Thursday, 20 November 2014

Old Trafford

The first time I saw him was when I was in fifth grade. I can't remember who he was playing against but I remember becoming a fangirl within minutes. Not just a Cristiano Ronaldo fan, but a Manchester United fan. I started staying up at night to catch United matches (usually past midnight in Singapore time); I memorised every player's face and name: Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji Sung, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar...

All for the wrong reasons - because of my infatuation for this extremely suave football player. Friends can testify to what a superficial fangirl I was; uploading photos of him with nothing but his underwear on (revealing his impressive less-than-eight-percent-of-fat body), and whining each time he found a new girlfriend (as though I stood any chance).

2009 was a milestone for all Ronaldo and United fans alike. A sense of betrayal was inevitable. Yet, a part of us knew that it had always been his dream, and that he was going to excel in Madrid. Indeed, he soared. I remained a fan of United, in word, but I stopped watching their matches.

Fast forward to 2014. I'm here in Manchester. I would be here for the coming 3 years. Any United fan would be immensely thrilled. I was; I visited the Old Trafford stadium within my first few weeks but it was incomparable to my desire to fly to Madrid to visit the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. I realised that when people asked, I no longer said that I was a United fan. I'm a Madrid fan. A Madrid fan in Manchester. I also realised that what had initially started off as a superficial infatuation for a charismatic celebrity had transformed into a deep admiration for a world-class football player.

At the Old Trafford Stadium Museum

Of course, I hadn't had the luxury of time and money to fly to Madrid. Yet, on my birthday, I had the greatest surprise ever. Truly, I can get my hopes up with the man of my life.

Cristiano Ronaldo was coming to Manchester!!! In my first semester here. And it would only be his 2nd time back in Trafford ever since he left for Madrid. Furthermore, he would be up against Lionel Messi! EL CLASICO RIGHT HERE IN MANCHESTER. And I'm going!!!! What are the odds?!


The match wasn't amazing; I'm sure most of the spectators share the same sentiments. Furthermore, Ronaldo and Messi only appeared in the first half; and no goals were scored. (Portugal's goal at death came as a pleasant surprise though!) Yet, every inch of my being was - and still is - grateful for the experience. Seeing Cristiano Ronaldo live is not something that I have ever imagined - not until I knew I was coming to study in the UK. But more than that, standing in the midst of United fans in the Old Trafford Stadium was precious. The adoration that they - we - still held for Ronaldo was overwhelming. "Viva Ronaldo", "Come Home Ronaldo", "We Want Ronaldo". The chants and banners spoke for themselves the hope and love they still harboured. Although it was my first time sitting inside the Old Trafford stadium, it somehow felt like home. I moved along with the Trafford crowd as though I was one with them - jeering when they jeered for Sergio Agüero, screaming each time Ronaldo and Di Maria touched the ball, and raising my hands when it was my turn to play my part in the Trafford wave. It dawned upon me that Real Madrid is ambition, but Manchester United is home.

Come home Ronaldo!

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