by David Sweeney

For me Manchester City and beer have always gone hand in hand. However after what can only be described as the strangest five days of my life, I’m unsure whether I want to see a pint ever again.

To give ourselves a well deserved break in the sunshiiiiine me and my father booked a holiday for five days on the Algarve incorporating a one-night stop-over in Lisbon on the night of the game. So we packed our bags and off we went and had a normal few days soaking up the sun and enjoying the local lager. Thursday morning comes around and we board the coach from Albufeira to Lisbon in preparation for the game. Once we arrive and badly negotiate our way around the underground system to Rossio Square (the adopted meeting place for City fans that day) instantly it was beautiful. Having last year braved freezing temperatures watching the lads shamefully surrender to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Lech Poznan, Rossio was idyllic; scorching hot and with the beer flowing readily it couldn’t have been more different. This was a near perfect scenario. For the next 6 hours we stood next to a fountain and drank whilst occasionally belting out the odd verse of ‘Bluemoon’, which incidentally a couple of quick thinking Portuguese men had perfected on their accordions in the hope of earning a quick buck.

Being the poor student that I am it wasn’t long before paying 5 euros for a beer grew tiresome and so I went on a one man mission to find the nearest supermarket to stock up on a crate. Luckily I did and it was cheap as chips – 5 euros for 12 cans! 1-0 to Sweeney, or so I thought. Sadly, by the end of the day, I would lose by a cricket score.

Back at the square a lad asked me to take a picture of him and his mates. Interestingly while lining them up I noticed he had the famous ‘Kaka’ tattoo emblazoned across his chest. It was him! The idiot many (including myself) thought had a superimposed tat that eventually found its way into the MEN for all to laugh at was actually a genuine victim of his own premature excitement at a transfer that never materialised and here I was taking his bloody picture.

The day progressed nicely and after meeting a couple of lovely Blues (sorry I am shocking with names) we headed to catch the underground to the stadium. Except things got a little bit more ridiculous when we got off the tram. A pair of little old dears were charging 50 cents in order to use the stations facilities which I imagine would be ok on a quiet Sunday afternoon. However, picture the scene with around 200 drunk City fans desperately scrounging around their pockets in order to pay for the piss they so desperately needed. After around 10 minutes of pushing and shoving, with the old ladies standing firm, most angrily trudged away with their bladders still full to the brim.

Upon entry to the stadium I was filled with a feeling of underwhelming disappointment. Having been told constantly throughout the day that it was a new (ish) 50,000 seat wonder-ground not too dissimilar to our own Etihad, I was far from impressed. The multi coloured seats made the stadium look cheap and tacky whilst having only two tiers on each side made it appear smaller than the capacity suggests.

Most of the girls looked like Didier Drogba and even then I think I’d still prefer a dance from the powerhouse Chelsea forward.

Then, for the worst part of the whole trip, the match itself. It was terrible, dull beyond belief, with both sides offering very little going forward and Edin Dzeko playing more like Krusty the Clown than a £27 million striker. My misery was compounded when Sporting scored a scruffy second half winner to send their fans into pandemonium. It’s crazy really, the famous European name that is Sporting Lisbon celebrating a narrow home victory against Manchester City like they had won the World Cup. It took me a moment to get my head around it, my conclusion being one of shock that we really are big time now. It should also be noted that I made my television debut that night, on the 87th minute hands aloft belting out a chorus of ‘We’re not really here’. A proud moment.

As we were contained for around 30 minutes after the game I was relieved to arrive back at Rossio Square for a few post match beverages, but it was in this time when my father came into his own and confirmed what I had suspected for many (many) years; that in fact he is the real life version of Homer Simpson.

In his questionable rucksack he bizarrely deemed appropriate to bring to the football, he carried our passports, his camera and two jumpers. A camera I can understand. Jumpers hmmm possibly if it gets cold. But PASSPORTS? One question, WHY? You can all probably see what happened next due to my irate tone. He only went and left the whole bag on a bench and when we returned it had unsurprisingly vanished. Cue mass hysteria between the father/son combo with me screaming obscenities at him and him screaming them back at me. Eventually we decided it best to take stock and so needing to calm down he sent me to get some much needed cigarettes. Unfortunately the only place with a working machine in the area was the dingiest strip club you can imagine; honestly most of the girls looked like Didier Drogba and even then I think I’d still prefer a dance from the powerhouse Chelsea forward. So I desperately attempted to make my through to the back corner where the machine was located whilst being dragged all over the place by hopeful hookers. I finally got 20 fags and hurriedly exited.

After a worrying night we made our way to the British Embassy where we spent the whole morning explaining our sorry case to the relevant authorities. Luckily they believed our story and issued us with temporary passports to travel back to the UK – not ideal but we could at least come home. Relieved we headed back to Albufeira to complete our holiday. This minor hiccup made our trip far from conventional, far from easy but, in the main, certainly memorable.

My City supporting European away record is pretty grim. It now reads done two, lost two, giving me a 0% success rate. It is three for three if you include a pre season friendly at Rangers a few years back. As for the return leg, I have no doubt that we will see this lot off tonight as there is no way Bobby will allow a repeat performance of the shambles that ensued in the first leg. So passportless, photoless and with a face redder than Ferguson’s snozzle I returned to the UK on Sunday to discover that we had been beaten by Swansea. Typical City.

Roll on Bucharest in May, MCFC OK!