English is the world’s most popular language, and English football is the world’s favourite sport to watch. From Africa to Asia, everyone from schoolboys to married men, and even many women, have played football in their lives, and their passion continues as fans of the English Premiere League.
“Because of their confidence and winning spirit, I see myself as a Manchester United Football Club fan,” said 30-year-old Mean Lux, a businessman and consultant. His love for football began in 2004 when some of his colleagues played football for the national team, and now he enjoys playing and watching as many matches as he can. “The Red Devils are incredibly inspirational,” the Cambodian fan of English football said, adding that he is even impressed by manager Alex Ferguson’s media savvy and political manoeuvring.
Unlike some other fans who have switched from one club to another, depending on the season, Mean Lux, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, has remained a staunch supporter of Man U, one of the most successful clubs in the world.
To Mean Lux, football is a microcosm of society and he is continually impressed by the role of the manager. ”Every little thing is marked and pressure is applied week in, week-out, on and off the pitch. A football manager is the most accountable leader there is. You can be fired way sooner than a bad political leader,” he said.
“Occasionally I hang out with friends to watch Man United’s games. But I wish there was a Man U club in Phnom Penh, so that I could watch the game with all the joy of fans in Europe,” Mean Lux said.
Elite clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool are now being challenged by big spenders Chelsea and Manchester City. Yet Mean Lux said, “I’ve got only one red shirt in my wardrobe, and it’s the Man U T-shirt”.
For die-hard Arsenal supporter Tong Soprach, it is another Premier League stalwart, Arsenal, that he claims as his team. “I will organise a rally with other fans in Phnom Penh and with my large Arsenal flag when the Gunners win this year’s European Champion League,” he said.
The 34-year-old Cambodian originally supported Manchester United, beginning in 1996, until Sir Alex Ferguson led his team to all three major championships in 1999: the European Champions League, the Premier League, and the FA Cup. He said it was just too much for him, so that year he switched sides to rally behind Arsenal. “With such success, Manchester United fans became arrogant,” the health consultant said with frustration.
Tong Soprach said of the long-serving Arsenal manager, “I love Arsene Wenger’s initiative to provide his young players a chance to perform and help them grow personally and professionally”.
One of Tong Soprach’s greatest moments was his trip to London, England, where he paid a visit to Arsenal’s newly built stadium, The Emirate, in June 2006. He has also visited a number of England’s biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.
“I like to hang out with other Arsenal fans in a Western pub to watch my club’s big game,” said Tong Soprach, whose classic Vespa scooter decorated with Arsenal stickers makes him recognisable as a feverish football fan. He will get married this month, but he says hopes to maintain and share his love of English football.