By Kelvin Eze
Before I got married, I dated 2 ladies and later courted 2 other ladies one of which I eventually married. In every successful relationship there are virtues needed from both parties, amongst these virtues are love, faithfulness, loyalty, long suffering, endurance and patience. Naturally I lacked patience so, I could not endure. Thankfully, I have really improved on that.
As Marriage is an institution, so also Liverpool football club is an institution and as such the virtues mentioned above are equally essential in football club for it to succeed, even though no footballer can swear eternal love to a club.
THE GENESIS OF MY EXPERIENCE WITH FOOTBALL
Over the years I have taken my time study LFC and the people in the city, in recent times social networks (Twitter and Facebook) have made things a lot easier, but particularly Twitter. Looking back at my past as respect football my interest in football could the regarded as the i-don’t-care type but yes I enjoyed watching international matches. Fast forward the year to the year 2003/2004 my interest in football started to change, then it was Bolton Wanderers. A particular Nigerian internal, the midfield maestro and mercurial popularly known as Jay-Jay Okocha was then the man running the show. Suddenly my interest picked up. At this stage I could say I am following a footballer.
Once he left Bolton, it my interest starting fading. Before now, I have being hearing of a name Steven Gerrard in my locality a name synonymous with LFC. Another name I heard of is Micheal Owen in his glory days with LFC, but once he turned the club down, his football carrier has never been the same. I refused to watch their games due to critics back home perceive them when it comes to race. They see them as racist. They say only LFC amongst the top4 refused to have blacks players in their team. To prove their point It was the same period or year 2004/2005, Chelsea had very many black players under Jose Morinho; little wonder he is admired in Nigeria where at least I know about it.
HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH LFC
It was in the 2005, the year the highest miracle happened in football, in City called Instanbul capital of Turkey. That sweet, big name (Steven Gerrard) popped into my ears again on my way home. I saw many people forming clusters, hovering over each other. What happened? It LFC v AC MILAN. I said to them; what? Oh, the champions league finals. Well, that goes to tell you how tepid my interest was in football. I was forced to join the bandwagon, I struggled to make my way in, and thanks believe I made it. I took my time to watch to game while I stood. I Traoe a black player, I think that was the only black player on the pitch that day. Next, I observed the style of football they play, i.e long balls and eventual long range shots. Personally, I enjoyed it. Before now, I have not heard of the club’s then manager Rafa Benitez.
But I saw his displays, the way he motivated the team, his gestures, note-taking, that led to the re-invigorating tactics that led to the highest miracle the football world ever witnessed. He was undistracted, very composed, he believed and made the team to believe in what he proactively planned after the 3-1 in the 1st half. I watched Gerrard with his tireless efforts after he scored the consolation for the team, he gestured by cheering up everyone on the pitch as if saying…common..walk on…move on…we can do it! I also observed the kopites cheering Gerrard, Rafa, wavering their banners, and the club’s flag; and due to the noise around me I could not hear what they were singing. And yesss, Benitez and Gerrard made it happen. They won the trophy. In 2007/2008 Benitez and the club almost repeated the same thing, but unfortunately it was not meant to be. Of course we all agreed that fortune was on their side but wait, without belief, efforts and proactive tactics by Benitez to counter Anceloti tactics it would not have happened. It was from this day on that I started watching the EPL, regularly watching both the epl and international matches. As seasons went by I tried to watch other clubs play, I observed their set-ups, the managers, the fans to find which one really suits me. I tell you what bro, it was not hard for me to find one that suits me. Liverpool football club stands out. It is just too unique to close your eyes at it, it is charming, luscious, sexy and beautiful to resist. The club has all the virtues mentioned in my intro above that is very entrenched into the club. Late Bill Shankly started it, King Kenny Dalglish, Bob Paisly, the legend Rafael Benitez and the Fans all exhibited these virtues. Those alive still do. (please note: these were/are lfc managers that I read about). In a nut shell, Benitez and Gerrard made me fall in love with LFC.
