Thursday, May 19, 2016

Far Away Footie and Liverpool Blues

One of the worst deprivations I face living in the USA is watching footie from afar. I've never been a big fan of the U.S. version which features more shoulder pads than an episode of Dynasty, a statement that ages me badly, helmets and lots of stopping and standing around while men fondle odd shaped balls.

Football is called soccer in the US. It always pained me to come to terms with the word but a rather ill-fated episode of coaching under 5s last year, reconciled me more to the S word. I'm not sure if I was a great man (or child motivator for that matter). It's never a good thing when you are celebrating the end of the season at Pizza Hut and the kids start asking who you are. It's a long story really. As part of often acrimonious and unnecessarily costly divorce proceedings, I mentioned a time when the ex had resisted putting the 5-year-old into a local soccer club.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Kopp @ notahappybunny.com


The ex later enrolled him and even volunteered to be a head coach. The pressure was on me to coach an opposing team and I agreed. It soon became clear coaching 5-year-olds was not my bag. The sodden fields of Portsmouth, Virginia seemed a world away from the glory nights of long ago when Liverpool pulled off some of their greatest triumphs in the heart of Europe.

I'm not sure why I started supporting Liverpool but I believe it was a reaction to the elementary school bullies who were promising dire consequences for anyone who wouldn't support Manchester United. Withstanding the daily mortar attacks of snot projected across the class on rulers, it was still worth keeping my principles intact.

Supporting Liverpool was exhilarating and ultimately frustrating but never dull, But from the other side of the pond you often walk alone. Even when you can watch matches down the pub, there is little atmosphere and none of the old cheering and tribalism. The closest I came to recreating the mood was the game between England and the USA in 2010 when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored early on, only for a pathetic fumble by the England goalkeeper to level the score. Watching England is usually an exercise in futility. That world cup was no different.

I had a better feeling yesterday when Liverpool squared up to Sevilla in the Europa Cup final after a breathtaking run in. I quickly ran into logistical problems. The game was scheduled for 7.45p.m. in Britain which was 2.45 p.m. in the United States. That's not an easy time to slip out of work. It was apparently possible to view the game on YouTube, I checked it out and received a message that the service is "not available in your country."

There was nothing for it but to 'watch' the game on live updates on BBC and the Guardian's website, although news of Liverpool's first goal was shared first on Facebook.

I started to wonder if I could get to a pub for the glorious second half. That's when things went slightly pear shaped and Sevilla scored three goals. Even with 10 minutes to go, I half expected a trademark Liverpool escape act.

Then a funny thing happened. Nothing happened.

I felt gutted but at least  had not broken out of jail to watch a fiasco. At some time in the night, I checked my phone and read an Egypt Air jet had disappeared. I started to imagine all those families waiting at the airport for a plane that would never land. it put my footie emptiness firmly into perspective.

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