It hasn’t been easy. Then and now, it was a completely different story, morning glory. Liverpool fans used to wake up on Monday mornings feeling a little dead inside. Their lungs were sucked out of the air and their posture looking like forwarding slashes, not to keen to get out of bed and go about their day, and face the taunts of colleagues at work. They used to be levelled with remarks of the very original “Loserfool” and the devilishly brilliant “You Will Never Win Anything.” There were a multitude of false dawns. And they seem to glitter like gold until the heat turned up. The sheen of the glory days had to be manufactured through empty merchandising campaigns, and scribes and fans had to live in denial, devoid of acknowledgment, never quite addressing all the ails.
Understandable, as for some of their fans, the unconditional Liverpool is the only constant in their lives. I’d know. The appeal was in the underdog story, of an entity who has seen better days and perhaps just needs to believe in the process to reach its full potential. There was a story to root for, as they saw a bit or a lot of themselves in the failures and random success. This love is not for cowards.
But now, in 2019, fourteen years since the Miracle of Istanbul, Liverpool finally, finally, don’t go in as underdogs at a major final. The cynicism that shone on Twitter and other social media sites isn’t sleek or fashionable anymore. The overpowering belief heading into Saturday’s Champions League final vs London-based Tottenham Hotspur is one of is celestial pride. The kind you get when you look up at the moon on a clear cloudless sky that makes you feel really tiny but really full, to be able to witness its far-reaching beauty. It may not sink in right about now, but this Liverpool team is generational, like the Halley's Comet or a coordinated lunar eclipse of Saturn. To that end of the metaphor is the team sheet – Virgil van Dijk is Titan, while Xherdan Shaqiri is Mimas. Each of those players, be it someone at the end of his celebrity (Daniel Sturridge), or the perennially shadowed in the dark side of a bigger moon, Simon Mignolet, who is still rooting for his team and his replacement Allison Becker from the sidelines, or anyone else. They are onto themselves each satellite of Liverpool’s soul, shining brightly. And no one’s smiling back with a luminescence brighter than Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, with the satisfaction of a plan set in motion.
The second leg versus Barcelona at Anfield summed up the magical realism of Liverpool’s season in a chapter of 90 minutes plus regulation time. Shaqiri played that cross from the left against Barcelona that Gini Wijnaldum dunked into the top corner. It was Divock Origi, a man written off due to his injuries, who lead a line absent of the dogged cheekiness of Bobby Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Any other club perhaps, they wouldn’t have a look in that crucial juncture. But Klopp believes in the very best of you. He believes that with a lot of honesty of effort, a romance for the process, you can reach into your very best. The best motivation, Liverpool’s season and each of those players have proved, does not grow in the barren soil of individualism and self-service, but when you believe in something larger than yourself, a collective spirit that raises your glass ceiling till it breaks like a shimmer of a spell. He believes in equal opportunity (for redemption and myth-making, this is a team full of protagonists).
When you look back to when Liverpool last played Tottenham at Anfield in the Premier League you could actually sense something inevitable. As if you just knew that somehow the time would stretch itself enough for a last-minute goal. And it came from the boot of Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld of all people. If you were guilty of a knee-slide at the office you could instantly forgive yourself because this really means more.
You should be invested in this story even if you’re neutral. Maybe especially, if you are neutral, because Liverpool fans already know what it takes to run a club sustainably, within rules. Liverpool and Tottenham are carrying the banner of what it means to be an emotionally English intelligent football club in the bleak times of Brexit and bi-partisanship. Their ethics are correct, business in good effect, and know how to articulate efficiently their identity through a firm control of policy and recruitment. Oh, and patience. The result has been a return to tradition.
The most successful Liverpool teams had a Scotsman in their ranks. Andy Robertson, the best all-round left back in the world fulfills that quota.
Trent Alexander Arnold finds himself on the cusp of being called a generational talent comes from a kilometer radius of Anfield. A link to the academy, check.
Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are competing with each other for the crown of African football’s ambassadors and the crown of Adidi Pele and Rabah Madjer. Generational talents, check.
Van Dijk is a hark back to the colossus Shankly made sports writers walk around (Ron Yeats).
The connect between fans, the team, the management, the club PR (take a bow, Tony Barrett), the upper echelons have never been better.
Miracles abound, songs of dedication are being made on the fly. More and more fans are spoilt for choice when it comes to having a player name on the backs of their Liverpool shirts.
If Liverpool end up winning the Champions League tonight, it won’t just be a footballing victory. It will be a win for the process.
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Updated Date: Jun 01, 2019 14:19:37 IST