Next time | The print


He had tears in his eyes. Me too. For his 18th birthday, I offered Sonny a trip to Manchester, England to see our favorite football team play face to face, the one he had no choice to love at the time: birth.

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Gossip claims that Fiston’s name is inspired by the club his father adored, Manchester United, from the coronation of King Eric Cantona in the mid-1990s. Not all legends should be believed.

In truth I tell you that if Sonny had become a fan of Manchester City, the club in the “blue” part of the city, I would have disowned him, and three times instead of once. At home we are red. I was before he was born, when I covered European football for The printin 1999, the year of the Red Devils’ famous triple League-Cup-Champions League.

So we met in April at Old Trafford, Manchester’s legendary stadium, known as the “Theater of Dreams”. We had long planned this trip, postponed three times due to the pandemic. The game against West Ham became a game against Wolves and then against Norwich.

We also went to a game of Salford City FC, a fourth division club owned by former United players (including David Beckham), in a small family stadium on the outskirts of Manchester.

Thankfully, United faced Liverpool two days later at Anfield, just 50km from Manchester. The two greatest teams in the history of English football: 20 championships at United, 19 at Liverpool. The greatest of rivalries. The equivalent of a Canadian-Nordic game at the power of 10.

We could not miss it. I got myself a Father’s Day gift early. We hid our United shirts under our jackets and shared a beer.

In the seventh minute of the match, the 53,000 spectators sang You’ll never Walk Alone, the cult song of Liverpool fans, to pay homage, in his absence, to United champion, Cristiano Ronaldo, whose son was born dead the day before. I was shivering.

A German told me he came to Liverpool specifically with his son and daughter to see Ronaldo. I didn’t dare tell him that we had had the pleasure of seeing him play in Manchester four days earlier. I know my privileges …

We had also made this pilgrimage to the North West of England especially to see one of the greatest players in history live. Last September CR7 (as he is nicknamed) made his big comeback in the club that revealed him on the international stage, after a dozen years of exile between Spain and Italy.

I remember how it was yesterday Son jumping for joy in front of the TV, when Ronaldo scored the goal in the Champions League final, won by Manchester United in 2008. He was just 4 years old. We were on vacation in the United States.

The following year, after winning the Ballon d’Or as the best player in the world, Ronaldo left for Real Madrid. I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see him in the red United jersey again. Then he returned to cement his legend at the Mancunian club, at the age of 36.

So we got to Old Trafford early, time to visit the club museum and for Sonny to buy a shirt with his pocket money. Vintage ▾ of the Cantonese period.

He knows his football like the back of his hand. He is aware of the latest rumors about player transfers, of the young nugget growing in the ranks of such a French club. I admit it: I created a monster.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored an early goal, due to a stupid defensive mistake. Then there was a corner in the opponent’s box, and Fiston had the reflex to film, just in case … Ronaldo, of course, headed with his head jumping higher than everyone else. Norwich returned in the second half, so much so that in 75And minute was 2-2 when Ronaldo scored with a typical, unstoppable and powerful free kick.

We screamed. We jumped for joy. The smile split up to his ears and tears in his eyes, overcome with emotion. United won 3-2. Ronaldo became the first player in history to score 50 club hat-tricks, one month after he became the club’s all-time top scorer. We couldn’t have imagined a better scenario.

“We’ll do it again in 10 years dad,” Sonny said. And next time I’ll pay! ”


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