31. Old Trafford Twice

@Manchester, Greater Manchester, England.

Manchester is the city, I always knew about; it is the English city name which I heard the second most after London, and most of the time it was related to sports. It also had a wonderful Gothic cathedral dedicated to St. Mary, tallest all-steel residential building in the United Kingdom called No. 1 Deansgate, a great tram system, the tallest skyscraper outside London known as Beetham Tower as well as a bigger structure which is being built. We had the opportunity to travel from Cochin to Dubai and then to Manchester thus starting the journey from this historic city. But the procedure of wandering around Manchester didn’t happen on the same day, as it happened later in a few days. Manchester always was a top priority not considering the historic landmarks; as they would be Canterbury, York and London the other way. But considering Manchester as a city, being there was needed; not only for myself, but for some of my friends who are heavy supporters of the most successful club in English football Manchester United; I don’t really have many Manchester City fans as friends, or there is not any to boast about, but that club also had to be in the list to visit, along with the cricket ground there.

The journey had to start at Old Trafford, the home ground of the most popular soccer team in the world, and without any doubt, the most successful. I rarely followed the English Premier League as my interest was more into the national teams when there was the World Cup, Euro or Copa America, but I always knew the team which has won the most titles in English football. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about them is that bar scene in the movie Euro Trip and what followed, and also my friends, the Manchester United supporters who makes fun of Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool most of the time. Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal was also something which brought the team into my mind, but from that moment at Manchester, none of them were needed to remember the club. Theatre of Dreams, the second largest soccer stadium in all England, with wonderful looks and the proximity to the cricket stadium. But finding the cricket stadium was going to be a difficult task as not many knew much about it. There existed not much clues about where to go; it was not going to be like finding the home of the Red Devils, it was like finding El Dorado, Atlantis, the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth or the Golden Fleece; but somehow it was found in the end.

I would dedicate my visit to one Old Trafford related to soccer to so many people, my friends who want to be called mancunians than anything else, but who would I dedicate my journey to the other Old Trafford to? I wonder if anybody would want that to be in their name. While the soccer stadium had so many visitors, the cricket stadium was deserted and people seemed unaware of it. Even the security personnel there seemed quite happy that we wanted to see the cricket stadium and not the soccer extravaganza on the other side. I felt that it was so unbelievable for him, but the fact that we were Indians would have cleared his doubts about us being at the wrong stadium. It was good to be at that stadium, as it was good looking and so well maintained. I did wonder how they managed to maintain it so well considering the very low number of visitors and cricket seeming to be of very less importance out there. If there was such a stadium instead of Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at Kaloor, Cochin, people would have been crowding to come in and have a look around it. Everything about it looked so perfect, with a modern and historic touch added to it without losing it’s sporting essence. But I do wonder what role would cricket have, with soccer already risen above the limits and tennis always there as the new game for gentlemen. The chances for the former gentleman’s game is surely bleak at that part of the world.

Manchester City, the other soccer club of Manchester had a stylish looking stadium and as a club which is rising by a big margin these days, was worth a visit too, even as it wasn’t really listed in the first schedule of journey. The fifth largest stadium in the English Premier League and the twelfth-largest in the whole United Kingdom, has kind of a cable system which seemed to hold the roof of the stadium and these gave it a special look from the outside. It has an advantage over the other clubs by stadium architecture for sure, but I am no fan of this type of modern artificial type of building and would like to stick to a more ancient style even if outdated and not suited for a stadium. Even a Colosseum or any amphitheatre would have been further more satisfactory for me. I would have chosen something of the ancient Greek style surrounded by hills on most of the sides and steps carved into the sides; that would have been a fantastic scene and the best place to watch a soccer match from. That would be an instant when one would be close to the nature as well as to the sports; there would be even poems as a side-effect of watching these soccer matches and there would be some new English literary movement in relation to these Premier league matches; but that would be too far gone an idea.

Manchester could not be all about sports even as it was all that filled the mind at that time. There was going to be something special, a Hidden Gem as they called it, St Mary’s Church, a Roman Catholic Church which has been serving the people of Manchester since 1794. It would be no match for the usual cathedrals of the United Kingdom in size, and all those structures would make this look unimportant due to it’s simplicity and small size. The importance of the structure is that I could find it between thousands of similar looking buildings. It’s doorway has a Medallion of the Lamb of God held by two beautiful angels from both sides. This door along with the small cross on the top and the small statue of Mother Mary might be the only thing which differentiates the church structure from the buildings surrounding it. As it was closed, we spent more time in front of the city town hall which looked like a cathedral at first sight. The Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian-era, Neo-gothic structure which attracts you even from a long distance away and it is as if it has the ability to attract tourists from a long distance away. A little distance from there, stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln which was kind of surprising for me. There came the American feeling out of nowhere.

As much of Manchester’s history is concerned with textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution, I could trace it’s stories back to what I saw in the medical museum in Leeds. As the most productive centre of cotton processing and the biggest marketplace for cotton goods, Manchester was the land of textiles, a Cottonopolis and a Warehouse City for the island. As one of the first industrialised cities of the world, Manchester is the symbol of modernisation and urbanisation even as it was not free from workers’ rebellions and riots. Affected by the Great Depression in the United Kingdom of the 1930s and the Second World War, Manchester has changed and now we know the city for sports and not industries. Now it has it’s two teams at the top of the English Premier League this year set apart only by the goal difference. But Manchester’s legacy will live on in it’s museums from it’s Roman history to it’s heavy role in the Industrial Revolution, from the textile industry to it’s Trade Union movement closely following the women’s suffrage and even football which is always growing in strength with a history of the past and the present. One can see the effect of the Industrial Revolution from the city’s Coat of arms itself; it is different as it has an antelope and a lion both wearing red roses and holding a shield; there is a globe covered by flying bees and also a ship along with a knight’s helmet. It is surely about industries, trade and navigation.

Diving out —>