My Journey to Anfield
I began my journey 7314 kilometers away in Vancouver, British Columbia. I had thought about where I was going a thousand times. I had never been, I knew very few people who had ever been, yet it houses 44,000 people every weekend, and occasionally Tuesday and Wednesday nights if we’re lucky.
It’s a small town turned big city — but still a small town. It sits on the North-West side of England, separated from the rest of the country by rolling hills of sheep and farmland. The winds blow in a treacherous breeze, but what comes out of this place is more wonderful than any harm a wee bit of wind could manage. The Titanic, Merseyside beat and the Beatles, just to name a few.
There is one thing that stands above the rest, that is more important to it’s people than anything else. More important than the greatest band of all time, more important than the blood they bleed, or perhaps the ladder is combined. Red, it’s red, they’re red, we’re red. Liverpool Football Club, formed a mere 121 years ago. History etched in stone, names remembered forever.
As we drove to Anfield from the Beatles themed hotel on Dale Street, the car slowly began to drive up hill, I could see the tips of the stadium poking above the rooftops. It was as if Anfield was the castle, and everything else looked up to it. Flocks of red flowed toward the stadium. Anfield was taking its final pre-match breath, sucking in all its power. We passed by Goodison Park on Walton Lane, the tourist in me could not help but stare, but my gaze was quickly redirected back to the road. “That’s the enemy” said my family friend Gavin (Thank you a million times over Gavin), who was so gracious to not only supply tickets but also a ride to the match. His tone was playful and humorous but there was a tangible sense of seriousness in his voice.
We left the car, said our thanks and goodbyes and walked towards the Hillsborough Memorial. For a piece of history in which I had so little connection, you could feel all the pain and heartache in just reading the name and ages of the victims. We paid our respects and took our photo’s of Shankly’s gates and headed for the entrance.
I had been warned about the feeling of walking up the stairs and seeing the pitch for the first time, but it really is like nothing you could imagine.
The grass is greener and the red’s are more red. The names pulled out of my television set and placed in front of me. It hits you like a brick. You feel it all, the history, the moments, its an inescapable sensation. You could see the shadows of Dalglish, Rush, Beardsley and Barnes all still out there, and you could feel their presence in the crowd.
You’ll Never Walk Alone will never mean as much to you until you hear it from the mouth of the Kop. It bellows — reverberating around the stadium. They sing as if they don’t just want you to hear, they want the entire city to hear.
The game itself featured league leaders Arsenal making the trip up from London to face fourth place Liverpool. In what seemed like the blink of an eye it was four nothing to Liverpool. Arsenal were put to the sword at the hands of an offensive explosion that was a return to glory days past. Scoring when they want, how they want. The whole of Anfield swayed to and fro with the wind and the rain as Philippe Coutinho and the rest of the Liverpool midfield orchestrated a performance to be remembered.
The game ended 5–1. My experience fully satisfied and I didn’t want to leave my seat. What I took most out of the match was how much not only this game mattered, but how much every game mattered. How much Liverpool Football Club matters. The man beside me yelled at the top of his lungs in the 88th minute for Jordan Henderson to get back, as if it were 1–1 and not 5–1. The Kop sang its heart out for 93 minutes and in fairness, so did the traveling supporters. You can see it in all the people in the city, the immense pride of being from Liverpool. They are so proud to be a part of it, the magic that surrounds Anfield Road.
Two days was much too short a time to experience the city of Liverpool in the full, but it was enough to give me a glimpse. It’s hard to appreciate all the things that it has to offer, and it’s almost impossible to understand the meaning of the football club. You can’t really put into words what the club means to you if you are from Liverpool. You ask people and they say “Well, erm, it’s everything.” or “I wouldn’t be who I am without them.” It blends into you, it becomes who you are. Your life doesn’t revolve around it, it grows with you. It’s your wife, husband, mother, father, daughter, son all in one. As it moves you move, offering great ecstasy but not without its fair share of agony.
As I was sitting in London Heathrow on my way home, I met a man in a Liverpool polo and we began to talk about the Fulham match the other night. I later found out he was traveling to Taiwan that day but was originally from Morocco. It made me realize just how global Liverpool truly is. How it can mean completely different things to different people. For me, it means early mornings of cereal and pajamas while trying not to check Twitter because I’ve recorded the four AM game. For the people of Liverpool, it’s so much more. It’s their heart and soul translated on to a football pitch. Never get caught trying to explain to a Liverpool supporter all the things in the world that matter so much more. His mind might well acknowledge the truth to your point, but his soul will be powerless to except it. So we sit across the world, watching, waiting, praying. All connected by an unbreakable bond, forged in many different ways, but all meaning the same thing. You’ll Never Walk Alone.