“UNITED: My Religion, My Testimony” is a signature series featuring supporters across the United States sharing their personal accounts of how they came to support the greatest club in the world. This installment features Bradley Bigda from California.
My story began while on winter break during school in January 1999. I followed football (soccer) since the 1994 World Cup and caught bits and pieces of Champion’s League games on ESPN2, but didn’t really have a team. That is, until January 1999 when by chance I became a Red.
I was a huge Oasis fan and knew they were from Manchester. So, while scrolling the ESPN webpage, there was a link for the Champions League draw. I clicked on it and saw that Manchester United were drawn against Milan. My Italian friend happened to be from Milan, so I told him we would watch the games together. It wasn’t until much later that I found out Oasis hated United and were City supporters. Lucky for me, I didn’t follow them THAT closely or I would have made the mistake of following the wrong color.
I now knew of Manchester United, but didn’t know any players or even if they were that good. There happened to be a very dark pub (British and Dominion Social Club) that aired the games. The problem was you had to become a member and to watch the games was $20. That was a lot money at the time for a college student, but I gave it a go on a FA CUP match between Liverpool and my soon to be love, Manchester United.
First thing I was told at the bar was not to wear the team colors. I was wearing a white polo, so I didn’t know who I was offending. Anyways, as the match goes on, the Liverpool fans were singing as they were winning, but the United fans were also in voice. Game looked over and then bang! Two goals at the end, turned my frown upside down. I was INSTANLEY hooked. As every United fan will say, there was nothing like the 1998/1999 season. I was just lucky enough to catch it when I did.
I watched as many games as I could and after beating Milan things really got interesting with Juventus. I almost gave up hope (For the second time) and Giggs hit a late equalizer. Even when they went down 2-0 in Italy against Juve, I rallied other new United fans (Two of my buddies, who I dragged with me to the pub and also became hooked) to keep the faith. After that 3-2 dramatic win we didn’t care how we watched or at what price. We were not missing ANOTHER game.
I learned about the Treble and how great Arsenal was that season. They were the team that would need to lose for United to win. The replay of the FA CUP semifinal, to me, could be made into a movie. It had everything: An early goal from the baby face, a great equalizer by the Gunners, back and forth dominance at times, a late red card that looked to seal United’s fate… but NO! It was saved by the Great Dane! I could go on, but it all came down to Giggs picking the ball up at mid-field and doing a waltz that was calculated, controlled, cool, and confident. When that ball hit the back of the net over Seaman, I thought I could never doubt the team again.
I was at the pub for the EPL title and FA CUP final victories, and made sure I was off work Wednesday, May 26th, for the final against Munich. Again, like the first game I watched vs Liverpool, United left it late. But to go from depression to high-fiving old men wearing tweed in a matter of seconds, was the highlight of the year.
That summer my girlfriend, and now wife, bought me my first jersey. I now have over 20 and I made sure my kids had one by the time they could speak. They know enough songs and love to watch the Reds go marching on, on, on with dad.
Since January 1999, I may have missed maybe a handful of games. If not watching with my little band of United fans, I will still venture out to the bars the now show the games. Each year I bought a rather expensive bottle of champagne to open once the title was clinched. And while there have been some seasons, I threw out a perfectly good bottle, when I got to drink it, it was worth it. And I haven’t given up on this season yet! But trophy or not, the United way is the only way to be.
I can thank Oasis for that.