Pre-season tours divide opinion. Some say that it’s a blatant and cynical cash grab. Others talk about how it can be detrimental to the players having to travel 20 hours just to play a 90-minute game. And it’s almost a given that the games are never that good, really just a training exercise for the season. But to me, it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, culminating in the best 90 minutes of my life.
I flew down to Melbourne from Sydney the day before the game and Melbourne was already turning into a red city with flashes of Liverpool shirts, jackets and scarves appearing everywhere. The training session was a healthy indication of what the match day might look like--15,000 fans chanting song after song outside the stadium and inside. As I went home that night, I was filled with excitement on what the next day would bring. It didn’t disappoint.
It was like the whole city was buzzing with energy. Everywhere you looked there were Liverpool supporters. During a visit to a market on the outskirts of the central business district, people would see the scarves I was wearing and strike up conversation about the game that night. Pubs and bars were filled to the brim with people waiting for the game to start and entertaining themselves with endless renditions of Liverpool classics. With some regret, I was more a spectator than a participant, a fly on the wall, taking photo after photo to keep as a memory of this incredible day.
But still, it was nothing compared to the build up within the MCG stadium before kick-off. More and more people started filling up the seats and the whole stadium turned into the beautiful shade of Liverpool red (except for the couple of Melbourne Victory, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea shirts that I spotted). When it hit eight o’clock, the familiar tune of You’ll Never Walk Alone started to play on the loudspeakers. It started off slowly, but it grew louder and stronger as more and more voices joined in. I will never forget that moment when we hit the chorus--I felt like we all became one, that 12th man that's so famously discussed. As amazing as it is hearing the Kop sing it on match day during the season, there’s nothing to describe that feeling of joining in with a whole stadium of people, all 95,446 of us, united by our love of Liverpool Football Club.
Watching Liverpool play was an indescribable feeling. You see things you don’t get to see on a pixelated stream, like watching Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez energize the ground with their amazing talent, Jordan Henderson with his adorably awkward gait and endless energy, and Daniel Agger’s marauding of the pitch with his captain’s armband. But best of all, you become a part of the game. Every great pass, we gasp. Every wayward ball, we groan. Every time our captain Steven Gerrard touches the ball, we cheer. And when we score a goal, the whole stadium leaps to their feet and erupts in cheers and excitement. There are just feelings you experience when watching Liverpool play in person that you don’t get in front of a computer screen. Take all my money Liverpool, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
All good things come to an end, unfortunately. After the brilliant high of the final whistle, the night tapered down quickly. The players left the field leaving behind the second team who had to cool down. Those who were lucky near the tunnel got their shirts signed. I missed out, but my sole aim was to watch Liverpool play, and anything on top of that was purely a blessing and a bonus. As I made my way back to Sydney the next morning, I still saw flashes of red appearing here and there, a bond existing between all of us. When I took the train home, the most unlikely combination of people started conversing on a packed train; a man from England, a white-haired older gentleman and me, a Chinese girl in her early twenties. The only connection we had in common was the Liverpool blood running through our veins and the Liverpool red that we wore on the outside.
But that was enough.
**Thanks to Janey for the post and the video. You can catch up with her in the comments below or over on Twitter, where she frequently supports our shameless love for Jordan Henderson.**