Liverpool’s final game in front of a full Anfield took place nearly a year ago, on March 11th, 2020. Since then, a global pandemic has resulted in lockdowns, travel restrictions, and for many, isolation.
For fans, caught up in the struggles of their own lives, it has perhaps been easy at times to see the continuation of sport, played out behind closed doors, as an escape without fully considering that football players and coaches have been dealing with many of the same things.
Recent news of the death of Jürgen Klopp’s mother, with the Liverpool manager unable to travel to the funeral, and then of goalkeeper Alison Becker’s father, served as a reminder that nobody is immune from the wider effects of coronavirus.
“It’s been almost impossible to speak about in public, to be honest,” Klopp wrote in the matchday program ahead of tonight’s meeting with Chelsea. “But maybe I can write it better.”
“The world has experienced too much loss recently. We have other members of our club who have suffered it. In the city of Liverpool, throughout this country, and around the globe, too many have had to deal with the agony of losing a person they love so much. Bereavement is too common just now.
“But for Ali, our wonderful, loving, soulful teammate, this was truly tragic. No-one really has the words to explain what they feel in these moments. I know I’m not adequate.
“So instead I wish to tell Alisson how much this team and this club loves him and his family. The greatest tribute possible to Alisson’s father is the person his son is and has become. He honours him every day with how he lives his life.”
Yet just as football can at times provide an escape for the fans, it can do the same for the players and coaches. Or at least that’s how Klopp is trying to see the difficult situation:
“I’ve used this phrase, or a version of it, many times previously: football can feel like the most important of the least important things in life. It feels appropriate again tonight.
“For Ali and all others who have suffered loss, this wonderful game of ours can still bring escape, energy, and joy.”