I want to begin this article with a disclaimer, it’s not entirely about Liverpool, it’s about football in general and why we love it so much. Glad I’ve got that out of the way.
It’s been 7 days since Liverpool put 5 past Porto away from home in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg. Yet somehow, it feels more like 7 months.
Unfortunately for us fans, being knocked out of the FA Cup in the 4th round meant the Reds had no game over the weekend, meaning there’s a 10 day wait between the Porto game (Feb 14th) and West Ham game in the league (24th Feb). The lads jetted off to Marbella for a week, for warm weather training and, to be honest, a well deserved break. They’ve had an incredibly hectic couple of months and even though I’m sure training has been intense out there, a change of scenery can help clear the mind and help you recharge. I’m sure the trip did the squad a world of good. For us fans however, the wait has been unbearable and we’re all itching for it to be Saturday again so we can watch the team play. The wait to feel like this as a fan base has been absent for far too long.
The year 2017 was very difficult for me. Despite achieving highly in terms of academic success and furthering my career, personal events happening in my life drained a lot of out of me. Life was moving very fast. A lot changed, some changes good and some bad, and I felt like I couldn’t keep up. All I wanted was to be a kid again, where very little troubled or worried me.
This season has taken me right back there. When Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005, I was 6, and that’s one of my earliest football memories. Then, from 2005-2009, Liverpool went on a run of doing really well in that competition. My young, naive mind began to take Champions League football for granted. It was in this period of my life where my love for Liverpool was truly born, because I can remember so vividly all the great European nights we had in that period. Chelsea in the semi-final in ’07, Arsenal in the quarters in ’08, and of course, Real Madrid in the round of 16 in ’09 all stick out in my mind like they were the games being played last week.
Recently I have thought a lot, where on earth would I be without football? What would I talk about for 99% of my day? What career would I have gone into? What on earth would I do with the majority of my weekends? Football gives you a sense of purpose even when you feel you’ve lost your way. It’s a blessing; a distraction from day-to-day problems.
Football is about those moments and memories. The life of a football fan can be very stressful and can put you through agony, but we love football for the moments in time where you can take a step back and say ‘this is why we go through it all’. On Monday I travelled to the DW Stadium to watch Wigan Athletic knock Manchester City out of the FA Cup. Despite scenes at the end of the game overshadowing the achievement slightly, the game produced one of ‘those moments’ that overall inspired me to write this article today. I went with 2 friends who are life-long Wigan fans, and moments like that, for fans of League 1 sides, are priceless. For them, to beat a Pep Guardiola side is once in a lifetime. For Liverpool, we’re finally seeing moments like that reappear for us on a more consistent basis, big moments that you remember for a lifetime. They’ve been missing for quite a while now. In fact, apart from the Dortmund game in the last 5/6 years, there really hasn’t been much to remember, but just this season alone I can think of so many. The win at home to Man City and the manner in which we won that, the 2nd Mo Salah goal against Spurs (even though it was short-lived) and the Van Dijk header against Everton in the cup.
So, because of the way the team are playing at the moment, and the situations we find ourselves in, I’m feeling rather nostalgic. When we played our last Round of 16 Champions League tie, I was 11. I was in Primary School. I’m now in my first year of University in Liverpool 8 years later, and living in the city as well as supporting the team has added a whole new dimension to my love of the club. And my love for my club has helped me come back down to earth as a person, and find a sense of belonging in life again. I absolutely adore Jurgen Klopp and this Liverpool squad for helping me do that. I love the way he has re-introduced moments we will never forget to this club. I love the way he has brought in players who want to be here, love wearing the shirt we admire, and has gotten rid of the ones who don’t. Every fan inside Anfield and around the world watching their team should feel like a giddy little kid when we play, and be yearning for the next game all the time, and Jurgen Klopp is solely responsible for bringing that feeling back to this fan base, and this city. For the first time in years, the club is heading in a real direction and we believe we can achieve great things instead of just dreaming about it.
When Liverpool are doing well, it’s true that you can feel the whole city is lifted. Only sport can do this, mark my words. Only sport can unite thousands of people in a single place based on one common interest, no matter their gender, background or race. Only sport can help you gain a sense of identity when you feel you’ve lost it. As a fan, I am part of this club, and this club is part of me. Up the Reds.
By Ben Kelly – Twitter: @bkelly776
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