Part of the charm of club football is that each football club has a distinct identity that is often adopted and justified by its fans, whether they are long-term supporters or glory-hunting bandwagoners. This tongue-in-cheek article runs the rule over a selection of top European clubs and their distinct identities. Before attacking me because your club has been slighted, please note that I am a fervent supporter of one of the clubs covered here.
FC Barcelona – the wannabe underdogs
FC Barcelona love to think of themselves as the underdog, despite producing arguably the best team in club football history very recently and still enjoying the services of the most talented player of his generation. The renowned “Barca DNA” has as much to do with a chronic victim complex as it does with tiki-taka and triangular passing. To this day, the club still laments how Real Madrid poached Alfredo Di Stefano – in 1953.
Star defender Gerard Pique recently lamented that Barca “have never had the chance to spend lots of money”. He has a point, if one chooses to ignore that Barca have spent nearly 650 million euros on players since 2003, a figure second only to one club…
Real Madrid – the elitists
Let’s be honest, Real Madrid and Barca are both elitist clubs. Fans of both teams go to the stadium and behave like they’re watching an opera, only cheering when they see something that they like. Then, it’s back to the cigars and pumpkin seeds. Difference is, the people who run Real Madrid don’t even make any effort to hide their elitism and pretentiousness. Real Madrid continues to hoot its horn about being named by FIFA as the Best Club of the 20th Century, even though we’re nearly 15 years into the next century. To top it off, club president Florentino Perez once had the gall to ask FIFA to suspend all official matches worldwide on December 18 2002 to mark Real Madrid’s centenary year.
Bayern Munich – the smug perfectionists
Bayern Munich’s earned status as the best team in the world has their perfectionist fans gloating. The team plays attractive football, defends as a unit and produces world-class homegrown players. Moreover, many of the people who run the club are legendary ex-players. Bayern Munich is truly the prototype of how a football club should be run. The fact that the club gets absolutely free reign to poach all the best players from their Bundesliga competition is a moot point. Mario Goetze grew up a Bayern fan they say, so that makes it ok for them to poach Goetze a week before playing the team that moulded him – Borussia Dortmund – in the Champions League final.
Borussia Dortmund – the hipsters’ choice
Borussia Dortmund’s great performances of late mean they are far and away the hippest team around. This is a club that produces talented homegrown players year after year and, despite seeing them leave before they hit their peak, still manages to play attractive, winning football. The fact that their coach favours large glasses seals the deal. Borussia Dortmund, the hipsters’ team of choice.
Manchester United – the history-lovers
From attractive pass-and-play football to 81 pointless crosses into the box, Manchester United have fallen a long way. David Moyes’ team has little to offer in the present and doesn’t appear to have a very rosy future. But that’s ok, because Man United fans can always turn to history to provide them solace. It doesn’t matter if Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Tottenham or Everton finish about them. History is on Manchester United’s side, and that’s all that counts.
Chelsea – the pragmatists
When Chelsea won the Champions League title in 2012, every football fan who wasn’t a Chelsea fan recognized that it was the first time in many years that the team that won the Champions League wasn’t actually the best team in the competition. But Chelsea fans will say winning is all that counts, and they have a manager who fully supports that outlook. Ever the pragmatist, Jose “the Special One” Mourinho doesn’t feel guilty at shunting out the club’s most talented attacking player or launching vicious, uncalled-for verbal jibes at rival coaches. Winning is all that counts. And with Chelsea looking good to win the Premier League title this season, it’s an argument that looks set to live on.
Manchester City – the shit-disturbers
While fans of the traditional powerhouses scorn Manchester City for selling out to wealthy Middle Eastern owners, Sky Blues supporters justify the club’s recent emergence as an elite team by extolling the virtues of capitalization and globalization. No matter that most Man City fans can’t pronounce the word “Etihad” or locate the United Arab Emirates on a map – they’ll find many ways to convince you that Man City’s foreign ownership simply makes them an inclusive, tolerant and forward-looking club.
Arsenal – the philosophers.
Arsenal fans are adept at justifying style over substance, even though their team has spent several years lagging behind their competitors on both fronts. 8 trophy-less seasons is not an issue, Gunners fans say, because it’s all about building a team for the future. Arsene Wenger has seemingly spent the better part of a decade building a team for the future. With players like Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and even Kyle Bartley leaving the club and winning silverware elsewhere, there’s no telling when the future will actually arrive for the Gunners.
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This article first appeared here and was published with the prior permission of the author.