Saturday, May 18, 2013

17 Years of Inspiration: A Farewell

“You started in United when I was 3. Your team caught my heart when I was 13. And now you say "it is the right time", when I'll be 30. I've just realised that I've been taking you for granted along the way, thinking that you'll always be there, yelling at your players, chewing gum, checking at your watch, regardless the changing from Cantona, to Keane, and to Vidic. On May 8 this year, I've finally realised that it has been a great 17 years of inspiration. I know I will miss you so much. :( Thank you, Sir Alex, it has been an utmost gratitude to know you, and to be in the same Old Trafford with you and your team at one point in my life. You will definitely be the most important part of the Manchester United that I will remember. :')”

That paragraph above summarised my feeling ten days ago, 8 May 2013. I submitted the message to the Manchester United’s facebook page under the #thankyousiralex section, hoping that the old man himself read it, and smiles, thinking that there is someone whose name he can’t even (correctly) pronounce, from a land far-far away, who cares about him. Oh, and maybe he will also read and recall that the message comes from the country he and his team once failed to visit, due to the bombing.

In addition to that message, I want to write a more elaborate note for myself. Partly, this was inspired by Pangeran Siahaan’s rather emotional note that you can see here.

I still can recall vividly the first time I knew his name, as the part of Eric Cantona’s team. It was practically my very first encounter with football, at the end of 1995/1996 season. It was against Newcastle United, and it was not even a real match, a highlight instead. I remember the program was called “English Premier Highlights”. I did not pay so much attention on the stern-looking, gum-chewing Alex Ferguson until the FA Cup final that season. It was the red devils vs the reds. Cantona vs Fowler. Eric Cantona, the initial reason for my loyalty to the club, has scored a goal. Near to the end of the second half, the man in his black suits caught my attention, cheerfully checking at his watch, happily looking at his boys, still chewing his gum. They’ve got the double that year.

Since then, just like what Pangeran Siahaan experienced, I started to faithfully cheer for the team. I compiled and collected newspaper articles about the team, stapled them on papers, wrote extensively in my diary about the matches, in loving details. It may sound slightly crazy, but I felt the overwhelming excitement (rather felt like “butterflies in your stomach”) every time United played. To make it sounds crazier, I started to connect the feeling I’ve got from watching United to my life and its ups and downs. As for my version of “my life” at that period, it would be literally translated as “my academic life.” For some of you it may sound boring and nerdy, but yes, indeed, the team’s consistently best-est performance in the decade may have a statistically significant influence on what I’ve done during my high schools years. :D

Later, after Cantona’s sudden resignation, and with the increasing life burden as a grown-up (:p), I did not spend as much as time watching United as before. However, years later, I was lucky enough (even luckier than Pange!) to visit that very theater of dreams, M16 0RA. That day, Old Trafford was also attended by Eric Cantona, Peter Schmeichel, Ryan Giggs, and Sir Alex Ferguson himself. It was the United that I will remember. I really could not ask for more. It was, indeed, one of the most important days in my life so far. :)
(Later I admitted publicly in a video for the UK FCO, that to be honest, being a United fan was one reason why I applied to study in the United Kingdom. :p )

That day, I actually confirmed that even a dissertation deadline, a lengthy 5-hours London-Manchester journey, and the absence of companions, could not hold me back from witnessing the team for which I’ve developed this particular feeling. Additionally, it was Ramadan and iftar (fast break time) was at 9 o’clock GMT. I even forgot about my anger and disappointment several weeks earlier, when the English media fiercely attacked Ryan Giggs, told the world what kind of man actually he was, with Fergie still stood beside him, furious at the journalists who had the courage to pop up the sensitive question prior to the Champions League final. (That time, I did pray for United to lose, for I was really disappointed by Giggs, and was pretty sick of the arrogance of the United’s alay fans).

Sometimes I still could not believe that I did what I did that day. But after all, love in football is something really hard to explain. It’s often illogical, most of the time irrational.

As I have said in my #thankyousiralex message, most of the time, I have taken for granted for Sir Alex’s existence in the team. I have always been optimistic with the team, regardless news about star players leaving the team behind, because I unconsciously believed that Sir Alex would stay and would always be there. As a democracy believer (and sometimes proselytizer :p), I even believe that Sir Alex should be the only dictator who deserves to dictates (while in any other place, democracy shall prevail :D).

As 8 of May arrived, I’ve come to a conclusion that for this past 17 years, I often overlooked the role of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Maybe it was Manchester United’s consistency in doing the most impressive things that inspire many of its fans, but it is the ethics, the discipline, the commitment for hard work of its architect (for the past 27 years) that plays enormous role behind the consistency.

Dear Sir Alex Ferguson, I thank you.

*I’d like to note that there are interesting numbers in my message: 3, 13, and 30. Another note: the bombing incident in JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta that has made United cancel its Jakarta’s leg happened on my birthday, 17 July 2009.

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