The World Cup is currently winding down to its last set of group stage matches, meaning we’re not long away from seeing half of the field of 32 departing the shores of Russia and headed back to their respective home countries. After a brief vacation, of course, a lot of these players will turn their attentions shortly to the impending club season. And with the likes of Egypt among those turning in early, Reds fans can already start training their eyes to the first match in the Premier League season.
Which makes sense: I’ve often heard it said that Liverpool as a community often have more fealty to their city and community than to the broader nation. A likely outgrowth from the ways in which the community have been left behind by past administrations during incredibly dire times. International fans of the club with no deep roots to local community might find themselves in the same boat, if for reasons devoid of the politics.
Still, I can’t deny that the World Cup is not only an easy point of entry for casual fans, especially when it’s the way I came to become a Liverpool supporter. Back in 2006, I supported Spain as a secondary team in the World Cup, largely behind my affinity for one Fernando Torres. The young striker was electric and he was the spearhead of a scrappy Spanish side that was just on the cusp of being legendary. The following year, Torres would sign for Liverpool. Two years later, I would decide to follow a Premier League Club and chose Liverpool largely because of Torres.
For people like me, whose home nation isn’t even in the tournament - though, for reasons tied to my nation’s current descent into fascism, this was actually a reprieve - it can be a bit of a struggle to figure out who to root for when, for all intents and purposes, my only deep footballing love is Liverpool Football Club. I don’t think, in recent memory, there’s been anything like the heights I’ve felt when seeing our electric team flying down the pitch and scoring at will. And I’m certain I haven’t felt the same lows as the crushing defeats and the times we’d come so tantalizingly close to tasting glory. Liverpool has my heart.
And so, going into this tournament, I decided to try and make my rooting choices around things that both honor my ethos and, I think, speak to the ethos of the club’s working class, communal mentality. In that vein, I decided that I would cheer for LFC players and their national teams. It was great to see Lovren celebrate their evisceration of Argentina, and I definitely lamented seeing Egypt bow out with Mo Salah. I’ve been perturbed with the ways in which Bobby Firmino continues to be under appreciated and am, like some folks from Merseyside, kind of meh when it comes to England’s chances.
But I’ve had a lot of fun learning to root for teams with no LFC-related interests thanks to a simple decision I made going in: I wanted to root first for former colonies. In that way, seeing Mexico be triumphant, especially during this specific time, feels like a tremendous feel good story. So has watching Nigeria finally start to right the ship and open up their chances at advancing with a comprehensive win over Iceland. And watching Senegal - with LFC’s own Sadio Mane as their captain - has been a particular treat.
And just like that, we’re already to the end of June, which means a mere few weeks before Liverpool training camp begins. We’ve almost survived an LFC-less summer and had some great football to boot. We’re almost back to that which feels most natural: cheering for our beloved Reds.