This review and the film may not be for everyone, but Fikri Jermadi does not care.
‘Class of 92’ is a wonderful walk down memory lane. Watching the film, which features David Beckham, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes reminisce about their time at Manchester United, reminded me of simpler times when I would meet with my friends in the park, plonk down our bags and jackets as goalposts, and would fire away with our hearts content. Inevitably, the boy with the ball is king, and we would usually play until he would have to go home.
Ah, happy days.
Lodged somewhere in my memory is also the time when I joined up with the Little League team. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it’s called (possibly something as banal as Lions), but I remember playing in a light blue strip that’s not unlike Manchester City’s current kit. The first time I went there, it was to see my friends Eser Bayraktar and Lee Jeffrey play for them. Es and Jeffers were some of their star turns, but on that day, they had an injury. Or maybe it was a case of someone not turning up. Whatever it was, my name was pushed forth to the manager by my mates. I was ready and available, so from being a spectator I was in the match and in the team. Wearing my jumper, I went in goal, and did quite well for the first bit of the match against Selecta, the league leaders in red.
A total collapse later was somewhat inevitable, given that I wasn’t all that prepared and that I am not actually a goalkeeper by trade. I think I let in about five goals. I wasn’t always playing in goal, though. The shots can really sting the hands during winter, and some of the boys can really whack the ball. Overall, our record wasn’t all that bad. We finished fourth in the league, and reached the semi-finals of the cup. It sounds even better if I don’t add the fact that there are only four teams in competition.
In school, the story was similar. Every lunch break was a chance to showcase our skills. I remember an assortment of different items used as balls. Apart from the conventional choice, squashed down drink cans and tennis balls also serve as viable alternatives. Worst comes to worst, flat pebbles are also alright, though it’s highly recommended you don’t play anywhere near cars. I wasn’t that great, to be honest, but there were others worse than me, so that made me look good in parts. Playing in defence, me and Steven Buss (who I still keep in touch with until today) formed a really solid partnership at the best of times.
Unless I am sorely mistaken, there was a time when we actually played together in the inter-house tournament. Representing our class from the Harvey house was me, Steven, David Harris, Eser and a few others. Two incidents stood out. One, it was played on concrete (as we tend to do back in those days; that sentence made me feel really old, by the way). No real worries there, except that I had a tendency of making sliding tackles on them. They’d come off too, and I swear I’d touch the ball, but invariably the act of getting the man along with the ball was not something that pleased Mr Lewis, our physical education teacher, referee, and Charlton Athletic scout. The World Cup this is not, but believe you me when I say slide tackling is a reason why I prefer field football to futsal.
The other memory is how we managed to park the bus and hold the fort against Shackleton, whose B team is better than other class’s first choice eleven. At one point in the match, though, I managed to break free, pushing forward down the right as I channeled my inner Dani Alves. One of their defenders rushed back after me, and it was just down to the two of us. He came in to make a tackle, but I had tapped the ball inside and wrong footed him. Now, at the corner of the penalty box, and with the keeper himself bearing down on me, I had the chance to use my left foot and fire us to glory. Unfortunately, my left foot is usually used only for standing on in situations like these, but I managed a decent enough shot that was…saved? Pushed on to the post? What I did remember was that I didn’t muster enough power with the shot, and conceding a soft goal at the end of extra-time knocked us out.
What about this film itself? Well, it’s a slickly produced series of talking heads interspersed with various footages of them fannying about on a football pitch and at Old Trafford. It focused on these players, with contributions from celebrity fans and former professionals. Eric Cantona was in, which made sense, and so was Zinedine Zidane, which…made less sense.
Of course, Zidane was a great footballer, but I am not sure how close enough he is to the Class of 92 to offer an informed enough judgment. He had played with Beckham, true, and in some ways, he was a constant thorn in our side as a part of that great Lippi Juventus team at the end of the 90s. Even less sense was made with the inclusion of Tony Blair, who spoke of the footballers as being part of a Cool Britannia revival in the mid 90s. Heck, even Danny Boyle got in on the act. I suppose looking at the bigger picture, I can see an intent to add more objective voices to the mix, but the fact that some of them can be quite far-fetched meant that it bamboozled in parts, with political correctness rather than searing honesty coming to the fore. A bit of that came from their earlier coach, Eric Harrison, a giant of a man who played a huge role in their personal and professional lives.
Having said all that, that does not detract anything away from the documentary, even if it had covered quite a lot of very familiar ground. Beckham’s goal from the halfway line, his sending off against Argentina in the World Cup, Giggs’ goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi final…these are all well-known to me, so perhaps if you were less aware of these events, it may be a more enlightening experience. Interestingly, attempts were made to draw Phil Neville out of his shell a bit more, and when he opened up about his experiences with England team at Euro 2000, it did shed light on some areas I didn’t even think about beforehand. On a more light-hearted manner, Ryan Giggs’s impression of Peter Schmeichel having his manhood burnt by a hot kettle is priceless. What’s that now? Well, if you want to know more, you’ll have to watch the film yourself, though a quick Google search will inform you just the same (but will not do the story justice).
Coupled with an impressive array of shots and videography (check out the slow motion footage of the boys in action), the film offers those who are interested an intriguing enough look at a specific period of time in which a group of young footballers defied the odds and defined an era at Manchester United and British football as a whole. There are those who may not be interested, and I think it would be wise they avoid this. This film is a glorification of a very significant and specific part of a specific football club, and those who are too myopic to see beyond tribal loyalties may find this infuriating.
Others like me will find it a pleasant walk down memory lane.
See the goal above? Fikri tried to replicate the goal with Yaroslav Nikolaevich many times by throwing the tennis ball against the wall and trying to at least connect with it. Very difficult…