Man City fans are set to boo Champions League anthem at the final vs Chelsea – here’s why

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Manchester City fans are likely to boo the Champions League anthem ahead of the final, while club officials share an awkward moment with Uefa suits up in the posh seats.

Those supporters lucky enough to be present at the game will clearly want their team to win, mainly because they want them to win every game, but also as a huge “Up yours!” to a body that they feel has gone out of its way to obstruct and anger City and their following.

The clash with Chelsea is a crowning moment for owner Sheikh Mansour, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak and their executive team, the culmination of almost 13 years of investment and hard work.

But just 12 months ago, City’s European dreams lay in tatters, as they faced a two-year ban from the competition that could have led to key players leaving for pastures new, and damaged their ability to attract reinforcements.

The governing body had acted hastily in imposing a hard-line punishment on the Blues, based on allegations that they had broken financial fair play rules by funnelling money into the club accounts in the guise of sponsorship.

Uefa’s argument fell apart under scrutiny when City took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but the scars from that tangle remain livid, despite efforts behind the scenes to patch up a relationship marred by mistrust from both sides.

 

City’s brief flirtation with the European Super League did not help, although Al Mubarak – when he meets Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin ahead of the game – will no doubt reinforce City’s stance that they were reluctant conspirators, late to the party, when the so-called Dirty Dozen sprang the news that sent waves of shock and revulsion throughout the European game.

The Estadio Do Dragao is a fitting venue for that meeting, as it witnessed one of the worst moments in relations between City and the governing body, back in 2012.

Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure had been racially abused by Sporting LIsbon fans during a Europa League clash, leading to the Portuguese club being handed a 20,000 euros fine.

When City were fined 30,000 euros for being a minute late in arriving on the pitch for the second half against Porto shortly afterwards, Uefa’s priorities were laid bare for all to see.

That was just one of many instances that have led City fans to despise Uefa, who they see as a plaything in the hands of Europe’s top clubs – and whose FFP rules appear to be designed to slow down, or stop, the advancement of nouveau riche clubs like City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

City were charged for a breach of those FFP rules in 2014, leading to a hefty £49million fine and restrictions being placed on their transfer spending and squad size – a punishment that manager Manuel Pellegrini blamed for City’s failure to defend the Premier League title the following season.

The fact that former United chief executive David Gill and ex-Liverpool supremo Rick Parry both held key roles at Uefa at the time the FFP plans were devised and implemented, only heightened the suspicion that they were intended to preserve the status quo rather than protect clubs from their own zealous spending.

City fans responded by booing the Champions League anthem, despite players – and successive managers – being uneasy with that show of annoyance, feeling it set a negative tone for the match.

But Uefa just kept on making insensitive and abysmal decisions that just infuriated Blues supporters even more.

In the same season as the FFP punishment bit, CSKA Moscow had their stadium closed after instances of racial abuse and violence by their support, and that ban included City fans, many of whom had already bought flights and hotel rooms for the game.

Uefa refused to listen to their plea, leaving many fans out of pocket – and on the night of the game CSKA made strenuous efforts to stop the few Blues who had travelled out of the stadium, while hundreds of CSKA fans and many wearing colours, were allowed in, and in full view of the Uefa match delegates.

That passed without sanction – in fact CSKA subsequently had the length of the stadium closure reduced on appeal.

Effectively, City fans were the ones punished for CSKA’s failure to sort out their problems.

It was noticeable that Ceferin had distanced himself from the original ban, for proceedings that had begun before his tenure, and he was quick to offer an olive branch, perhaps realising that City’s growing strength could lead them to a final, and bring embarrassment and awkwardness all round if the bad blood was allowed to fester.

“We like them, they are our club, but this process is a separate thing, and I don’t interfere,” Ceferin had said.

And he and Al Mubarak tried to build a relationship from the rubble left by ten years of tension and anger, with a phone call in the aftermath of the CAS verdict smoothing things over.

Al Mubarak said in the wake of that affair: “Life is too short to carry grudges. It is an important competition. It is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world of sports.

“It is a competition we want to win and it is a competition we have to respect in order to win.

“And this was a challenge – it’s behind us, end of story as far as I am focussed on one thing. How I can help this club compete in this competition and win it and how to have a constructive relationship with Uefa? I think it’s the only way to go.”

But the seeds of mistrust clearly lingered, and City’s hasty decision to jump into bed with the elite clubs driving a European Super League brought another crisis.

The Blues were not driven by financial necessity or greed, as were the others, but rather a fear that, having gained a place at the top table, they would again find themselves outside, with their noses pressed to the window, if they did not join.

City have become Champions League regulars, qualifying for the competition for the last ten seasons without ever getting beyond the semi-final stage and manager Pep Guardiola has appealed to supporters to drop their hate-hate relationship with Uefa and demand greater success from their team.

But the supporters’ opposition has strengthened, if anything, and the chance to vent that displeasure at Uefa’ showpiece final, with their top brass in attendance, will probably be too much to resist.

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