Why I love Liverpool and Gerrard!
I started watching football seriously during the 2002-03 season. Until then, football, for me, was synonymous with David Beckham. I am sure a lot of eyes must be rolling and judgemental eyebrows must be raised, but in my defense, football really isn’t or at least wasn’t that popular a sport in India back then. By India, I mean not just the metros and Kolkata! What sparked the interest was a school project we had to do on the 2002 FIFA World Cup and in the process of doing that I ended up reading about a lot of players, lots of teams and the general footballing world. Very predictably, it was the England team that I followed the most and eventually I started following the English Premier League.
To start off with, I had no loyalties. I grew up in India you see, and the idea of being fanatical about some club representing a place from a foreign land seemed too bizarre to me. I mostly cheered for the handsome guys. But as I followed the league more closely and more regularly, I started appreciating the game more for the game than for anything else. Surprisingly, whenever I mentioned that I followed the EPL, the first question anyone would ask was,”Which club do you support?” I resisted answering that question for a while, but eventually I realized that the reason why the EPL is so wildly popular is because of the irrational craziness of the fans and their unwavering loyalty.
One thing was for sure, I hated Manchester United. For some inexplicable reason, the team and their manager reeked of arrogance and their fans were perhaps the most annoying bunch of football fans I had ever met! I might sound a little harsh here, but pardon me because I am a hardcore Liverpool fan now. Liverpool were not a great side during that period, but they were a pretty good side. They won the FA cup, League Cup and the UEFA Cup apart from doing reasonably well in the Premier League. Having the likes of Michael Owen and a then rising Steven Gerrard in the team was an added bonus. Despite not being a football expert, and as someone who had perhaps read more about the clubs and their history before watching the league, I was instantly drawn towards supporting Liverpool.
The turning point though was the 2004-05 season. Liverpool’s journey to the finals of the now famous Champions League finals against AC Milan in Instanbul had so much drama and it played out like such a fairy tale (at least for the Liverpool fans) that it perhaps consolidated my support for the team. Gerrard and Alonso combined to form a dream midfield and Gerrard’s two goals – one against Olympiakos in the group stages and the one in the finals that triggered the comeback – were perhaps enough to lend him legendary status at LFC. But Gerrard’s commitment to his hometown club and his inspirational leadership make him more than a legend. The very next season, Liverpool and Gerrard were once again part of a memorable match. This time, it was the FA cup final against West Ham in 2006. Widely regarded as one of the greatest FA Cup finals, Liverpool came back from behind twice, thanks to two wonderful goals from Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard. The second goal especially, that equalized the scoreline and forced the match into extra time and penalties, is perhaps one of the greatest goals in the competition.
Be it Fernando Torres, who recently stated that his time spent at Anfield playing alongside Gerrard was his best and that it showed him how to be a great player and leader, or Sir Alex Ferguson who once called Gerrard the most influential player in England, the universal respect Steven Gerrard garners from both supporters and non-supporters of Liverpool is testimony to his greatness. He has also won numerous accolades such as UEFA club footballer, Fans’ Player of the Year, PFA Player of the Year, etc. over the course of his illustrious career.
But things have not always been hunky dory for Liverpool and Steven Gerrard. There were speculations of Gerrard moving to Chelsea and offers from other international clubs to lure him away. At a time when money can buy loyalty, and the desire for winning overpowers the desire for winning with a particular team, Gerrard has remained a one-club man. His dedication and loyalty to the club are a reflection of his character. To me, he is Liverpool Football Club and that is why I love him!