There is joy in rooting for Liverpool Football Club. Real, true, joy. From the style of play, to the return on results (final league position notwithstanding), and to the ebullient (Trev word! Drink!) nature of our gaffer, Jurgen Klopp. There is just so much to celebrate about this particular group of likable guys who ply their trade at such an elite level.
What I am perhaps loving the most, though, as a brown immigrant sat thousands of miles away, is the gift that is the attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah. The three attackers are, of course, perhaps the best attacking unit in Europe and are, to my estimation, the class at the front of the pitch in the Premier League. Mane and Salah shared Golden Boot honors with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, notching 22 goals each in this Premier League season. Roberto Firmino finished third in the team goals tally and dropped 6 assists in to boot.
When you add up the goals and assists from Liverpool’s attacking trident, you get 71 direct goal involvements. When you consider that Liverpool scored a total of 89 goals in this year’s Premier League campaign, you find that just under 80% of goals scored by the team were either scored by or assisted by one of Firmino, Mane, or Salah.
I’ve written elsewhere on this site that my deep love and appreciation for this particular trio mirrors that of my love for the Backstreet Boys. No, not because they are perfect pop superstars that can do no wrong, but because this trio has a sense of harmony that is BSB-esque. The blend of these three attackers is such that it is hard, at times, to sort who the most important player is. They are an absolute unit.
But the thing that has been stuck in the back of my mind of late is how each member of this group comes from elsewhere: Brazil, Egypt, and Senegal. It’s a group of immigrants at the top of the LFC attack basically, to crib from Lin Manuel Miranda, getting the job done.
That’s the joy, for me. Maybe this labor will go unheralded or will kind of blow past many LFC fans. Perhaps because they aren’t immigrants themselves or people of color. And because of that they may, unconsciously, be living out their own privilege: a reality in which the labor of immigrants and people of color for the sake of some Grand (Usually National) Project is expected.
It doesn’t escape me, though, because I’m existing in a reality in which our labor is expected while our humanity is marginalized and, in many cases, under attack. So I find joy in the labor and work of these talented immigrants because I see in their graft and skill and hustle the same things that make my people tick and survive. I see hope in the work.
In a little over a week, this Liverpool team will head to Madrid to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League Final. No word yet on the health of Roberto Firmino, but reports that were released this morning indicate that he went with the whole group to Spain for the mini-training camp. So, cue excitement and expectation.
Firmino isn’t from where many of the people I serve and hope to protect come from - the vast majority of people entering the United States in hope of safety and refuge come from Central America. But Firmino looks like the type of person that has drawn the ire of and focus of racists and xenophobes in America, which is to say he looks like he is from Latin America - a “bad hombre.”
There’s a lot of things for me to hope for and cheer on when it comes to the Champions League Final, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was, in no small way, rooting for Bobby not only to make the pitch, but to score a crucial goal during the match. Perhaps the winner. Or maybe to put on one of his typically hardworking, elite-level, false-nine work. Or both.
Because as I’ve found myself working closely with people who’ve traversed thousands of miles on the mere glimmer of hope that they might find some peace and safety here, I can’t help but feel that there would be a little bit of justice in seeing a brown immigrant like Bobby have his contributions to the Great Liverpool Project be celebrated. Not because you need to be an elite-level anything or even be mediocre at anything to exist in any one place, but because it would be nice to see our contributions be heralded for just a second during this bleak time.
To have one small moment where I can feel intimately connected to the joys of a global fan base welcoming into its arms an Immigrant Son.