I used to have two colleagues in my office who are Man U fans. One is a blind follower who decamped from Arsenal and the other is a very biased one, but he takes pride in Mr. Alex Ferguson, the squad, the fans and the Glazier’s family. I always argued with him when he was still a colleague with me in fact, we almost spat on each other’s face. There was a time he refused talking to me for like 2days. Ironically, he and his fellow Man U fan had several misunderstandings. I will tell you why…just hang on please.
WHY LFC IS UNIQUE
Love, faithfulness, loyalty, long suffering, endurance and patience is part of them: Since LFC won the Champions League trophy, FA cup, plus the Carling cup with average team/squad many waters have passed under the bridge. These waters were enough to make the bridge collapse. Under Rafa was when I picked interest in Liverpool. From 2005/2010 I followed them both off and on the pitch through the internet and television, expectedly though there were times when false information were posted by many fake people. During this period Benitez endured the toughest time of his coaching career. The ex-owners, and the ex-MDs made life difficult for him and the club ‘faithfuls’. I remember it was this period that Benitez’s and Gerrard’s stocks had risen in Europe. Although Gerrard flirted twice with Chelsea he still managed to stay till date. Under Gerrard Houlier in 2004 and the transition of managerial post to Benitez Gerrard was persuaded to stay, and he agreed to stay. Had he left and joined Chelsea he would not have won the champions’ league trophy till date. What made him stay? No doubt the virtues mentioned in the introductory aspect of this piece. Steven Gerrard, Benitez even though being well paid and the fans suffered a lot in the hands of the ex-owners. Note: broken promises from past owners almost forced Gerrard’s hand.
But Benitez never wavered. He kept on with what the club believed, even when the media try to belittle his achievements he kept focused, he got used to it. Benitez and LFC were are so compatible.
While Liverpool was enduring a turbulent period, other top 4 clubs were enjoying robust seasons, notably Man U and Chelsea the billionair club, Chelsea have won 3 premier league trophies, 1 Carling cup, 1 FA cup, and 2 community shields. Man U have equally won all mentioned trophies plus champions’ league; sorry I do not have their stats at the time of writing. Interestingly the only thing lfc did not win was the shield. But they won 1 champions league, 1 FA cup, 1 Carling cup, reaching 2 semi finals and 2 finals of the champions’ league, wining 1, Arsenal on the other hand have failed to win nothing. Now, what is the moral of these stats? If a club possesses those virtues mentioned you can achieve your aim, objective and goal. Yes it could be very difficult, but it can be achieved.
In the sixth paragraph, I promised to tell you why my former colleague a Man U fan usually have squabble with his fellow fan who is still my colleague; now here is why…each time Man U lose a game the following day they come to the office to discuss it. The blind follower would want to speak the truth by analyzing the match and the faults from the manager and the players, the other would severely criticize him, even try to force him to accept his view, after all he was the one that talked him into joining Man U days Arsenal were losing and losing, and not winning trophies. This also tells you why I call him a blind follower.
Ever since I have being going out to watch football matches in my locality, the lfc fans have always being really small in numbers when compared to others like Man U, Chelsea, and Arsenal due to the black African players in their teams, even Bolton once enjoyed that prominence, but that excluds Man U. Mind you Liverpool also had Mommo Sissoko and Traore between 2004 – 2007 as against the general criticisms by the uneducated critics back then that LFC is a racist club. Today, Liverpool is scouting the world to get the best talents for the youth and the senior team. Despite being small in attendance where ever I go to watch lfc matches in my locality there is one thing that stands out, i.e loyalty even when lfc loses, especially in 2010 when there were injuries to regular players, and when those fit refused to play for the manager and for the club, when it practically became public knowledge of what the ex-owners were doing that could have cost the club of the premier league status. Plus under Roy Hodgeson, his face robbing, inept, that same number of fans still appear. The guy that runs the sport center always reserve seats for us, we’ve got our vantage then when he was still running it.
