WE’VE all got our own tale to tell about life – and every moment means something different to each of us.
Our own story is continually being written, and written in only a way that we really know about. We have our own context behind our eyes.
As much as life offers up its rules – written down, enforced or just the softer cultural pressures to cede to a norm, there are no real rules. Not really. All the rules are what you make of them.
And so, when we first come into this world, our life is a blank canvas. We love nothing and hate nothing. Purpose and perspective comes later. We’re a brand new sponge, unopened, yet to soak up a drop, dry as a bone, still in the wrapper.
Then comes life and its many influences. A steady flow of family, friends, school, work, sport, media, the arts. We travel, we experience, we change. And different things will mean different things to different people – every one shaped by life, experience, luck, love and everything else that comes with our time.
Some pour their heart and soul into work – it means everything to them. All their hours, all their time, all their thinking space – it’s about work, or business, or money. They live to work. They change who they are to be better at it. They follow rules written by the successful. They interpret life through the prism of business speak and that gives them a glow inside.
For others, it’s family first – a child’s smile, a mother’s hug, quality time with dad. Some have that, some don’t. Some crave it, some lose it.
And then, among it all, is football. Your club. Your team. It can easily be waved away as what my dad once described as “22 fellas kicking a ball”. For him, football never bit hard. It wasn’t for him. It’s not a big part of his life story.
But it is a big part of mine. From the magnificence of unboxing that first red Umbro kit under the Christmas tree as a kid in 1984, wanting and yearning to go to Anfield ever after, finally doing so and then the decades of obsessing that have followed, Liverpool FC and everything to do with it has been a daily infatuation.
It’s left me with moments I’ll remember all my life.
The first time I glimpsed the green of the Anfield turf. The first time I saw a Liverpool captain lift a trophy. The thrill of watching a lad from the same streets I had trodden worshipped as a hero. Cardiff, Dortmund, Istanbul, Wembley. Steven Gerrard’s goal against West Ham. Michael Owen’s against Arsenal. Jerzy Dudek’s save. The list goes on and on.
And yet. That story. My story. Whether it’s age, mental state, life, love, money, work, a general sense of “what am I doing?” or all of the above, over the last 12 months or so I’ve questioned everything. Repeatedly. Obsessively.
Like countless others the world over, no doubt, my story hasn’t been a great one in recent times for lots of reasons. I wasn’t quite sure what story my life was writing. I’m still not.
As part of that, football inevitably came into the equation. Perhaps more than ever before, I was overthinking it. The money involved. The time it takes. The mental space it occupies, particularly when it’s your work as well as your pleasure.
There’s the fact, too, that we’re never far away from something that suggests the game is eating itself, that it’s changing and not necessarily for the better.
So off that inner voice goes. What would it be like if you didn’t go so much? Would it be better to spend more time with family and friends, not just the people you know via football? Saved some money? Did something else?
Because, after all, isn’t it all an unfair fight with the financially-doped clubs anyway? And how much is brilliant and how much not so? How many dark days are endured for the bright and sunshiny ones?
Being honest, a season when Liverpool clocked up a record 97 points in the Premier League and still didn’t win the thing was hardly going to help with matters. For me, for us, for them. How could all that effort, that will, that skill, those performances go unrewarded?
But then, to quote Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
This is not to say I was throwing everything up in the air and walking away from it all – far from it. But I perhaps needed a reboot, some romance, something brilliant – and the club did, too. The players did. The manager did.
Now we have it. And then some. By the bucketload. For the sixth time.
I didn’t go to Madrid. Ticket availability and finances were top among the reasons for staying home. But even that has ended up being part of the story.
When Divock Origi continued to write his own legend by putting the ball in the corner of Hugo Lloris’s net in the 87th minute I was overcome. Frozen for a second. Tears flowed, my head swirled and all I had left was just enough to accept the gleeful embraces of my closest friends as all around the packed bar exploded with emotion.
