upon his return to Los Angeles earlier this season.  Alan Gordon: “This has always been my first club. I was here for a lot of years and it does feel like home.”

However, that’s enough of the lovable Smurfs for one post.  Not though, of MLS.  Don’t click away though Europoseurs!  We’re going to be covering a bit of the English Premier League! The place where Ian Darke assures us anything can happen, as long as that “anything” isn’t a team outside a field of four or five usual suspects contending for the title.  Southampton fans, feel free to throw this in my face if you’re anywhere near the title race in March.

You see, there is now a clear and undeniable connection between the two leagues.  Two clubs, inextricably linked in a partnership that goes far beyond the Working Relationship between Tottenham Hotspur and the ‘Quakes that yielded such fruit as Robbie Keane signing for LA Galaxy.  Like Zeus breathing life into the nostrils of Hercules, Manchester City Football Club (and the New York Yankees, a bit) have fashioned a New York Football team in literally, their own image.

You probably won’t recall that back when the much lauded “New York Franchise II: This Time They’re Going To Actually Play in the State of New York” was being pimped out by Don Garber, who slapped on a gargantuan $100m expansion fee and expressed, nay demanded that this be a future flagship club for the league, I was pretty disappointed that they awarded the thing not just to Sheik Mansour but Manchester City specifically (and again, the New York Yankees, a bit).

Having observed Chivas USA (RIP) slowly collapsing in on itself at close quarters, the folly of the “USA version” of a well-known foreign outfit rang clear.  That’s not to say this was the sole or even main reason for the Baby Goats demise (and I sincerely regret their passing and genuinely sympathise with what fans they had left).  However, it did present obstacles.

By being not just affiliated with Club Deportivo Guadalajara but using their nickname, colours and aiming themselves at their fans, they pretty much risked alienating fans of every other Mexican club living in the area, in particular the similarly popular rivals of Chivas Proper, Club America.

Of course (as some pointed out in defence of this move) just because Sheik Mansour (et al) had bought the NY2 franchise, it didn’t mean this would be overtly linked to Man City.  So the new website was predominately sky blue and contained a lot of news about Man City, but that might just be a placeholder, right? And the fact that Man City rather than Mansour himself were primarily announced as the buyers might not be an issue, hmm?

Why, we don’t even know that they’ll be wearing blue yet!  And so what if they’re called New York City FC, which sounds a lot like Manchester City FC – it’s generic enough to avoid comparisons, surely?  I mean Stoke City and Norwich City exist!

So here we are, on the brink of New York City FC’s inaugural season, the badge is out, the jerseys have been presented in lavish fashion and guess what?  They’re sky blue.  With white shorts.  If you created both teams on Sensible Soccer, they’d be wearing the same kits.  In fact, if you created the kits at a sports clothing manufacturer, they’d still almost be wearing the same kits (shockingly, Nike, Adidas and MLS Gear <strong>do not</strong> endorse me, my site or even know of my existence and I don’t endorse them either – I just have no idea how “fair use” works when posting pics of shirts from other websites on your forum):

Link to the Man City shirt on the Nike Website: <a href=”http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/2014-15-manchester-city-fc-stadium-home-soccer-jersey/pid-1488021/pgid-10118736″>http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/pd/2014-15-manchester-city-fc-stadium-home-soccer-jersey/pid-1488021/pgid-10118736</a&gt;

Link to New York City shirt on the MLS Gear website: <a href=”http://www.mlsgear.com/71587.html”>http://www.mlsgear.com/71587.html</a&gt;

The whole thing from day one has had the look, feel and smell of a Manchester City brand extension exercise.  Quite brazenly so.  There are arguments for and against all this of course.  On the pro side, we’ve got the obvious appeal of Sheik Mansour’s billions.  MLS is after all a single entity system (the clubs are in practice really franchises of the MLS organisation, which in turn owns 51% of each team) and to a certain extent, Mansour’s investment is everybody’s investment.  He can (and it appears will) bring in the best players he can, which theoretically means attention, merchandise sales, attendances and most importantly, a stronger league.

There’s also an interest bump to be had.  Though in that particular case, I’m not sure the attention in question is going to be as positive as it might be.  Remember: this is meant to be a “flagship”.  There is no way that we’re going to see New York City as the more prominent partner here any time soon.

This transcends Kroenke’s Arsenal and Colorado Rapids portfolio, though he too apparently toyed with the idea of creating a “Colorado Arsenal” so to speak.  For all the New York supporters (both in terms of fans and advocates) protests that this needn’t be Man City USA, that is ultimately what has been created in NYCFC.  I also find it telling that most that you speak to who still take defensive stance, don’t take the position “I have no problem with this being a Man City branded project” but rather, that this still isn’t really Man City and if it is, what’s the big deal?”.

Well I’ll tell you what the “big deal” is (okay – serious bit coming up!):

I opened up talking about rivalry. The fun, jokey, bragging rights side and the ugly, animosity-driven side.

I mentioned that I am a Man United fan.  I’ve had friends and/or family that support Man City, Liverpool, Leeds Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, you name it.  On reasons of principal, I don’t tar all with the same brush.  To hate rival teams and all their fans for Munich chants, would essentially justify them blaming me for mocking something like the death of Alan Ball or Heysel – something I would neither do nor tolerate.  While I purport to not truly feel genuine seething hatred for rivals (that doesn’t make you “intense” or “die hard”, it usually just makes you a twat), I do feel it from some quarters.

When David Beckham got sent off in France ’98, the following day it was as if, because I supported the club team he developed with and played for and because that club happened to be Man United, I shared in that blame.

For this reason, I can’t support Man City or an extension of them, which NYCFC undeniably is.  Consider that if I had been in the immigration process now instead of during 2006 and had I been moving to New York instead of Southern California, the one thing stopping me from supporting New York City Football Club is it’s overt and clear place in the Manchester City global structure.  I know other United fans who feel the same.  Not to mention fans of Chelsea, Arsenal, West Ham, even Scunthorpe.

Consider also that this permeates this club’s identity. They could win a succession of titles but It’s going to take a long time and a lot of success for people to look on and not think “Man City’s MLS club is doing quite well”, if they can even get to that point at all.  That’s a terrible state of affairs for a would-be flagship.

On one hand, I look forward to exchanged barbs with the auld enemy on a new continent.  I also get to stand against their very concept.  It would be nice if LA Galaxy could crush this outfit on a yearly basis.

But on the side of me that cares about MLS and its progress, whatever positives NYCFC brings with it, it’s concept and identity brings unnecessary negatives.  That’s a shame and the New York market was too valuable to be another groups satellite team.

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