There are some lights that simply won’t burn out. That’s me and Fernando Torres. He’s the reason I became a fan of Liverpool Football Club, finally cementing my fandom after trying out other clubs for short periods of time. I felt at home when I decided to follow my El Niño fandom, borne out of a few years of obsessing over him and the Spanish National Team, to Merseyside.
And then, of course, the bottom fell-out. The club was in a state of transition. Mascherano refused to play for the club and got sold to Barcelona. There were rumblings that Torres would be next. He held on for a few months but, in January, he forced his way out of the club and onto a rival.
I was devastated.
I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few years about the concept of forgiveness. Particularly about the concept of reconciliation.
It probably won’t be a big surprise to some that I am a practicing Catholic. For us, reconciliation is a deeply important aspect of our faith life and it actually serves as a terrific model for how to handle conflict in the real world.
The steps to reconciliation involve a few things sacramentally, but in terms of real world application, it is a process: a statement of contrition followed by an act of penance in an attempt to repair the harm down. It’s simple but beautiful.
It’s also incredibly hard. As I’ve been looking at the the political landscape - my work necessarily has me dealing with the effects of this currently terrible political moment - I’ve been asking the question as to what it would take for reconciliation considering where we are.
I ask this because, for the most part, there are a lot of people who wish to jump to reconciliation after, at most, an expression of contrition. But the more crucial part of the process is that it is always twinned to an act of repair to the community.
You cannot have true reconciliation without finding ways to repair the harm. To pay some form of reparations.
Earlier today, I wrote about the potential for Philippe Coutinho to return to Anfield. I purposefully left it open because not only was the rumor rather baseless, but because I couldn’t see a way for him to repair the relationship with the community. He left the club on the lurch and did it in a way that saw him salt the earth on his way out of town.
The story twins a little with Fernando Torres. El Niño also left during the January window. He left for a rival in the league, which might make it worse for some. He left us at a time when we needed him the most.
I don’t know if, at the time, I felt anything more than sadness. But I do know there was a lot of anger towards him. I genuinely don’t know if he ever was able to repair that relationship.
The thing for me, though, is that the relationship was never severed. The state of the club, such as it was, told me that for a man who had seemingly seen the best of his playing days already pass him but still had a little bit left in the tank, left in search of glory.
It’s hard to argue against that, looking on it. He stuck with the club during the fears of administration. His presence and commitment made the sale to FSG possible and insured that the club would not end up being the next Leeds. His career after LFC saw him nab a Champions League and Europa League winner’s medal. He made the right call for himself.
And, for me, I could never see this as a scenario where the guy wrecked his standing in some irreparable way that required some form of recompense. He gave Liverpool the best professional seasons of his career. He was a shadow of himself, playing bit roles as he collected those last team accolades. But the Anfield faithful got to see him in full bloom right in front of them. What a blessing.
In the end, I am here to praise Fernando Torres. A class striker. The man who brought me to this great fandom.
Saying goodbye in the same offseason to Daniel Sturridge, my true and real Liverpool love, and now to Fernando Torres the player, my first Liverpool obsession, is one heck of a doozy. I pray that El Niño has found peace and joy in the interim years and only has the same in retirement. Buena suerte, Fernando!