A Masshole Goes Among The Thugs

Photograph by Visionhaus/CorbisJust before kickoff, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” came on the PA, and fans started singing along. This moment was supposed to give me chills — 45,000 people singing with one voice about loyalty and kinship. It beats the hell out of “Sweet Caroline,” but I gotta tell you, the song’s a bit of a downer — not exactly pump-up material. The Everton fans liked it even less than I did. Throughout the song, they were chanting, “Mur-der-ers! Mur-der-ers!” This ugly reference was to the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster, when a charging mob of Liverpool fans and the collapse of a retaining wall led to the death of 39 people, most of them fans of the Italian team Juventus. Life and death really are central themes in soccer here. It was for good reason, then, that a cordon of brightly uniformed police surrounded the Everton rooting section.

With the ceremonies and cruel chants finished, it was time for kickoff. For all the talk about how delirious and amazing English soccer games are, I was a bit skeptical. I was there when Pedro threw down Zimmer in ’03, and at the Garden when the Celtics pushed the Lakers to the brink in Game 5 of the Finals last season. Those crowds were electric. Could these people possibly dial it up higher?

At the beginning of the game, I thought they might. The singing and chanting was nonstop, and Anfield’s low ceilings added to the volume. Dalglish was getting serenaded and fans were singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “When the Reds Go Marching In” verse after verse after verse. When Liverpool’s Raul Meireles drove home a rebound in the 29th minute to put the Reds up 1–0, the crowd’s reaction must have registered on the Richter scale.

But as the game settled into its rhythm, the fans settled down with it. The guys behind me weren’t saying much beyond “fucking hell” this and “fucking hell” that. The guy in front of me was fiddling with his BlackBerry. And when the second half started with two quick Everton goals, the place went dead. Everton continued to control possession, and the stadium started to get agitated, almost angry. The guy next to me kept chewing his nails and staring at the floor. A man behind me huffed, “This is the worst we’ve seen.”

Thankfully, after a questionable call by the referee, Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt knocked in a penalty kick. The fans reacted with relief and glee, and tensions were soothed for a little while. But 15 minutes later, a Liverpool player blew a scoring chance, and the catcalls and boos began. The game ended in a 2–2 tie. People filed out quietly. That’s soccer for you.

  • Scott

    This was a great read! It’s great to see an outsider experience the climate and culture of Anfield and Liverpool. I’m hopeful (call it cautiously optimistic) that John Henry & Co will lead the Reds back to their rightful place among the game’s (and the world’s) elite!

  • sc

    Excellent article. I’m not sure if anyone mentioned this to you while on your vist, but just for reference, we’re not English, we’re Scouse!

  • Dougal

    Awful.Do they always send clueless,boring baseball dweebs to the most classic derbies to report back on?.Next time,send someone who knows more than what they see on NESN.

  • Robbie

    Love the article. Great honesty throughout. Hope that trip to Anfield won’t be your last.

  • Tony

    Hillsborough wasn’t caused by hysteria, it was caused by Police error (and issues with the stadium). It’s important the author recognises that.

    Other than that, and the few sweeping, insulting comments that were supposed to be off-hand, it wasn’t a bad piece.

  • John

    1st get it right. T he police caused Hill’s. T he Kop got it’s name from the large number of scousers at the Spoin Kop. This artical is so typical of yanks who play rounders and rugger…… O sorry Baseball and american football.

  • jOHN

    Thugs!!!!!??????? WTF THUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!