Pep Guardiola has asked Manchester City fans not to boo the Champions League anthem ahead of their final clash with Inter on Saturday.
The Citizens are one win away from their long-awaited maiden title in this competition after losing their only previous final appearance against Chelsea in 2021. Standing in their way are three-time champions Inter, who last won the Champions League back in 2010. As City hope to do on Saturday, that success completed the Treble for Jose Mourinho’s Inter.
Although they’re overwhelming favourites, City’s heartbreak in this competition over the years means they’ll need every psychological boost they can get, especially against a club with such European pedigree.
The club’s supporters famously boo the Champions League anthem before every match, but as they prepare to lock horns with the Nerazzurri, Guardiola has called upon fans to refrain and instead ‘celebrate’.
“It’s a day to celebrate. Inter fans, City fans, a day to be happy. Celebrate being here,” Guardiola said. “What happens in the past is the past. It’s an incredible competition, Uefa organise it, we support unconditionally what they’re doing. We aren’t going to boo again and have fun.”
Why do Man City fans boo the Champions League anthem?
The City faithful have a longstanding ill-feeling toward Uefa and it’s more complex than you might think.
In 2014, the blue half of Manchester was found to be in breach of Financial Fair Play rules and given a £49m fine alongside restrictions on their transfer spending and limitations to their Champions League squad size. A year later, City fans were unable to attend a match away at CSKA Moscow, with the Russian side’s stadium closed due to repeated racial abuse incidents from their supporters. However, the stadium ban also applied to travelling supporters, despite fans only being given three weeks’ notice. Many had already purchased flights and hotels by that point.
“Why the hell do we not have any fans here? What have our fans done wrong? There’s no fairness in it,” former captain Vincent Kompany said at the time.
“You say no fans, all of a sudden you turn up and the team who has no fans is Man City. So who’s getting punished? Who’s being done for racism, Man City or Moscow?”
City fans arrived on the night regardless, only to be met with hostility from CSKA supporters, who tried to prevent them from entering the stadium. Hundreds of CSKA fans managed to enter the stands dressed in neutral colours but, incredibly, Uefa claimed to find no evidence of wrongdoing and actually reduced the club’s stadium ban on appeal.
A Uefa statement read: “Following the match between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City, Uefa have reviewed the officials’ reports and found no breach of the conditions related to a match played behind closed doors that make part of the disciplinary decision.
“Only people who were allowed to enter the stadium (clubs delegations, media, security staff, Uefa and guests of sponsorship partners) attended the match with no record of inappropriate behaviour.”
In 2016, a reverse situation occurred, with Uefa overturning a stadium ban on Dynamo Kyiv just three weeks before the visit of Manchester City, leaving travelling supporters with barely any time to book travel, tickets and accommodation, as well as saving the funds for such a costly trip.
All of the above only intensified the core reason City fans resent European football’s governing body. During the 2011/12 season, Porto were fined just €20,000 after their fans racially abused Italian striker Mario Balotelli and Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure. Just a month later in the subsequent round, City were fined the greater sum of €30,000 for arriving back on the pitch just 30 seconds late for the second half of their away clash against fellow Portuguese side Sporting CP.
What next for Man City fans and UEFA?
In 2019, Guardiola noted that the booing from City fans toward the Champions League anthem seemed to be reducing.
“I think the last time there were less boos,” he said. “My feeling is now the people are starting to enjoy this competition. They are feeling like we can do it together.”
And perhaps if they finally win the competition on Saturday, previous misgivings will be forgotten, replaced by memories of glory and the club finally, truly stepping into the game’s elite tier.