The time change, for one; waking up at all hours of the morning to make sure we catch the match, or even taking long lunches or half days to make sure the mid-weeks are attended to. The constant questions: why Liverpool? Why that club, that city, that player? Never mind the fact that it wasn’t until recent years that Premier League football was shown as readily as it is now, and you can forget about the domestic cups. My first game I watched on a terrible live stream online with a friend – so terrible that I couldn’t tell you who we played or what the score was.
Then it gets a little more personal, for me. I didn’t become a fan of Liverpool until 2010. By then the important and revered accolades had been won and we were struggling. Torres had just left, Kenny had just come back. The club was in some kind of upheaval that I didn’t understand but I was going to support this scrappy underdog team that seemed to have lost their way. Then they won the League Cup, or the Carling Cup as it was that year, and I saw my adopted team lift a trophy for the first time. I celebrated that final while on shift at a pizza place in The Woodlands, Texas, serving a single table that had no idea what was going on.
The thing is, though, that it wasn’t significant enough. To me, or maybe to any other fans. Out of the three, the League Cup is pretty much the last one in terms of prestige. And at the time, I was the sole Liverpool fan in my suburb of Houston – that I was aware of, at least – so I didn’t have anyone else to share it with, or to help me understand why it was important (or not).
I would eventually pack up and move to a bigger city, find people who liked Liverpool more than I did. Who knew more than I did. As fans do, I learned. I found a supporters club of my own, who helped immerse me into the history of the team. Why the trophies we’d already won, were striving to win, had lost, were so important. Of course what would follow is disappointment after disappointment.
I’ve been a fan, a baby fan, through Liverpool’s dark ages. I have never seen them lift a trophy like the FA Cup or the Europa Cup. I still struggle, at times, to understand the meaning of winning a trophy of that level prestige. What does it mean? For the club, that I love so much? For a city that has become like home to me? It always seemed a dream I wouldn’t dare let myself have because the disappointments were too near. I still feel the burn of the Europa Cup final a couple years ago. Still remember panic drinking during the League Cup final that same year and making myself sick.
Now it’s here. We’ve made it to the final of the Champions League. The most prestigious competition in Europe, maybe even the world (World Cup be damned). The last time we were in that final I didn’t even know who Liverpool were. The last time we won I was in high school and couldn’t have cared less about soccer (I know it’s football, don’t start with me). Now it’s here. Now we’re in it, in the final, against the formerly best team in Europe.
It’s almost too much for me to understand. A concept I can hardly grasp because I don’t know what it’s like. The other trophies were won a lifetime ago, it feels. Other teams I only have vague connections to. I’ve seen the European nights this year, gotten to be close to the first leg of the semi-finals by watching in The Sandon. Felt the buzz and the excitement, the hope that we’ve let ourselves have.
I have friends, so many friends, traveling to Kyiv. To be closer to this momentous occasion than I’ll ever get. I have plans to go to my pub as soon as they open, 9am on a Saturday, to get a spot and post up for the next four-five hours.
I have hopes that I’ll finally know what it’s like. I’ll finally know what it’s like to see our captain lift that giant silver trophy over his head, to see medals go around necks, and tears of joy on cheeks. Not tears of heartache and disappointment.
The other trophies were won by other teams. This is my team. Hopefully I’ll finally understand.