It was a warm breezy evening on the 26th of October of 2014, when a friend of mine, a Chelsea supporter, invited me to attend the screening of Manchester United vs Chelsea; which was held by the United and Chelsea fan clubs in the city. Being a United faithful, there was no way that I was going to say no. What followed however was absolute madness. That was the first time I’ve experienced a screening with two sets of fans at the same place. The banter, chants and the noise; there was no better place to have watched a game of football and Robin Van Persie’s equalizer in the dying minutes blew the roof right off.
Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world and the biggest in terms of fans by quite some distance. India has one of the largest viewership of the English Premier League and we have the official fan clubs of different football clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool etc spread across various metropolitans. Manchester United Supporters Club Hyderabad known as MUSCH, recently became the fourth official Manchester United fan club in India after which they were featured on the club’s official Facebook page. It also happens to be the largest and the only official fan club of Hyderabad.
We spoke to Akhil Vaddadi, Secretary and one of the founding members of Manchester United Supporters Club, Hyderabad. Here’s what he had to say.
1. When did you start supporting Manchester United? What was your first memory of United?
I’ve supported United from 1998, just by reading the newspapers. My first United memory was Ryan Giggs scoring one his glorious screamers. I think it was against Sheffield Wednesday or some team like that.
2. How did the idea of starting a supporters club come up? How many of you were involved?
Initially it was just a group of people watching the matches. It was just a plan to watch it with other United fans in the city. There is a Facebook group within which a few of us made a plan to watch the matches together in the month of April 2013. We were about 5 to 7 of us, United faithful.
3. When did MUSCH started getting its name in the city?
We were properly known after our United’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at OT in David Moyes season; mainly because we chanted so loudly and went all mental when Van Persie scored a late equaliser.
4. How did you go about building an organized and structured fan club?
We just shared duties among ourselves. One takes care of organizing the event, while one takes care of social media. It’s basically a highly collective effort, just like how United does it: the United way.
5. What activities do you do other than screenings?
We donate food and clothes on Feb 6th every year in the memory of the Munich disaster. We’re also in talks for taking care of an orphanage whose kids are really interested in the game. Apart from this, we have a football team competing in various tournaments across the city.
6. How do you support the screenings financially?
We don’t spend any money at all on screenings, we just tell a place our requirements and it’s up to to them if they want to accommodate us. We don’t charge any sort of fee for the screenings or any of our events. From the past season we have a deal with Xtreme Sports Bar Madhapur and we’re quite satisfied with the deal.
7. It’s a difficult time to be a United fan, considering you started post Ferguson era, did that affect people that were a part of the club and did the skepticism creep into your head?
Well, yes, how the club performs has an effect on us; but that doesn’t demotivate us from attending or screaming our lungs out week-in week-out. The skepticism does creep into our minds but we try to make it as lively as possible. With banter and chanting and that’s working out well till now.
8. How did you attain the official status? How was the response by the fans here?
We need to show some 50+ official members to United and there are certain other conditions like charter and accounts. It’s a fairly straightforward process but convincing people to buy the official membership was a task because it’s about 4.5k but we pulled through. I can’t describe the feeling in words, when we became official and the United official handle sent a tweet to us. We were playing Swansea that weekend earlier this year and we lost but regardless of that we had a crazy time.
9. Tell us how different is the atmosphere and turnout for a big game to a cup fixture or a Stoke City/Aston Villa screening.
Well, for a big game it’s packed, you can’t watch the match if you’re sitting and it’s loud, really loud. For a small game it’s all comfortable and things. The average turnout is 40-50 which goes upto 200+ for big games.
10. You were invited for the #ILOVEUNITED India Event and had the chance to meet Dwight Yorke and Quinton Fortune in Bengaluru. How was the experience?
It was f*cking awesome, they’re the people most of us idolised in our childhood and they were such gentlemen with a great sense of humour. Fortune said, “If you’re a Liverpool fan, just raise your hand and the security will escort you out.” And when Rooney scored, Bengaluru might have echoed “ROONEY! ROONEY!” for a good few minutes; beating Liverpool was just epic and sweet like it is always.
11. Lastly, what do you think of the current United scenario? LvG out?
I think we need to get another manager in but not right now. Let LvG manage till the end of season and get Pep or Mourinho in. But, I won’t say he needs to be sacked, he hasn’t been helped by injuries we had. I personally think Luke Shaw’s injury derailed our season.