Someone I used to know made fun of me in the past for “reading football”. Strange but true. Would you blame me? These days, 90 minutes feels like such a long time to watch 22 grown men kick a round leather ball across a pitch. Even more frustrating is the outrageous amount of money we are told each player earns after such recreational exercise. A constant reminder, if ever I needed one, that I signed up for the wrong career. So for me, Football, Tennis, F1, Basketball and the rest of the sports I’m passionate about, I “read” LIVE mostly via BBC Sports page so I can multitask while at it.
But I digress.
The actual reason for this post is my obsession with Liverpool Football Club which goes all the way back 20 years. I had just completed secondary school and out of boredom, sat with my ‘soccer-loving’ older brother to watch his beloved Arsenal play against Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup Finals at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Before this time, I was very passive about football. I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it either. I just tolerated it. I barely watched Nigeria’s Super Eagles, let alone some team in another country. Anyway, all that was to change that day as I watched a certain Michael Owen tear Arsenal’s defence apart twice! That match ended 2:1 in favour of Liverpool and a great romance was born.
The ‘love-in’ peaked 4 years later during the 2005 Champions League Finals against AC Milan at the Attaturk Stadium in Istanbul. If you are too young to recall what happened that night, then from now on, it won’t be wrong to address me as “Uncle”. If you don’t believe in miracles, watching this video should change your mind. Jokes apart, just simply google“The miracle of Istanbul” and see for yourself.
Now imagine my surprise when yesterday, I received a parcel from a really good friend. The gift turned out to be one of the bricks from the Main Stand Boundary Wall of the club’s Anfield Stadium. The pamphlet details how it was pulled down in 2014 while developing the new and ultramodern Main Stand.
I was so overwhelmed with joy that my wife teased me for acting like a 5-year old. Again, would you blame me? The symbolism of the day (St. Valentine’s Day eve) wasn’t lost on me either. 😍
Several years later and I can say that I now know the club inside out, having researched thoroughly and acquainted myself with all of its history — the halcyon days of the eighties and nineties. Shankly, Paisley, Morran, Dalglish, Rush, Barnes, Grobelaar, Souness, so many great names. Added to those from more recent times, Fowler, Owen, Torres, Suarez, Gerrard, Coutinho…even more greatness!
It won’t be wrong to say that the club has experienced really hard times with its fair share of tragedy (Hillsborough and Heysel come to mind) and nearly going bankrupt in 2010. However, with the careful guidance of Jurgen Klopp on the pitch and the American owners FSG off it, the club recorded the largest profit in British Football a few weeks ago and moved up two places as a result to seventh in the Deloitte Football Money League, which is further proof that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. These days, with players like Salah, Mane, Van Dijk, Firmino, it’s not difficult to see the ability to compete.
One of the main draws for this club is its ‘soul’, as it always finds a way to spring a surprise. Nobody gave them a chance last year and the one before that but look where they ended up? The Europa and Champions League Finals. Now with 12 games of the current season left, they are joint top of the EPL, having played a game less. Come the end of the season, who knows if the 29-year wait for the EPL title would be over. We wait and see.
More importantly, I believe what has kept the club going all these years is that it’s a genuine “family club” if there ever was one and I’m happy to be associated with it.
To my thoughtful friend and all reds around the world, “Walk on…You’ll never walk alone!”
P.S: I still look forward to visiting Anfield some day soon.