First came the Premier League, then the FA Cup. And then the trophy they were hungriest for: the Champions League. Saturday 10 June 2023 will forever be a date for this club’s – and football’s – history books.
I watched the Champions League final from the comfort of my own home and it turned out to be the perfect setting for watching us scale the pinnacle of European football, as I could celebrate the phenomenal result with my family. As expected, my dad and I were sat on the edge of our seats for the full 90 minutes. But even my mum and sister, who are less avid football supporters, understood the importance of this game, joining us on the sofa with the tension increasing by the minute.
My faith and support for the boys in blue settled my nerves slightly as the game got underway, as I tried to reassure myself that it was just another game of football – a moment I needed to enjoy. But that self-assurance soon dissolved as I witnessed Inter’s near-impeccable organisation, marking Jack Grealish out of the game. And seeing Kevin De Bruyne leave a Champions League final injured, for the second time in three seasons, meant the nerves bubbled up again.
The weight that this game carried was immense. Not only was it City’s chance to win the Champions League for the first time, but it was also an opportunity to complete the treble and become the only English team to do so beside Manchester United in 1999. And Pep Guardiola was finally in the position to win the only piece of silverware he had yet to lift with this club: that big-eared trophy.
The boys came out for the second half with fight and determination plastered all over their faces. Regardless of how difficult Inter had made it for City to play their game in the first 45 minutes, I knew in that moment, we had the game under control.
Complete joy, total exhilaration, and pure emotion took over in the 68th minute as I witnessed Rodri fire City into the lead and break the deadlock. I could hear the fans in Istanbul go wild, as did I. I leapt out of my seat, jumping up and down in shock and excitement all rolled into one – a moment that I’ll never forget. Even watching the goal back a couple of days later, I got goosebumps and shivers remembering the history that the goal created.
The closing minutes of the game almost nullified all this elation though, as Inter carved out some gilt-edged chances to equalise; the raised pitch of the commentators is always cause for concern in moments like that. Ederson was pulling off one world-class save after another as my heart rate rose and fell continuously. One last save and then the final whistle finally blew, bringing with it an indescribable feeling. I had no words. You’d think I’d be used to the feeling of watching my team lift trophies now, but every time is as special as the last– and this one felt so different. It was certainly worth the wait.
My eyes were watering with happiness not only for myself, but for everyone on that pitch and everyone involved with the club. Listening to Grealish’s interview after the game was so moving, talking about how grateful he was to his family and the important people in his life for helping him get to this point.
It’s difficult to mention Grealish without talking about Guardiola. Despite City paying a hefty sum for the midfielder in the summer of 2021, which was then followed by a difficult debut season in Manchester, Guardiola continuously supported and believed in him, which has now led to him flourishing and becoming vital to the club’s success.
There aren’t enough words to describe this Champions League campaign but if I had to pick just one word to represent it, I’d choose ‘magical’. Amid all the nights under the floodlights – not least watching City beat reigning champions Real Madrid – and the games watched at home as well, it’s been an honour to be a Cityzen. It will always remain that way.
And now comes a well-deserved break from football before a new season, where we’ll go for it all again. Is it too early to start dreaming of a quadruple?