In mid-April 2005, I was on the District Line train from Mansion House to South Kensington, in London, and in the Victoria station, a huge number of people got on to the train. They were all dressed in red, and carrying Liverpool scarves and cans of Carlsberg beer. They were on their way to Stamford Bridge, to watch Liverpool take on Chelski in the Champions League semis at Stamford Bridge. And they started singing.
It was magical, as they first sang “you never walk alone”, and then followed it up with personalized songs for each of the players, and for the coach Rafa Benitez. I remember one going “Steve Gerrard Gerrard, pass the ball forty yards .. ” . And another, to the tune of “La Bamba”, going “Rarararararafa Benitez, Xabi Alonso, Garcia and Nunez” (honouring all the Spaniards in the team). I was sold.
Till then, I hadn’t been much of a football fan, though I would watch the odd World Cup or Euro game. I had never really followed club football, and never supported any team. That day, things changed. I went to a crowded pub in Kensington to watch the game, perhaps I was the only Red fan there. I got to know the names of the Liverpool players (I’d heard of Gerrard and Milan Baros thanks to their exploits in Euro ’04, and I knew Alonso, Garcia and Nunez (never saw him play) thanks to the song). And quietly cheered for Liverpool in that semi final.
It has been a roller coaster ride for the last eight odd years, with more downs than ups. The undoubted high came just a month after I’d declared myself a Liverpool fan, when they came back from 0-3 down to beat Milan in the Champions League finals in Istanbul. There have been several low points, the one that hurts the most is them failing to win the Premiership in 2008-09, when they came a close second. And then, they were to sell Xabi Alonso, who had been my favourite player.
The kind of passion I feel when I watch Liverpool play is unmatched, even by what I feel when I watch the Indian Test cricket team. There is a kind of tension that develops that I seldom feel otherwise. The disappointment when they lose (or fail to win) is the kind that I normally reserve for personal debacles.
And to think it all started with a random train ride with a bunch of loud drunks.