As we get ready for another season to kick off, it’s a good time to revisit what it means to be a fan. And not just any fan, but a Liverpool fan. Liverpool fans have revelled in the peaks of domestic and European glory with Bob Paisley, Bill Shankley, Kenny Danglish, Rafa Benitez, and now the incomparable Jürgen Klopp. Many of us helped each other through the very low lows of the Hicks and Gillett era. Some have helped their fellow fans and supporters through far worse.
Following a Premier League club for fans scattered around the globe can mean very early mornings and very late nights searching for dodgy streams (or so we’ve heard), and even at the best of times it can all end up being very, very stressful, watching eleven players kick a ball about and knowing that the result can make or break our day, our weekend, our week. So why do we put ourselves through the wringer?
For some, it’s a family affair, born into the fandom and raised in the culture. I, like many other international fans, came into it as a solo fan. When I was young, a family friend gave me a Liverpool shirt, a Justice for the 96 shirt. I wore it pretty much every day. I had no idea what it meant at the time, but I loved the Liverbirds and the flames that were on it. There wasn’t professional soccer in the United States at the time, and there was no real way to watch anything outside the World Cup. But as I got older, I kept an eye out for Liverpool. In college, I finally was able watch a young Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen play the odd Champion’s League game.
By grad school, I went in whole hog. I started by watching gamecasts on my own in the back of a computer lab. I’ll never forget the anxiety of staring at the screen waiting for the next update to pop up, but those brief moments of euphoria and silent celebrations after seeing Fernando Torres had scored again made it worth the while.
After some time, I began to seek out other fans, both in person and online. I craved the feeling of community. I wanted to be part of the global chorus singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at kickoff. Through interactions with other fans, I got much more than I bargained for. I began to understand what it really meant to be a Liverpool fan. I got schooled on what it meant to be Scouse, not English. I began to understand what Bill Shankly meant when he talked about socialism. I was educated by peers in the community about the Hillsborough disaster and the lasting damages that are still felt to this day. After time, that community began to be family. Like family, we joke, we bicker, we get excited about life events. We lift each other up. This is the ethos of YNWA.
This feeling of what it meant to be a fan, and what YNWA really meant, was driven home a year-and-a-half ago. One of our TLO community members, Garp’s Brother, wrote a moving piece about how much the Liverpool season and the TLO community was helping him as he struggled with cancer treatments. It was raw, and it was beautiful. It struck me that even though we may not know what others may be going through, being kind and open could provide comfort to someone, even online.
Garp’s Brother was able to see his daughter graduate from high school, and see Liverpool make it to the finals of the 2017-18 Champions League. He was excited for the start of last season and the hope that came with it. Unfortunately, he passed away last August. He did not get to see another season, another final, and Jordan Henderson lifting a sixth European Cup. He is still with us though; still in our memories. His fandom inspires me, reminds me to be positive, and to help others in our community when I can. In his memory, I donated last year to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. In his spirit, I will do so again this year. And I would encourage all of you to find some way, however small, to lift up others in our community. In our family. To me, this is what it means to be a Liverpool fan.
Now we want to hear from you. Whether you’re been an active commenter or usually just read the articles, and whether you’ve been watching the Reds for decades or only just discovered them over this past summer, we’d love to have you as part of the community and for you to share with us what being a Liverpool fan means to you—and of course, feel free to share as much or little as you’re comfortable doing.
Where you are from:
Social Media Handle(s):
How and when you became a fan or what it means to you:
Something you’d encourage others to support (an organization, concept, or etc.):