Now, compare that to what happens when Chelsea lose a game or lose games and draw in quick succession, the experience I have in my locality is that followers would refuse to go the game center, the woman that runs a canteen at my place of work experience dull market because many of her customers are Chelsea guys. What a shame! There have been cases after losing game (s) or draw(s) they resort to physical fighting, heavy arguments, scolding. Well that is their culture and tradition. As if that was not enough, the club’s leadership/ownership don’t help matters. Please count for yourself how many managers have been dismissed since 2006 till 2011. But guess what? That has never being the case with lfc fans, or with the ownership. It is natural to criticize, yes we do but with sense, games are being analyzed, tactics are followed and we anticipate what next to follow at the end of each half. Notably, in 2008/2009 season the best season ever for lfc despite narrowly losing of the league title, it was the year Benitez would have resigned. At some point he lost some matches in the champions league, e.g Besisktas by 2 goals to 1 I think. Now it is not the goal margin that mattered here but the stature of the club, they were deemed lesser. Benitez retaliated by thumping them 8 goal to nothing, record which no club in Europe today ahs matched. It was this same period that the fans demonstrated on the street carrying Benitez banners and placards. To Chelsea fans and a few of Arsenal fans love, faithfulness, loyalty, long suffering, endurance and patience means nothing but to Liverpool fans they mean a lot, it’s part of their culture, it is their tradition, they are entrenched in their players, it is part of their pre-requisite when looking to sign a player. That is what makes the club a great club today, a great institution. It was these qualities from the club and its fans that got them the present owners (FSG), and that got back Kenny.
In other words money does not necessarily make something great even though it is important. You just cannot compare LFC players to Chelsea and Manchester City players, it is very glaring that players who go there, go there to play for money. For any who is married, he or she would agree with me that as money is important in a marriage so also these mentioned virtues are important otherwise, the marriage will collapse in no time. Liverpool is well built and still exist for over a century now. It is these virtues that has cemented and keep cementing the relationship between the club and the fans. It has survived all forms of adversities, the name is BIG, worldwide and its cultural heritage attracts quality/world class players even when financial constraints would make it impossible to sign some of them, yet they have signed a few of them in the past and they got some in the team today, they would still sign in the future, some in the academy/reserve are already showing some signs of such. And even though Liverpool football club may not be enjoying the media attention like Manchester united do today only because they have not won the league for the past 21 years their cultural/traditional is well spoken of, it stands out, the fans and the club would continue to go from strength to strength till they achieve their goal, after all football is all about competition and winning trophies. There is always a fat result for patience.
Unity: There has always being unity in the squad/team. There is no room for disunity. If a player is fed up he is allowed to leave to avoid disrupting team spirit…Kenny mentioned that last week before the Citeh game. The players hardly gang up against managers unlike what is obtainable particularly in the ‘billionaire’s club’. These ones are turning the club to a pensioneers’ club.
So, if you are the type that truly cherishes love, faithfulness, loyalty, long suffering, endurance and patience and unity in a relationship, don’t be surprised for being so glued to lfc. You are unique, it is a way of life. It is not surprising to see Lucas Leiva becoming a world class player today. Liverpool football club is UNIQUE. What about on the internet? On social media like twitter? They have remained the best.
Goodness me!… damn it!…at this point of writing I read on twitter Lucas is out of the season. I am shattered! I am wishing him the quickest recovery and that he recovers FULLY from it. But immediately, my heart was bound when I read from my timeline Luca’s tweet: “I am sure I will come back stronger and I will achieve everything that I dream with LFC shirt.
*Please note: this piece is not intended to have a dig at any opposing club and players. Where mentioned, it is only for reference as they are leaving example and prove of what I wrote.
This piece is purely the writer’s opinion and not the opinion of LFC and every of their followers.