Twenty-five years ago or thereabouts, a budding young Red bought his first kit from a tiny football shop perched in the second story of a building sat across from Bergen’s fish market. The boy paid for it with the money he had saved from helping his uncle lay carpet during the summer, and he was quite thoroughly excited to own his first replica jersey. To own what felt like, for the first time for him, some small piece of the club.
Four years later, he returned to purchase a Blackburn jersey. He did it to honor the achievement of one of the greatest ever Reds, and as he walked away with his memento of Kenny Dalglish’s 1994-95 league title, he promised he would be back to buy another kit when Liverpool Football Club won their next. The man behind the counter laughed and said snakes, neste ar. Or at least that’s how the boy remembered it, what with the passing of the years and the shortcomings of his Norwegian.
Lives have been lived since that day. On the pitch, footballing generations have passed, each filled by prospects meant to turn into legends then largely forgotten. And some who in the end weren’t forgotten, remembered instead for heading to Real Madrid at the height of their powers. Over the years, there has been pain. The pain of watching idols dwindle, turning into shells of their former selves; the pain of watching heroes give interviews to The Sun; the pain of a manager’s heart attack and the realization football can truly mean nothing and everything; the pain of Federico Macheda; the pain of the slip.
Lives have been lived since that day. The full arc of youth to prospect to legend experienced. The ecstasy of watching Macca feed Robbie; the ecstasy of watching John Barnes in full, marauding flight; the remembrance of Souness, capital C captain running the show, tempering fume; Phil Thompson standing strong; two champions league finals in three years; players huddled together chanting we will go again; overcoming Dortmund. Ecstasy.
It’s been a long two weeks since the Reds last took to the pitch; a long two weeks since they walked off it top of the league. There surely must have been some good that has happened in the world, somewhere, but where that is exactly would be hard to say given it has felt as though there has been so much more that is wrong with it. And waiting for proper club football to return, for Liverpool football to return, has felt an even more interminable slog than it normally does during an international break.
And perhaps this Red at least is blinded by the anthem so many mouth the words to but would not heed, but is it so hard to believe just maybe that Liverpool do as a club have the potential to breed a little of that which is good and right, despite being owned by American billionaires? To believe that this year just might be that year? For all the bad that has happened, this was also the year families found Justice. This was the year Jurgen Klopp fully settled into his manager’s role, eschewing glittery transfers in favor of the squad at his disposal; seeking to rebuild Anfield as a fortress; seeking to resurrect the club’s connection with the fans.
Moments of the sublime, of truth and beauty in the world, are few and far between, but so far this season the Reds have been creating their own sustained moment of the sublime. A team captained by an Englishmen, managed by a German, supported by Croatian and Cameroonian pillars, powered by an engine room alliance of former warring powers, driven forward by Brazilian flair and Senegalese speed. In an often ugly and discordant world, Liverpool’s autumn has been a sublime, harmonious global mosaic. It’s the kind of thing that can quite nearly give you hope beyond football, if you squint just right. Certainly it is enough to give Liverpool fans hope on the pitch.
T-minus 36 hours and counting until Liverpool face Southampton. There are three points to be had. A bit of hope, of whatever variety you’re seeking, to be had. Even if you don’t care one bit for what goes on beyond the pitch, it’s 36 hours until Liverpool kick off again, and that’s at least worth a smile. It could also mean it’s time for at least one Red to begin looking for a ticket to Bergen.