Champions League final: Man City fans say football kept them together during lockdown

Manchester endured months of restrictions during the pandemic

Feature on Manchester City FC at the Etihad complex and Manchester city centre.
PIC shows fans L-R: Zoe Holroyd, Kiyan Iqbal (7) and Natalie Holroyd.
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Getting together to watch football for the first time in months, Manchester City supporters have said the fan community helped them through the dark days of lockdown.

Manchester was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in Britain and lived under nearly uninterrupted restrictions for much of the last year, after the North West of England became an early hotspot of the second wave last autumn.

"We've had nothing to do for the past year, whereas City have been a constant in our lives," said Daniel Gallagher-Parker, 20, who writes for the website City Report.

“The online, social media aspect has definitely grown and grown this season, purely just because people have had nothing else to do.”

Stands at the Etihad Stadium were empty between February 2020 and the final day of the Premier League season last weekend.

But 10,000 were allowed to watch City lift the Premier League trophy, and 6,000 supporters have tickets for Saturday’s Champions League final.

They will travel to Porto this weekend to watch City play Chelsea and compete for what would be their first Champions League title.

“We’ve lost a lot by not being able to go the ground and not being able to watch matches together,” said Labour MP and City fan Jeff Smith.

“Hopefully we can all be out on the streets celebrating on Saturday night.”

Alex Timperley, 31, who co-founded a group called Fans Foodbank Support to collect food donations from City fans, said the group’s activities had helped to keep supporters in touch.

“The help and support we’ve got for it from the fans didn’t stop during the pandemic,” said Mr Timperley, a season ticket holder at the Etihad.

“The reaction from City fans was fantastic from the start. It’s felt like a very positive thing in a year when there hasn’t been much positive.”

The group usually collects donations from fans at men’s and women’s games and even co-operates across Manchester’s footballing divide with an equivalent group of United fans.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to games next season, but we’ve made the best of it really,” Mr Timperley said.

Now that restrictions in England have largely been lifted, fans without tickets for Porto are taking the chance to meet up in person again.

Manchester cinemas are offering tickets to watch the Champions League final on a big screen. Hospitality venues in Manchester’s Printworks will also be showing the game.

With fans allowed to meet at each other's houses again, Natalie Holroyd, 30, will watch the game at a party decorated with City banners and, if the weather holds up, a barbecue.

Mr Gallagher-Parker plans to watch the game with his uncle, with whom he has been unable to watch City during the pandemic because of ban on meeting people from different households.

“I’ll be surprised if people are just sitting in and watching the game, because it’s at a time when you can get out, you can see people you might not have seen,” he said.

“It’s just a massive event that brings the community closer together.”