With football continuing to show itself to be mixed up in the worst aspects of the wider world, does it still provide the escape it intended?
WHAT now for the world?
It’s a valid question for all of us, no matter the simulation of distraction we choose to enter.
Wembley on Sunday was a welcome diversion for many, but then you continue to shuffle uncomfortably in your standing space. Joel Matip scores a goal — bedlam ensues. But all the while there’s a thought about a world turning hesitantly and cautiously. More cautious than any point in our lifetimes.
How can one man seemingly now decide how and even whether we all wake up tomorrow? Surely that isn’t right? Penalties it is.
And you’ve come here for football chat, I’m sorry. I could pontificate the midfield versus West Ham tomorrow, the need to temper quadruple expectations and the benefits of Sadio Mane as a centre forward.
I’d love to wax lyrical about Luis Diaz after watching him in the flesh for the first time in the cup final. What a player he’ll be for this club. Ready made with all the materials required, it seems.
Yet sometimes it isn’t easy to switch off. Bigger pictures, you know. Not waving but drowning in a sea of anxiety. Is football and its political dalliances through money and influence ever able to exist in isolation?
Don’t mix football and politics. What a week for it.
The horrors of war should dwarf all of football’s ugliness and idiosyncrasies. And still I have to see John Terry claim the potential loss of an Oligarch to his beloved Chelsea like he was the club’s all time top fucking goalscorer.
Even we point and laugh at any threat to Everton’s new stadium without taking into account this isn’t the time, lads. Virtue signalling galore — nobody is perfect, here. Nobody comes out better off right now.
Liverpool once again engaged in the booing of the national anthem last Sunday. Chelsea (and most of the country) took direct offence. This has never been straightforward. It isn’t a United Kingdom. Nobody has to understand today.
No right answers in this game. Nothing for a pair, here. Morally murky.
Sometimes, this feels too much. There’s a world catastrophe right now, so we have every right to go to our happy place when we can.
Football is that escape for so many. You attach responsibility and adoration to young, extremely wealthy men. You often feed corporate and state-funded playthings. You can show the very worst side of yourself. But you allow it in this facet of existence under the umbrella of escapism for the working man or woman.
Maybe it’s not OK to link Roman Abramovic’s actions to our percentage calculator of Liverpool success. Perhaps we should refrain from tracking Alisher Usmanov’s financial arrest to laugh at Everton. Once again, the line can’t even be found let alone drawn.
But we must, after all, have our portion of joy. We all need to find a way to abandon sorrow. Baby, don’t you let me down tomorrow.
The reality is that our own is enough to bring joy. The cup winners, “The LFC” as my dear uncle Bob calls them. ‘Days of our lives’ has never felt like a more poignant phrase.
Jurgen Klopp said of the Ukraine crisis: “Football still gives us the opportunity to present the best of ourselves and find joy in something that is about the collective and community.”
He is, as ever, right. Community and kindness feels more important than ever.
I don’t want these pictures, framed so grotesquely that I feel unable to go about the day with the same unmindfulness.
Football can do its part, but we all should remember it’s heavily entangled in the chaos of today. We’ve all signed that waiver, Liverpool or otherwise.
Engaging in what we love, to rid the mind of negativity, is a true virtue of the game. It’s your shortcut to joy and boundless opportunity.
If football, in all of its current confusion, can find a way to wear its flaws and provide escape then that’s enough right now. It’s probably the best we can hope for.
Some things are inescapable. Unsolvable by a goal, a full-time whistle or a Jordan Henderson shuffle. Maybe we’ve only got the energy for one fight. The Reds and more shiny trophy things and two fingers to the establishment.
If you can only control your own sense of normality and reaction to things, then remember what brought us to such a horrific dance over the past week in the first place.
Human behaviour is a powerful tool. It can change many things for the better. Use your own stage at Anfield and beyond to harness the best of us.
I can’t lift you up today. My thoughts are overwhelming with matters beyond football. And yet they exist within its world so abundantly clear.