And that’s why we do it, really. That’s what football is about. The shared experience. The unbridled joy. Enjoying that moment together and knowing that in those precise seconds your life stories are the same – there is mutual meaning, the extreme enjoyment is intertwined and there and then nothing else matters.
Had I travelled ticketless to Spain, minus those mates, would it have all been the same? I mean, I’m sure I would have enjoyed seeing a sixth European Cup being lifted regardless, and we’ve all hugged a stranger at the footie (right?!), but I’m glad we wrote it this way. I’m glad I shared it with them.
There were more tears on the whistle, more tears when I saw Jordan Henderson and his dad, and yet more when the children I’ve failed to convert to football passed on the experience of a European Cup parade. And then, the parade itself.
I’ve seen lots of these – from being a child clutching my nan’s hand by a bus stop through to adulthood and alcohol-fuelled dancing in the street. They’re always special. Not just because you get to see the smiling faces of the people who won it for you, but because you get to see the smiling faces of the people they won it for.
All ages. From all places. Matchgoers, telly watchers, occasional attendees and the most dedicated of all. All together. All as one.
In that moment, none of it matters – the stresses, the strains, the worries, the pressures. Life becomes simple. What you look like, what you wear, who you are, where you’re from. All the stuff so readily stressed over.
The life obsession with comparing and contrasting. All of it forgotten, gone, wiped away to just enjoy it, to drink it in and celebrate – and feel the same from all around you.
Liverpool loves its football. We’ve shown the world that once more. But does it mean more? I don’t care. Is it bigger and better or different than somewhere else? Does it matter?
Instead, what does matter, is that we know, that we feel it, and that we enjoy it. And everyone did.
On Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, millions of people shared the same chapter of their life stories before they veered off once more to write their individual tales.
And that’s why it’s special. That’s why we love it. In those times, we’re part of something – we’re together and the emotions on the face of Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jürgen Klopp and the rest of the heroes who made it happen in Madrid are our emotions too. They cried, we cried. They partied, we partied. They’re proud and so are we.
We’re made up for them, for ourselves, for our mates, for the club, for the city. And we should be. Because what a story this is. Our story. The story of the six times’ European Champions.
They beat the odds versus Barcelona, saw it out versus Spurs and were cheered home by 750,000 people on the streets of our city.
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Wonderful that Gareth
A beautiful piece Gareth, one thing I love about TAW is the honesty and emotion that comes through from the team. Life and love, footy is such an integral part and you all manage to make things seem ok. Sometimes it is only the football that remains constant.
Brilliant Robbo. I too watched the match at home, for pretty much the same reasons. I watched with my 30 year old daughter who has Downs Syndrome. I was pretty much in tears at the end of the game, but when I saw how happy Sarah was, I was gone. Would have loved to have been there, but wouldn’t have missed that for anything! Then on Sunday, we took our 15 month old grandaughter to the victory parade. Imagine seeing old big ears coming home at 15 months!
Well in Robbo, great piece this! My 14 year old lad just came down and said ‘I love liverpool dad, were not just a club we’re one big family aren’t we?!!’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. YNWA
Absolutely brilliant that mate…captured it perfectly…I was pondering last week what it’d feel like to win it again…would it still feel special?..would it compare to 2005?…would it all be worth it?….and when it happened – when Divock stroked that winner home – and when the final whistle went – it felt completely and utterly fuckin wonderful…even better than it had ever done before in some respects..faith totally restored ..and that in itself was a source of deep deep joy to me…
This is genius writing Robbo
.I have memories of all European cup wins with mates not here now ,dad not here now this article just reminded me of all these great times cheers mate
keep up the fantastic work you all do
all the best
‘All ages. From all places. Matchgoers, telly watchers, occasional attendees and the most dedicated of all. All together. All as one.’
Yes, this exactly.
Me and my youngest daughter came from the Outer Hebrides to Liverpool for the weekend and had the absolute time of our lives.
We watched the match in the Olympia, beer soaked when Divock scored and total joy and delirium.
Then the bus parade with such a fantastic atmosphere. Just wow.
What a weekend and I’m so glad I got to share the experience with one of my kids, it made it even more special.
Brilliant article. Watched the match with my even more obsessed than I am daughter at home and if I had got a ticket for Madrid there is no way I would go without her . Second daughter travelled 4 hours to get to Liverpool for the homecoming and we all stood for hours on The Strand. This is what supporting Liverpool is all about. Family, friends, together, sharing disappointment and pain but most of all sheer emotion and joy.
Wordsmith you are Gareth! This club and this city has shown that football does matter, more than ever .
Robbo, this is brilliant, as good as anything I’ve read since the weekend, totally gets under the skin of what it means. Love it and thank you!
An ‘all is forgiven’ love letter, wrapped in a big red heart! Is right!
I remember bursting into tears as the 4th goal went in against Barca. I had serious arguments after us succumbing 3 vs 0 to them at their gaff. Somehow nothing was over, NOTHING, until we say it was.
As Origi got that 4th goal I felt vindicated for those arguments. For sticking up for our boys and our manager.
Getting Spurs worried me, but I just felt our name was going to be on the Cup… this time would not be Kyiv, which had taught us to grow up and get street-wise. We showed that street-wise against a good Spurs team.
On Saturday I was home in Liverpool, with my mates who had gone. I also had my adopted son come and join us and later his fiancee. They loved the occasion, especially at how mental the pub we were in went as Origi again made our dreams (shame about the one at the death against WHU away, as he’d more than immortalised had that gone in as we’d have 99pts this season).
Anyways, I was sat awake in the wee small hours on Sunday morning, still celebrating but casting my mind back to some dark days we have unfairly endured. I was at both our football disasters, but equally I have been around for some of our greatest ever moments… I just kept thinking how incredibly lucky I have been to be born in Central Liverpool, just down the road from Anfield and to have been born a Red. Trying to explain these moments to people I have met have been hard especially when they come from other cities or don’t understand football. After Saturday (all day) and then the scenes on Sunday, even they now get it.
This is my local Club, the Club literally down the road from me and I love them regardless. I can safely say, I personally now know of about a dozen more who know me who now wish to be a bigger part of our following in the future… They too were sponges, just more mature but have now experienced and soaked up this and like some huge drug, they are craving more. I think we all are.
Let’s go again :)
Good one Gareth made me feel like was there. Wish I was.
Watched the highlights of the parade and gave me goosebumps seeing the trophy held aloft again like it used to be so common in the 80s.
Very happy for everyone from the city of Liverpool.
Very good one, Gareth! I could really feel my own emotions of a tough year in your writing. Life will change, friends will come and go, new jobs, finances will be up and down, but there is a sense of security that no matter what happens, we will always have Liverpool Football Club. That for me is happiness.
Brilliant article Gareth, and we love watching you on The Post Match Pint etc where you tell it as it is and use the ‘F’ word! just like we all do! My wife and I watched the match in the Sandon (big room at the back) great atmosphere! and afterwards we all spilled out into the road behind the Kop going mental! and then on Sunday we were on the Strand for the victory parade. Just wish LFC/FSG had got this screened live in the stadium and not let the excuse of concerts get in the way.
Anyway after almost a million reds lined the streets surely FSG will now get their fingers out and expand Anfield further. We outnumbered Spurs fans in Madrid yet they can have bigger crowds next season, it’s just not right.
This is a brilliant piece of writing. Probably the best in TAW history
Absolutely brilliant piece of writing Robbo. An outpouring of emotions that has built up over the years, which pretty much sums up what every Liverpool fan that has been through the good times and the not so good times. They say music is a bond that brings people of all classes and religion together. Well for me, theres nothing like moments like these that brings people together more than football. Couldn’t be more proud to support this club and this magnificent set of players with the best management team in the world. Up the brilliant #letstalkaboutsixbaby reds. Well in Robbo
This is even better when you add the You Tube video to it with Robbo narrating. It just sets the scene perfectly.