Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Hullo from Manchester

July 21st, 2012 · 1 Comment · Austria, Football, London 2012, soccer, Sports Journalism, The National, UAE


The UAE Olympic soccer team’s Summer 2012 European Tour continues, jumping from Austria, via Munich, to the English city of Manchester where, I am happy to report, it is not raining.

(Turns out that Manchester actually has fewer rainy days, and gets less rain than is typical in England. But last I had heard, rain had been falling throughout the British Isles for the past half year, give or take a month.)

I anticipated the UAE team’s move by half a day, arriving just shy of midnight on Friday.

My first impressions of the city?

Not as much of a mess as I expected.

I visited Liverpool 20 years ago, and caught a train in Birmingham, and I was fairly certain the whole of this part of England was a rotted out post-industrial mess. Certainly the inner cities.

Manchester, however, is Not a Disaster.

The city is known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and when I see the older brick buildings downtown I have Dickensian images of Oliver Twist asking for a bit more gruel at the workhouse.

I encountered some obviously intoxicated guys while taking the train into the city proper. One of them, running at a platform, grabbed the bottom of his T-shirt and hauled it over his face, for no particular reason, and I was reminded of Tracy Morgan, who does the same for comic effect.

I can’t say it felt truly dangerous, the late-Friday-night ride into town, but it wasn’t exactly Austrian Bucolic or UAE Proper, either.

I am staying in a curious area, a redevelopment zone in the old Salford docks area, called MediaCityUK. Everything here is new, and relentlessly modernistic, and the BBC (photo, above) seems to occupy about half the buildings here.

I had forgotten that Manchester made a big push for the 2000 Olympics, losing out to Sydney, and I noted in this piece for The National that the Summer Games finally are coming here, 19 years after the bid — albeit nine soccer games spun off by the London 2012 Olympics.

To most of the world, Manchester in modern times means Manchester United, one of the planet’s elite soccer clubs and, the past few years, Manchester City, Man U’s rivals who won the Premier League last season.

The nine soccer matches will be played at Old Trafford, the mammoth home park of Manchester United, including the UAE debut on Thursday against Uruguay.

After catching some sleep at the hotel (behind the BBC building, below), I made my way back out to the airport to pick up a story on the Emirati team touching down on English soil ahead of the Olympics.

Their plane was late, and they needed so long to get through baggage claim and customs that I had to leave before the coach came out. But it was 6:46 p.m, which is 9:46 in the UAE, and we are off the floor at 11.

I literally ran for the train back to the city center, and I filed 300 words 19 minutes before deadline. (I’m not sure they actually ran my story; I don’t see it on the website.)

The UAE team came in OK, aside from the coach, who seemed to be chasing missing equipment, and I got just enough detail to do perhaps my first “here they are at the airport” story. (The one that may not have run.)

After I banged that out, it was time for dinner, and MediaCityUK has two or three restaurants, and I ended up at Wagamama, a Japanese-noodle chain … and that was fine.

So. Here we are. It doesn’t quite feel like the Olympics, but if you look around you can see the occasional pennant, and maybe even a person wearing a “Team Great Britain” T-shirt, and I imagine that come kickoff on Thursday we might even think we are in London.

As I noted in the piece I wrote for The National, Manchester was thinking more of being the host city for the Olympics, not one of the satellites. But nine soccer games probably is about right for a middling-size city in the middle of the country.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Chuck Hickey // Jul 23, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Congrats on another Olympiad. 14? 15? Would love to see a brief recap of your previous Games. Enjoying, again, your dispatches.

Leave a Comment