I’ve been struggling to come to grips with the thought of Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliveira, also known as Bobby Firmino, leaving Liverpool FC at the end of this season. While there have been other players that I have loved, I don’t think any have had the emotional impact on me than Bobby has. His insatiable joy for the game was infectious, as was his bright (literally) smile. So despite knowing that there was a decent chance Bobby might move on as Liverpool have retooled their attack, I still wasn’t ready to cope. So how to put the feelings into words?
Like any great...middling...ok as a writer, I tend to “borrow” (steal) from others that I respect and admire, and fold it into my work. Two of those people just so happen to be part of the TLO community. The first most of you know. AJ has been an active member of the boards, and spent several seasons as a writer for the site. AJ is one of those people that made you FEEL things with what he writes. My favorite of AJ’s works were his Everything’s The Best series, where he interwove personal perspective with poignant world and life matters and Liverpool Football Club. More often than not, AJ had a habit of turning my perspective on its head to make me appreciate things in a way I hadn’t even considered before.
Another of our TLO community, JustAKidFromDetroit, reached out the day the new broke that Bobby was leaving, saying he just needed to get his thoughts of Bobby leaving off his chest. He sent an email that was so raw and evocative, it really brought tears to my eyes. He found a way to find the words of gratitude for a player who has done so much for, and meant so much to, the club and the supporters. He found the Everything’s The Best of the situation.
The words below are his, not mine, but they convey what I feel. Gratitude for a player who has made me fall in love with the game over and over again. There will be plenty of other Bobby Firmino tributes to come, starting with this sensational piece by Mari, but I felt this needed to be shared while the feelings were still raw.
After the surprising loss to Nottingham Forest, I started to text. I didn’t text anyone in my family, anyone that I might vent to, or people that I see on a regular basis. The folks on the receiving end were actually people that I met here, on this very website. The messages weren’t of any note with respect to the game or an individual player; rather, they were simple expressions of gratitude. Gratitude for their friendship and gratitude for their guidance.
On August 9, 2015, Roberto Firmino Barbosa de Oliveira checked into the final 12 minutes of a 1-0 win against Stoke for Jordan Ibe. I remember 3 things about this:
- Bobby wore #11 and that is a favorite number of mine,
- He checked in for a guy who I had officially convinced myself would easily be a like-for-like change for Raheem Sterling, and
- Stoke City just kinda, sorta sucks in my book.
Did I send any texts of gratitude to friends or online people after Brendan Rodgers chose to play Bobby as a wingback against United? No, I did no such thing. Instead I annoyed my wife so much with my complaining and cussing that she made me go for a run and not come back until I was done.
I ended up running 15 miles.
I lurked in the shadows of this website long before I typed a comment. I’d become a supporter of Liverpool in 2004 when I was studying in Luxembourg. My host-dad and I bonded over beers and the game. Since I didn’t speak much German or Luxembourgish, the Premier League was what we watched. Liverpool became my team and as I continued to learn more about the club and the city’s ethos, I knew I had nailed it.
But I didn’t come from a footy background. I respected the sport but I was a football (of the American variety), basketball and baseball dude. My people were football, basketball and baseball people. It’s what we did, it’s what we spoke, and it defined how we talked to each other. When I got back from Luxembourg trying to talk footy, they told me to kick rocks.
I was a nomad in my fandom, in part because of that time in life, in part because I was still learning the sport. I didn’t have a place to go or a person to talk to. I stumbled upon TLO by dumb luck, but I casually observed because it appeared it was a place that wouldn’t tell you to kick rocks.
I’m not the person to write the comprehensive review of Bobby’s Liverpool career. That ain’t me. But, I am a dude who unequivocally fell in love with the club, love personified by The Best In the World.
Admit it. You fell in love with him too. The Top Knot? The bag of celebrations? The time he asked for “maximo” white for his teeth? The flying kicks?
Of course. The metal tie.
I have so many thoughts and so many things that I want to say about Bobby. I know that I’ll regret not mentioning something specific as I continue to digest the news that he will most likely leave the club. For now, two comments - one general and one specific.
Bobby was someone who could be an absolute workhorse on both sides of the ball, but still apply real flare. He was someone who could singularly affect a match but have nothing to show for in the “big” counting stats. He ultimately was underrated until Klopp blew up his spot with the quote:
“Mo Salah, world class, but not every day. Sadio Mané, world class, but not every day. Roberto Firmino, world class, pretty much every day”.
Through his work rate, his unselfishness, and his penchant to dazzle, we all were seeing what the true modern day Liverpool footballer was supposed to be.
Look, there are plenty of goals that I would sit and talk with you about for hours. But my *real* favorite Bobby Firmino goal is the first-time volley against the kinda, sorta sucks in my book Stoke City football club. Context is really important of course. That win put the club 9 points ahead of 5th in the table, with two extra matches played. The chase was on for Champions League places and every match was important. Klopp had gone with Origi (see: Club Legend) and Benny Woodburn, opting to rotate. Philippe Coutinho and Bob came on in the second half and Coutinho drew it level. Less than 2 minutes later, Gini Wijnaldum (see: Club Legend) picks up the ball in the defensive third and picks out Bob’s run. A perfectly lofted ball sees it check up just slightly. Bobby senses the two closing defenders and goes first time volley past the keeper. The away supporters are behind the goal and the let off was visceral and a long time coming. It solidified the well-deserved CL place and gave us a defining celebration. It represented so much of what happened since Bobby had arrived, and previewed so much of what was to come.
I have been trying to be better about expressing my gratitude. Not by actions, but just the simple task of telling another, “I appreciate you.” In fact, a few years back I stopped saying “I appreciate it” and moved to “I appreciate you” to everyone from my wife to the person handing me a receipt at the store. I have always appreciated people in my life, both permanent and temporary. But I needed to make a concerted effort in expressing the feeling.
The people at TLO helped me to find that. Unbeknownst to them, they had created a space that a nomad could come, set up shop on the hill, watch the action, and then leave without a trace. But over time, I felt more compelled to get involved. It was a place that showed me first that my impostor syndrome was misplaced, but further showed me they actively cared about cultivating a *truly* inclusive environment. It was through that environment and through those interactions that I found people who ultimately became friends. The type of friends that you can vent your frustrations - work, Lovren, or otherwise. The type of friends who will share in the emotional volatility of sport. And, the type of friends who are who they are which demands that you rise to meet their level and be a better person. The type of friends that you want to send a message of gratitude.
I have no reservations in sharing that this particular player leaving this particular club has affected me in a way that I haven’t felt since I learned long division.
Bobby gave me more than just a player to support or a song to sing as a lullaby to my little man. For me, Bobby ended up representing everything I love about this club. He represented the hard work, the desire to share, the want of the team over the player. He added his personality into his work and expressed his individuality, all while being the glue that held the Klopp project together and moving forward.
Those characteristics were so strong and so present, my friends at TLO latched onto them too. The shared love of The Best In The World gave me an even stronger sense of the community and the club, establishing for me that TLO is more than a website that I refresh for new content. It is an opportunity to extend support into a relationship which reverts back to real human support, and more aptly, love.
In tangible ways, Bobby gave me the opportunity to express that gratitude. But, what he truly did for me was enhance and deepen my connection to people in this community who made, and continue to make, me be a better person.
There aren’t many minutes left that we will have to share with our number 9. I’ll be damned if I don’t sit and watch with one thought in mind: