Perhaps one of the most meaningless games in
Anfield's European history, Liverpool v Fiorentina, was
also my first visit to the stadium and it still met and
surpassed each and every one of my expectations.
For the ‘football-aware’ it was a match about £20m
midfielder Alberto Aquilani making his first start and
injury-prone Fernando Torres getting back into action.
For others though, it was a game of spirit and emotions.
People who don’t like LFC usually say that the club has too much money for its own good and that fans are more dedicated to individual players than to the club itself. I beg to differ.
I may not watch every single match, or know a ridiculous number of pointless facts about each player, but I still feel and cheer for them. This season may be a disappointment in many ways, but I wouldn’t be a fan of any other team, especially not after this night.
When people say Anfield is magical it sounds like a cliché, but it certainly is a sight to behold. No matter how many matches you’ve watched on television you’re never really totally prepared for it in reality. As you reach the top of the stairs before entering the stadium you see the blinding lights, the steep-banked rows of seats, the shimmering green pitch – and you can just feel the power and history in the intimate stadium.
The Kop itself is breathtaking: the intuition and strength on display is more than ardent and beyond explanation. Liverpool supporters know intuitively when to start and stop singing. As ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ rings out through the stadium, the massive flag moves around the stalls, floating above the heads of the Kopites as if lead by an invisible conductor. It’s then you realize the ‘spirit’ of the Reds, the passion that unites them and makes the Kop seem as though it has one heartbeat.
If Liverpool ever did move to a new stadium I will certainly miss the echo that amplifies the clapping. It's hard to imagine what it actually sounds like on an important match when the stadium is totally full. When Yossi Benayoun scored that first goal against Fiorentina the magnified sound was awe-inspiring. The team seemed to come back to life when Fernando Torres ran onto the pitch, even if it was short-lived thanks to Fiorentina’s two goals in reply.
The floodlights heightened the senses, making the ordinary appear to be extraordinary. ‘Football rain’ is no different to normal rain, of course, yet the torrential downpour captured by the glare of that brilliant white light was a transfixing sight and somehow made it seem special.
LFC are special though – and if you’ve ever been at Anfield on a match night you will understand. If you haven’t been make it your new year's resolution because it’s an unforgettable experience.
Liverpool are one of those teams that has supporters everywhere. The international aspect of Liverpool's fan base was certainly apparent as I was surrounded by Swiss, Norwegian, Irish and English people – all fans watching their crushed team with high hopes. It just goes to show what Liverpool really is; more than a football club, as multicultural and diverse as the city itself.
It may have been a dead game and ultimately worthless in Champions League terms, but it certainly wasn’t for this Liverpool fan.
By Sam Rogers
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