How the experiences we share as Liverpool all over the land make you realise how lucky you are to be watching The Reds at Anfield regularly…
THERE’S something wonderful about watching the Reds abroad.
I’m writing this on a flight from Warsaw a few hours before the Fulham game. This week marked another trip around the sun so we fancied a few days away in what might well be Europe’s coldest city. The sort of cold where it feels … interesting.
I’m here for the history. Everything’s happened here over the last ninety years and an awful lot of it has been bad. I wanted to see how they coped with it. You’re always living with your history to some extent.
But the Reds are on (the LASK game) at 9, I can’t speak the language and the pub tellies are showing that weird sport where people ski dead quick and then pause to shoot at something. People seem to be watching it too. Weird.
I need to see the Reds.
But a quick Google leads me to the local supporter’s club and the bar they drink in. Two minutes later and I’m swapping Instagram messages with a lad called Alex. I’ve barely got the ice off my shoes and I’m online talking to a Red about the Reds. Seven hours later I’m sat with him talking about Ryan Gravenberch.
The Warszawa Reds have about fifty members. They get over to Anfield a few times a season and have an invitation-only Christmas party where the pub is made available for them and them alone. They get on well with the other Warsaw Premier League supporting fan clubs and it’s never nasty. Alex likes Polonia Warsaw, who currently sit in the second tier of Polish league, but a fair few of them keep an eye on Legia Warsaw too.
This was just a bog-standard Europa League game where we’d probably qualify no matter the outcome and it’s freezing outside, but these lads put their flags up anyway.
That probably happens all over the world – a tiny enclave gathered in a dark pub to be a part of all this. They don’t purport to be special or different. They just meet up and sing wherever the team are shown.
I felt lucky and, to be honest, I felt a bit ashamed.
I get to see Liverpool a lot. I run through the same emotions on the same matchdays and have trod the same path for decades. I wonder if I take it for granted. Does it ever become routine? Do we do it because we always have or do we still have the spark we felt as children looking at LFC annuals and long-neglected match programmes?
Actually, I do. The whole thing. From meeting mates beforehand to the weekly ‘who-can-get-down-the-steps-the-quickest’ competition at full time. Not just the game. The everything. I like the everything.
I felt lucky.
But also a bit ashamed. These lads would love my luck. So many people around the world would love to be one of the fifty-odd thousand who sit in the stands and watch Mo Salah and his mates. I wonder if I deserve it.
But still they come out of their warm houses to cross what must seem like the planet Hoth to sit in a bar, to join in, to be a part of it.
So next time I’m sat in the ground, feeling a bit jaded or moaning at a stray pass, I’ll think back to them, to the lad in Croatia who seemed to know everything about Waturu Endo, to Dino, the Boston United fan from the same bar who out a shirt on to watch his team on his laptop, to the barmen in New York who claimed to know little about the Reds but named half the youth team in passing.
There’s a cynical take on this. Those who get over for the odd game – tourists, day-trippers etc. I’ll admit that I’ve frowned at the odd Main Stand stag party who drunkenly get the words wrong to YNWA and I’ve wondered what good Reds have been kept out of a seat to accommodate them, but never this. It’s like that story of Shankly seeing a policeman kick a scarf off the Anfield pitch during another lap of honour and telling them not to do that as ‘that’s someone’s life.’
You can get too wrapped up in the negative side of the game. Howard Webb, VAR, phone-ins, the awkward ‘how about that local sports team, huh?’ conversations at work with non-believers, but it’s heartening to know that this sort of thing goes on around the world. And not just for us. There’s probably three lads in a Patagonian bar waiting to hear the Marine score.
We get to do this. All of us. Even when our Liverpool side isn’t our current Liverpool. When it’s lesser. We get to do all this but we also get to share all this to—be them seven goal thrillers or goalless, chanceless games.
Don’t take it for granted. Squeeze every drop out of it. We get to do this.
Anyway, the flights leaving soon and they want me to turn online. I’d best get online quick to check the Polonia score. They’re at home to Stal Rzeszow. I checked.
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— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) December 3, 2023