4 February 2015

What it means to be a Liverpool FC supporter

I was talking about football results with one of my regular customers a couple of weeks ago - following Liverpool FC's goalless home draw against Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup - when the matter of fans' loyalty was brought up.  I'd also joked earlier about how Man United's fan base have halved over the past three years and how City have seen a corresponding increase in theirs.

This particular customer is an LFC supporter - probably a bigger one than I was as he's ALWAYS wearing the club's tops.  Like me, he too makes the oft physically-punishing effort of getting up at stupid o'clock whenever our club played those 2000hrs GMT matches.  But during our conversation that evening, he somewhat surprised me when he declared that henceforth he wasn't anymore going to watch those early-morning games.  "It's not worth it", he reasoned.  "It's okay if we win or draw - but what if we lose?  Waste of time."

Almost immediately, my mind was drawn to a certain famous quote by former Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly about fans' support.  Not surprisingly, my customer told me he was familiar with the quote, but nonetheless "games which end in a loss are just not worth getting up in the middle of the night for.  It's too heartbreaking".

But of course it's heartbreaking!  I can't even begin to enumerate how many heartaches I've suffered for loving LFC.  But invariably I (and I believe most, if not all, of you) just bravely take it on the chin, maybe secretly sulk for a day or two and then move on.  Or rather, walk on.  After all, isn't that what footy's all about?  You win some, you lose some.

"But what about YNWA?", I pressed.  I guess I was trying to drive home the point that whilst we cannot cheer Stevie Gerrard and the lads on in person, we could at least do so in spirit.  Naive, one might say, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the least we foreign supporters could do.  Unfortunately though, our discussion abruptly ended there as he had to take his leave.

Nearly a fortnight on, that conversation has left me thinking about what it means to be a fan of Liverpool Football Club.  For me, supporting LFC can oftentimes be a bit like supporting the Malaysian badminton team; so much promise - year in, year out - but with so little to show for it.  At least in the last 20 years, that's generally been the case.

Of course, there were those memorable cup wins in '92, '95, '01, '05, '06 and most recently, in the Carling Cup.  But there were also oh-so many heartbreaks; none - absolutely none - more so than the one inflicted on me by Michael Thomas in the final minute of that crazy 1988-1989 season.   Two years later, LFC had hit a plateau where their domestic league achievements are concerned.  Yet did I switch sides in the 90's when that sorry team from the wrong end of the M62 were on the ascent?  Or start wearing blue during the noughties?  Trust me, your money's safer wagered on Charles becoming King next Wednesday than on me selling out my club.

I began following English football 30-odd years ago; when Malaysian TV started screening "Big League Soccer" (remember that one?).  Although I didn't really have a "preferred" team at the time, I must admit I did fancy Nottingham Forest somewhat.  So unlike many of you, I cannot say I was born a Red without telling a lie.

I recall my allegiance swaying towards Liverpool in the early-80's; around the time when they were winning everything.  But a plastic fan I'm not because my love for and loyalty towards LFC since have been unwavering - even during the difficult reigns of Graeme Souness and Roy Hodgson.  It's never easy watching LFC lose (or even draw, in some cases) especially when they shouldn't have.  But out of sheer unconditional love for the club, I invariably walk on.  And I always keep the faith.


And so it is that we're now past the midway mark of yet another roller coaster season where, honestly speaking, it would appear just finishing in the top four is going to be a challenge - never mind being champions.  Nonetheless, my love story with LFC continues and despite my absurdly long work hours, I'll still get up at 4am to cheer on this club which I love to death.

I'm not blessed with the gift of eloquence, and oftentimes - now, for instance - I struggle to express myself; so I'll just quote something which I took off someone else's blog about what it means to be a Red: "It means never giving up.  It means sticking by friends.  It means sticking by this club.  It means paying respect.  It means remembering those lost.  It represents comradeship, awe, inspiration and dignity.  Above all, it means family.  'You'll Never Walk Alone' is more than just a club anthem; it's a way of life".

Friendships, relationships and family all come and go.  They live and they die.  But one thing that certainly stays for life is our football club.  The media and the opposition will have us believe we should all be disillusioned with what is going on at Liverpool - with the Premier League title seemingly a distant dream.  To some, that dream itself is a stern test of one's loyalty and belief.

But I'll tell you this much; whatever happens in our week, LFC will always be playing on a Saturday, entertaining and uniting us all.  It's easy for us to start wearing a City shirt today and embrace one of the richest clubs on the planet as our new team, but sticking together through rough times is the least LFC should expect from us despite what we’re told by the media and the opposition.  But then again, they just don’t understand Liverpool Football Club, do they?

YNWA.






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