Liverpool have won their sixth European Cup beating English rivals Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid. These fourteen words in the first line of this copy have been 14 years in the making. That’s the average age that a cat lives to. If you own a pet, you’d understand how humbling that thought is.
If not, here’s some context: Last time Liverpool played at Atletico Madrid’s home ground, the following were the players: Pepe Reina, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, David N’gog, Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt, Yossi Benayoun, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva, Javier Mascherano, and Danny Agger. That was 2010. The year FSG swooped in at the death to save Liverpool from being taken over by state-controlled banks and bartered off to the highest bidders. George Gillett and Tom Hicks could have killed Liverpool. Humbling.
It’s a lifetime. In human terms, 14 years could form the foundation of a person’s behaviour through randomised trial and error. Liverpool, up until last night, have been mostly trial and error. Liverpool are now among the best run clubs in the world. Liverpool owner John HW Henry will be distributing big cigars, and director of football operations, Michael Edwards will be getting function-ably drunk.
The hard work starts here; this is a new Liverpool’s year one. Last night was the culmination of Liverpool’s collective coming of age — the management, the upper-management, the players and lastly but not least-ly, the fans. Self-doubt can be turned to success through sincerity.
There was criticism levelled at the quality of the match, it having the lowest pass completion rate of any of Champions League matches this season (stats by Duncan Alexander). Liverpool, a bloke who has 'alternate' setting set on his controller instead of 'classic' and doesn't realise it until half-time. But it’ll help to remember that they convincingly beat the champions of France, Serbia, Spain, Germany, and Portugal in an edition of Champions League that put respect beside the name of the European competition. And also racked up 97 points in the Premier League season. That’s hard to do without being sexy.
The 70,000 of them at the Madrid square, Plaza Mayor, know it. The 1000s gathered in Kamala Mills, Mumbai, India, know it. Millions of Liverpool supporters all over the world now know it. They have learnt to be Liverpool fans this season as much Liverpool players learned to be Liverpool players. At Anfield away inside the Wanda Metropolitano, both the fans and players were recipients of the knowledge of what it takes to be equal participants. If Liverpool FC are the best team in Europe, Liverpool fans can claim half the responsibility. That said, credit to the other half must be duly given.
Defender Virgil van Dijk finished the season without a player dribbling past him. But overall, the stat is 1 because of that pitch-invading streaker last night. Seconds after the final whistle, Allison made the stadium his lounge and dialed a Skype call to his chubby-cheeked daughter, and his expecting wife. In the duration of match, he sprawled panther-like to save multiple Tottenham efforts. When the whistle blew, it was telling that the majority of the Liverpool players ran towards him for a cuddle.
Mohamed Salah scored a penalty in the first 30 seconds of the match. Salah used to travel nine hours through the high-noon heat of Egypt to be able to play football. All of those steps added up, every single one of those taken. It was fitting that the man who had his Champions League finals sabotaged by Sergio Ramos last year scored the opener, while Sergio Ramos is being publicly flogged by Real Madrid president for scrupulousness and is being forced out of the club.
Trent Alexander Arnold, as an Anfield ball boy, saw his idol Steven Gerrard slip up at the most crucial juncture of a title race. 2014 was another false dawn, a case of Liverpool yet again punching above their weight. He now has just as many Champions League as Steven Gerrard, who was also his former academy coach.
Adam Lallana’s last trophy was the second division Johnstone Paint Trophy. Andy Robertson suffered from a spell of unemployment in 2012. Dejan Lovren and Xherdan Shaqiri were at some point refugees.
Divock Origi, the scorer of the second goal, the Barca-slayer, was a write-off after his unsuccessful loan spell in Wolfsburg.
Injured Liverpool fan, Sean Cox, who was once in a coma, is conscious and back in his grey Liverpool kit. The hands-on Peter Moore, Liverpool’s CEO maintaining proportion and equanimity tweeted Mr Cox’s health update after the final whistle.
Daniel Sturridge became the only the second Englishman to win two Champions Leagues without featuring in the final. He now has more Champions League than London combined. A man of more-than-occasional fits of humour, he will prize this stat as much he prizes his yogurt. Perhaps.
Sturridge, Oxlade Chamberlain, Simon Mignolet, and others fulfilled their roles as supporting cast and amateur Instagram fly-on-the wall documentaries for the fans, basking in the shared glory and giddiness. If you are a Liverpool fan, you’ll partake vicariously in the team’s after parties through the Instagram updates. If you are Liverpool fans, the club has never been closer to you as it has been now.
You, of course, are quite familiar with the club anthem, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ This is the golden sky they sing about. At the end of the storm, this is the golden sky that was promised.
The walk was long, through the raining pre-planned non-parades, and the road took a toll, but they are finally here, home — poised and perched, and un-parched. For the first time in a long time, the good old days are not behind them, but ahead.
Kenny Dalglish couldn’t have been happier. As a player, he held the trophy up as a dazzling 20-something, and last night, he was weeping tears of a very knowing joy that overcomes our grandads when they see us stand up on our two feet.
“These lads are going to be alright.” Liverpool fans know that too, finally, starting off as not the underdogs at a major final. Poetically, after his sixth attempt at winning a final, Jurgen Klopp has a bestowed a boisterous kind of greatness (that will shout from the rooftops), by winning Liverpool’s sixth Champions League.
"I lost the last six finals I was in. They were not the best days of my life, but they didn't make me a broken person. For me, life is about trying again and again; if only the winners were allowed to survive then we'd all have to go," said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp before the match.
After finally winning his first Champions League he said, “My family suffered the most through those final losses. This is for them, the fans, the bosses.”
Liverpool’s masseuses ran onto the pitch celebrating with the players, but mindfully, with massage mat in hand, just in case anyone of the players cramps up while celebrating. It has been a long, long season. This is how the end of Elton John’s 'And I think it's gonna be a long long time (Rocketman)' would look like if adapted to a football song: Grit, dazzling fireworks, glitter, pomp, champagne, and Jordan Henderson lifting the Champions League.
Oh, right, Jordan Henderson’s name will now be indelibly inked beside Emlyn Hughes, Kenny Dalglish, Phil Thompson, Steven Gerrard, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. To see him embrace his father harks back to a very particular photograph taken of Steven Gerrard after the final of Istanbul. His commitment makes him the Liverpool captain the city deserves.
If you think Liverpool fans are unbearable now, just wait till they do the big double next season. See you in August.
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Updated Date: Jun 02, 2019 14:44:56 IST