No more. So. What now? A dictator-built stadium hosts a global TV product with a dictator-owned champion team and one in FFP-induced financial levitation. That illuminated bowl has the old familiar centerpiece, a game that still brings beauty and delight, watched by a group who may still be impacted by the spectacle.
Manchester City won Saturday. Hard effort, cooperation, and inventiveness define the finest European football team. L’Équipe’s game report labeled City “moral in the way in which the club has built its strength,” yet the team is an attractive and practical model. As is often overlooked, they were “a generous and magnificent loser” in their previous failures, making a grueling triumph sweeter.
Pep deployed the quadruple centre-back and hefty shutters in Istanbul. Tactical irony. Erling Haaland, the greatest defender, made City unstoppable. The four centre-backs make up for Haaland’s lack of touches and Pep’s counterattack phobia. Guardiola might have won more Champions Leagues with his best pure defenders. Haaland completed three passes in Istanbul as City won.
Other positives: City ended with four English outfielders, proving that this outsourced institution can still speak to the parks, pitches, and levels down the pyramid that produced Kyle Walker and John Stones
This new club period is a mechanism of state authority and anti-democratic state.
Another game exists. City’s triumph changed football. First nation-state team wins world’s premier club competition. A dictatorial nation state owns, supports, and controls the world’s most powerful and profitable club as a PR puppet.
Sports fans don’t care. Not yet. Cartels last. Barcelona and Real Madrid risked everything to remain afloat. Whiskey and rye for the elderly fellas. Football success is tainted. Money, ruthlessness, and egomaniacal proprietors create every club.
The edges flashed before the game. VIPs strolled. Sheikh Mansour of Manchester City witnessed his second game. His brother, UAE president Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was present. Family-owned club. This exhibits strength unimpeded.
City owners’ human rights record is unnecessary. Yemen’s war crimes, “black sites,” and oppressive laws. Amnesty International says 375 African migrant workers were unlawfully seized and deported “on the basis of skin color” and humiliated. Before imprisoning her, police raped a Nigerian laborer. “Emirates give. Emirates take,” police said.
Nobody wants to debate this. Football begins. sports pages. Football chatters are not journalists, haters, or Manchester United fans. Sport is Abu Dhabi’s megaphone, soft structural power, money extraction, and reverse-colonial interest in biddable post-industrial communities.
City won football politics. It suggests more of the same from others, with all the implications and compromise. Qatar lurks as Saudi embeds at Newcastle United, threatening a regional ego-duel in this delicate historic cultural industry. Dismiss money. Sports work differently.
It will exceed financial rules and thin the pyramid more.
The financial cheating charges against City, all denied, seem inevitable, a struggle between the economic manner of a multi-billionaire absolute monarchy and the need to defend the current order, good and bad, in a Victorian community sport.
Rules exist. After winning their Lausanne appeal, City won the final three years. The picked 11 (yep, City brought 11 attorneys to the courts) will likely earn medals as part of a big footballing Slapp (strategic lawsuit against public participation) claim against European football’s regulatory body.
Who knows? City may beat Uefa’s in-house lawyers and the 115 Premier League claims in domestic court. Who’s this generation’s star? Erling Haaland—goal king? Lord Pannick—Kings Counsel?
Either way, expect more now, more fuel for what appears to be the most likely outcome of the next few years: a fundamental division in top club football administration and a bigger junking of old structures that oppose billionaire globalism.
That endless government-backed financial stability, competence, and knowledge will succeed? City’s Istanbul win appeared like relief, pleasure, and a foregone conclusion, not heartfelt jubilation. It was like wealthy middle-aged visitors touring the Grand Canyon on their bucket list and remarking, “well, it was a trek but I’m glad we went.”
Man City’s transition occasionally resembles fury, disobedience, and nonsensical internet debate. It’s a shame that club ownership, not just this one, has no clear sense of care, duty, and regulation, no caution and scepticism, just sharp elbows and a desire for easy escape. It’s integrated.