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Soup of This Day #235: Fix These Broken Things

August 19, 2012

Burbo Bank windfarm
Some of the turbines of the Burbo Bank wind farm, located at the entrance to the River Mersey and within sight of the Liver birds that ward over the city of Liverpool from atop the Royal Liver Building. As these 25 massive structures are located 6.4km offshore and in water depths that vary from 2m to 8m it’s probably best not to tilt at them as your horse is liable to drown on the run-up – Photo: Boakesey, 2008. Boakesey is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I have been a Liverpool FC fan for some time now and, if the fates will have me kicking around for a goodly number of years yet, I will remain a Liverpool FC fan for a decent amount of time again.

The 1st time I saw Liverpool play was some time shortly after the 31st of March 1984. On that day Liverpool played Watford FC at the Hornets’ Vicarage Road home. The match was recorded by cameras at the ground and after a delay of a few days broadcast throughout Australia and in particular to a modest house in the rural town of Beverley, Western Australia.

There, 2 young lads watched the match and early on got to bickering about which team was best or something along those lines. Their Dad told them to stop, to just pick a team and stick with them. He meant for that match but we were strange quixotic boys and so, impressed by the passing movement of 1 of the teams, I chose Liverpool and have stuck with them ever since like a deluded noble dude tilting at windmills.

For the record Liverpool won 2-0 in that game, through goals to John Wark and Ian Rush. My brother did not choose Watford – A year or so later he decided upon Liverpool’s fellow Merseyside team Everton, an addiction he’s still being treated for today.

Everton and Watford both run on to the pitch to the Z-Cars theme tune. Coincidence? I think not.

So it’s been 28 years that I have followed the Reds and it has not always been easy. Early on I saw only a handful of games per year and sometimes less. Most often I relied on stale newspaper reports and the weekly reading of the classifieds each Sunday evening via the radio. From these sources, and some magazines, I cobbled together each season, parleying the slim details I could glean into a virtual recreations in my mind.

Later I was able to see more matches, or at least the highlights of those. I could also listen to radio commentary, tuning in to a match of the day, such as Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton and waiting, hoping really, to hear the commentator interrupt the play-by-play with a:

‘There has been a goal at Anfield. Let’s go there now…’

Faster than radio waves, in my mind I was almost always already there.

Now, thanks to the Internet I’m able to watch every game played by Liverpool, see every goal, every tackle, every save and often all of this is in glorious high definition. I would have given a lot for that coverage back in the early days of my adulation for this club but here’s the thing…

I don’t catch as many games now.

Over the past few years I have become disenchanted with the game of football that I have loved for so long.

It’s changed.

Or I have – Perhaps some of the elements I now resent were always there and I glossed over them in my youth. Money, the root of evil I think in the modern game, was certainly around Liverpool in the 1980s – The club routinely set records for transfer fees and as far back as 1979 was the 1st of the top-flight English clubs to adopt a sponsor’s name on their playing kit.

I didn’t see that though. It certainly didn’t seem as overt to me as it does now. Nor did it seem as crazy – Just the other day Manchester United announced their official online betting partner.

Why in god’s name does a club need an official betting partner?

And that is just 1 of 28 current partnerships Man U has and at least that 1 has a sporting connection to it. Amongst the 27 other sponsors the Red Devils have an official noodle partner, an official savoury snack partner and motoring giant Chevrolet as an official automotive partner.

I’ve always admired Steve Gerrard’s ability to drive Liverpool’s midfield forward but that was on the pitch and without exception did not involve a car.

If Chevrolet wants to sponsor football in a meaningful way then they should cop a gander at this:

There’s a beautifully worked free kick at 6:29 that’s by itself worth the price of admission that isn’t being charged.

And just in case you feel like I’ve unfairly taken aim at Manchester United, an admittedly easy target, I should add that Liverpool too has an official betting partner and Chevrolet is their automotive partner as well.

It kind of looks like Chevrolet is keen to go down on everything but the Titanic.

Which only had a 1912 Renault Type CB Coupe de Ville on board.

Inane sponsorships aside, this influx of money has soured the culture of football to an extraordinary degree. Take Fulham’s Clint Dempsey – The American striker, a more than decent player, has allegedly gone on strike in a bid to join Liverpool.

A striker going on strike.

Oh the irony.

There are 2 things that are wrong with this scenario:

a. Dempsey has done this because he is convinced Liverpool want him. He’s formed this opinion because Fenway Sports Group (FSG), Liverpool’s American owners, published a press release on their website a month or so ago proclaiming that he had signed for the Merseysiders.

Which was manifestly untrue. They retracted the article pretty much straight away but the paucity of truth, the guileless denials and the briefness of it’s publication did nothing to stifle the rumours it generated.

Which no doubt contributed to Dempsey being unsettled and to him requesting a transfer. It’s called ‘tapping up’ – Liverpool have made eye contact across the crowded dance-floor and with a wiggle of their coquettish hips have sent the illicit message louder and clearer than a car manufacturer trying to shore up international markets. That they have yet to actually officially enunciate their intentions is irrelevant.

And they may not ever go through with it anyway. They’ve made no offer to Fulham. They’re just sitting back hoping that Dempsey will drive a transfer through off his own bat and at a price that is substantially lower than what they’d get if the American wasn’t chucking a tantrum on their behalf. Which leads me to…

b. A strike? Really? Dude.

We’ll still take him though. A guy prepared to go on strike from a job that pays as much in a week as most of the world gets in a year and that some will get in a lifetime is still viable in this game. The whole refusing to work thing won’t even make him the most morally questionable player at Liverpool, let alone in the whole league.

That title at Liverpool must surely go to Luis Suárez, the Urugayan striker who is blessed with sublime skill and would surely be 1 of the most prodigious talents in the world of football today.

If he wasn’t also a regular cheat who dives at will and who last season racially taunted a player from Manchester United.

When the latter occurred and Suárez denied it the club were right to stand behind him. When he was found guilty and banned for 8 matches they should have stood behind his victim. When he refused to shake the hand of that victim he should have been turfed from the English game completely.

But no.

For weeks after, Liverpool staunchly defended the indefencible. And from their perspective why not? Had Liverpool sacked him they would have lost their number 1 striker and every other club in England would have picked him up in a heartbeat.

Even Manchester United.

Because he’s technically gifted. Last night in Liverpool’s season opener he created or featured in a host of the Reds chances. That he failed to score is of secondary consequence – He will put the ball into the back of the net more times than most this season.

That Liverpool lost the game is also of lesser import – At least to me anyway. They could have won 5-0 and it’s hard to imagine that I would have been much more unmoved than I was by the 3-0 pantsing they deservedly got from West Bromwich Albion.

It’s 1 thing to lose a match. It’s something else entirely to lose your way.

Liverpool’s new kit manufacturer is Warrior Sport – They launched their product range to much fanfare earlier this year and with 1 of the most bemusing taglines in sports marketing history:

‘We come not to play.’

Well, don’t then.

Presumably they mean that it is more than just a game to them. Which is nice because it’s also more than a game to a guy who, as an 8 year old boy, pledged his allegiance in 1984.

I don’t regret that choice a tick over 28 years ago and as I disclosed up front I won’t change who I cheer for. What I will do though is dedicate less time to Liverpool and more to stuff that can more truly claim to have my heart and soul.

Like The Noah for instance. He had his 1st football lesson last Thursday. He loved it, had himself some real fun going through the drills. It might not become a permanent thing for him but if it does, for the 1st time in 28 years, the number 1 football team in my heart will have some serious company.

My boys will never walk alone.

Fix These Broken Things

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