The story of my soccer fandom in general and in particular that of Liverpool FC isn’t particularly novel.
Like a lot of Americans, I started watching the Premier League when NBC acquired the rights to stream games back in 2013, and I actively committed to staying neutral – just watching the big games and trying to appreciate the fact that I could watch sports on weekend mornings. In fact, it wasn’t until after Liverpool signed Jurgen Klopp to manage Liverpool in late 2015 that I really found a team that piqued my interest. The style of play that he had a reputation for at Dortmund – a frenetic, ‘heavy metal football’ style of counterpressing – was just what a relative soccer novice like myself was drawn to. Like most Americans, our first reaction when watching soccer is often focusing on the lack of scoring and dismissing the entire enterprise as boring. A team that scored a lot of goals, created disruption and gave up a ton of goals in the process was just what the doctor ordered.
At the time, they weren’t front runners (finished top 8 in 15-16), but were big enough to be on TV a lot. That was kind of the sweet spot for me. My initial decision was very surface level (style of play, TV availability, even uniform colors), but that would quickly change. The more I watched Liverpool and learned about the players and their past, the more I was drawn in. They’ve had so many legendary players wear the shirt and have experienced an amazing number of highs and lows over their 120 year history as a club. I became kind of obsessed with watching old games on YouTube and reading up on legendary managers and players to gain a deeper understanding of the team. The more I learned about the team, I also learned about the city’s long English title drought. The top flight league in England wasn’t even called the Premier League when they last won!
Liverpool have been tantalizingly close over the past few years, nipping at the heels of one of the best teams in the history of the sport (Manchester City was the first team to get 100 points in a top-flight season). In the process, the team has bought and sold a number of players to slowly build their quality and depth, while shoring up their defensive weaknesses. Going into last year, most folks thought that it could be the year that they finally knocked off City and took the crown. They fell one point short. One point!
Missing by that much, 12 months after losing the Champions League final, could have done some teams in. Or it could kick off a run that will be something I’ll surely remember for the rest of my life. Since losing out to Manchester City at the end of the 18-19 season, Liverpool advanced to the Champions League final after being down 3-0 to Barcelona in the semifinals, winning 4-0 at home. It was one of the most remarkable comeback wins you’ll ever see. The fans singing You’ll Never Walk Alone after that game will forever be etched in my mind:
They would go on to beat Tottenham in the final 2-0 and win their first European championship in over a decade.
The 19-20 Premier League season will be remembered for the Covid stoppage and games without the fans but it’s important to not forget the absolutely insane run Liverpool has been on up to this point:
- 86 points after 31 games (best ever in top-flight history)
- 1/19 – 2/20: 44 match PL unbeaten streak (2nd best in top-flight history)
- 10/19 – 2/20: 18 straight PL wins (joint best in top-flight history)
- Won 2019 Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
- 2019-20 Premier League Champions (earliest title win in top-flight history)
So for me, a relative newcomer to all of this, to feel so much after seeing this team finally win the Premier League helps me to understand what so many lifelong fans must be going through right now. It’s not how we might have wanted, but somehow it’s perfect.