After years of badgering, I finally agreed to accompany an old friend to a Liverpool F.C match next time I visited. It was this conceding of defeat to his impassioned plea that meant that on the first day of 2015 I found myself, and child, on the train to Liverpool.
Considering how many times, when we lived closer, I dragged this particular friend around vintage shops and tearooms, it was really only fair that I finally accompanied him to something of his picking.
I met my friend, who seemed mournful about Liverpool’s prospects at the station. He, a keen football betting enthusiast, was already lamenting that he would never get back the undisclosed sum of money he put on a 3/1 bet of Liverpool making the top four at the season’s end. I soothed him as best I could without really understanding the variety of terminologies and statistics he was throwing in every direction.
Whilst I had never really been interested in football, neither had I ever been particularly opposed to it. Therefore, I was quite excited to sample the electric atmosphere and feverish tension that I had heard my friend talk so excitedly about over the years. Moreover, it was a lovely opportunity to experience a different type of day out than that to which the young one and I were accustomed.
Oddly, the first thing I thought of as we approached the Anfield stadium was how much I missed living in a city. The swarms of people, the buzz of conversation, the tangible excitement in the air; you simply cannot replicate it without vast amounts of people. What was slightly astounding, however, was that despite us being packed in to a dense human stream on entry, the stadium is expanding further with an additional 8,500 seats being added.
I have to admit, I probably loved the atmosphere that the build-up to the match generated more than the match itself. We were seated high in the stands and seeing the filling stadium expand around us was wonderful. Also, for lovers of both dramatic irony and football, my friend spent about ten minutes – prematch – rolling his eyes at some fellow fans who were insisting that Steven Gerrard would be leaving Liverpool. Gerard announced the next day that he would be leaving at the end of the season. My friend is still in mourning and is not ready to take phone calls quite yet.
However, this unfortunate incident aside, I deeply enjoyed the communal atmosphere and pulsating sounds of the Anfield stadium, which, according to my friend, has been home to Liverpool FC since its founding in 1892.
The match was largely as I expected and, not to sound too stereotypical or old, it was difficult to get involved in proceedings when the players resembled ants on the pitch from my high viewpoint. However, whilst the young one was enjoying herself joining in with the cheers and jeers of the fans around her, I got stuck in to some serious people watching.
From withered old men who thrashed around like men 30 years younger when their team scored to flushed children looking like they were about to burst from all the excitement, the Anfield stadium was packed with characters. Moreover, whilst I have always been a bit wary of boorish football fans, I was pleasantly pleased to find that even the jeers seemed good natured and there was no discernible edge whatsoever.
I can you tell that Liverpool drew with Leicester City 2-2, if only because of my friend’s protests all the way back to his flat. Overall, it is obvious that I am not a natural football fan. But, as an occasional experience, I can heartily recommend a trip to the Anfield stadium. If not the deep conversation about free-kicks and debatable fouls that comes after!