City Blogger: The Expat Connection I
- 15 October 2013 10:43
- Posted by @vic_bird
Following the recent announcement of the team of eight City Bloggers from around the world who will be writing for us this season, in her next City Blogger piece Victoria looks at the importance of football to British expats.
Expat: An individual living in a country other than their country of citizenship.
Football Supporter: An individual who takes the wins, the losses, the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly and still supports their team with zeal.
As many expats will know, upping sticks and moving to another country is bittersweet. It’s exciting to live in a different place but leaving behind family and friends is very tough.
When I waved farewell to my mum, dad, sister, brother-in-law and nieces and set off through the security gates at Manchester airport in April 2008 towards my new life in Chicago I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I’d held it together pretty well until then but as my bag went through the scanners the enormity of what I was doing dawned on me. Not only was I leaving my family, and a well established social circle, but I was also doing it alone.
The first few months felt like freshers’ week at university all over again: desperately trying to meet people, make new friends and accepting invitations to all manner of social events. But what I really needed was to find somewhere to watch the football as I was sure I’d find some fellow Manchester City fans in the Windy City which would be a direct connection with home. I was blessed to find my MCFC Family at The Globe Pub and not only have I met people to watch the matches with and banter about City, I have also made some lasting friendships.
Members of Chicago MCFC, with Mike Summerbee, at the opening of the City Soccer in the Community field in Haas Park, Chicago (October 2012) Photo credit: @ChicagoMCFC
As a Mancunian growing up in Sheffield being a City fan wasn’t always easy but I was taught from a very young age to be proud to be a Blue. Manchester and Manchester City Football Club is in my blood as both my parents are staunchly Sky Blue, and their parents were too. As I mentioned in my previous blog my paternal Granddad was a police officer in Manchester who worked at Maine Road for home games. My maternal Grandfather, who sadly I never met as he died in 1966, was a member of the Beswick Prize Band that entertained the crowd from the pitch at Maine Road both before games and at half-time. He had grown up in the Army School of Music and could play any musical instrument as well as conduct and write music. In the Beswick Prize Band he mainly played the euphonium, which my mum reminisced about being tasked with cleaning. My maternal Grandmother, the inimitable Henrietta Daly or Nanna as I knew her, worked at Central Station in Manchester which is now the GMex Centre and where MCFC held the City Live pre-season party this year.
Since moving overseas my personal relationship with City has altered as the bond has become so much more valuable to me. An aspect of this must be the desire to retain your identity as an expat but it’s also the connection to something familiar and constant which can be a shorthand for introductions when you see other people sporting your team’s shirt.
Before I was a twinkle in his eye, my dad joined the Royal Navy in 1966. He spent many of his 12 years of service away from home without regular access to newspapers and the telephone, let alone the internet and all it has brought us (websites, Twitter, blogs, Skype, Facebook, FaceTime, Google+ - and the list goes on).
The BBC World Service was his only means of finding out the football results, and there would be no match report – just the scorelines. My Granddad would mail him copies of The Pink, but they would take several weeks to catch him up whilst at sea. I asked him if he’d also felt the same bond with City strengthen whilst he was away, and he agreed saying that it’s true that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
Discussing my Dad’s experiences when he lived away from home made me wonder whether it’s universal that your team becomes so much more when you are an expat, regardless of the team supported. I asked my university housemates who all live overseas now too: Mike (Arsenal) is in Cairo, Ian (Liverpool) is in Japan and Griff (Ipswich) is in South Korea. I also spoke to other expats that frequent The Globe Pub, as well as some members of other MCFC Official Supporters Branches here in the US.
Tune into my next blog on Tuesday 12 November to find out what they all said.