A Journey Into Fútbol Fandom: Getting to Know Liverpool FC

Welcome to the 3rd installment of the new series on MSF, “A Journey into Fútbol Fandom!” If you haven’t already checked out the first two parts of the series, make sure to check them out here!

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As you’ve read to this point, the early process of getting into fútbol has been in large part learning how to be a fan of the sport with such a unique fan base. It’s been a lot of online research in an attempt to understand how the English (Barclays) Premier League works, the history of the league, and where it’s at today.

So with all that out of the way, it quickly became time for me to begin the process of becoming a true club supporter.

LFC

The LFC Logo

As previously laid out, the club I’ve chosen to root for is Liverpool FC … and the past few days have involved a lot of studying up on the historically rich Reds.

This is where I caught a bit of a break, as I discovered that FOX Soccer came out with a documentary series on Liverpool titled “Being: Liverpool” (video) just a handful of months ago. And after watching each of the six episodes of the series, I really felt like I’d learned a lot.

While it did help me further understand some of the historical aspects of the clubs that I’d already researched, the main two points of emphasis – the supporters and the current state of the club going forward – is what I learned the most about.

Here’s a brief crash course on what I’ve retained so far …

Liverpool Fandom

There are an innumerable amount of traditions tied to being a Liverpool supporter. While I’m still a very long way away from being familiar with all of them, I have identified what I feel to be the biggest three components of LFC fandom.

Anfield

The most historic aspect of LFC is without a doubt their stadium: Anfield.

The stadium that holds over 45,000 spectators has been the Reds’ home since the club formed in 1892. The most notable parts of Anfield are the Spion Kop (referred to below) and the Shankly Gates, named after legendary manager Bill Shankly, who led the Reds out of England’s second league and to prolonged dominance in the Premier League.

Atop the Shankly Gates reads “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the motto of the club for the past 30 or so years. Every match, all of the fans join together to sing the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” as it’s become one of the more notable songs affiliated with the entire world of sports.

The Shankly Gates were first erected at Anfield in 1982. Credit: Tim Bradnock

The Shankly Gates were first erected at Anfield in 1982. Credit: Tim Bradnock

Kopties

“The Kopties” are what Liverpool supporters are referred to, famously filling up the seats in the Spion Kop section of Anfield for well over 100 years.

They’re known as brutal and at times even spoiled fans … but considering how common it is for supporters to stick with the club throughout their entire lifetime, it’d be hard not to be the least bit spoiled considering how much success LFC had a couple decades ago.

#JFT96

During the 1989 season, Liverpool saw a huge tragedy that has been called “The Hillsborough Disaster.”

Summed up quickly, it was a human crush that tragically killed 96 people at Hillsborough Stadium. Outside of that, it’s fairly indescribable. D

espite how many positives Liverpool has throughout its storied history, the Hillsborough Disaster still looms largest, as the 96 families who lost a loved one are still honored in many ways.

"#JFT96 has become a popular hashtag on Twitter to represent the fans efforts of condolences. Credit: ITV

“#JFT96” has become a popular hashtag on Twitter to represent the fans efforts of condolences. Credit: ITV

Current State of the Reds

In fútbol, there’s always a lot going on. Considering that the season is currently going on with the race for the Champions League heating up (top 4 EPL teams qualify) paired with the winter transfer window going on during the month of January, and there is certainly a ton to catch up on.

Thankfully, I think I’m on the right path.

New Manager, New Style

From an organizational perspective, I’ve hopped aboard the Liverpool train at a very interesting time.

Last summer, Brendan Rodgers was named the manager of LFC, becoming just the club’s 19th full-time manager in their 121-year career. So needless to say, the position carries a ton of weight.

At just 39 years old, Rodgers promises to bring a lot of energy and excitement to the club … and to the squad’s on-the-field approach, as well.

Rodgers has implemented a very offensive-oriented style of play for the Reds, which obviously favors legendary midfielder Steven Gerrard and star striker Luis Suarez quite a bit.

Suarez is 2nd in the BPL in goals, just 1 behind Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie, while Gerrard is tied for the league lead in assists. So in that regard, Rodgers is doing a phenomenal job emphasizing on the team’s best players.

But it’s not just the proven super stars that Liverpool supporters are currently excited about.

Young Talent Learning on the Fly

The organization has done a very good job of bringing in youngsters with tons of potential and very high upside that could very well help the club in the long-run. The most notable are as follows:

  • Fabio Borini – the 21 year-old Italian striker signed with LFC in 2012 after being with Chelsea from 2007-2011 and going through brief stints with Swansea and A.S. Roma in 2011. Finally ‘at home,’ manager Brendan Rodgers is extremely high on Borini, who could become a big-time player in the coming years.
  • Daniel Sturridge – This English striker joined Liverpool just a couple weeks ago, but he has started hot for the Reds, scoring in each of his first 3 games with the club. Like with Borini, his talent is undeniable, but he wasn’t given much of a chance while with Chelsea before he signed with LFC. Suarez and Sturridge (23 years old) have looked deadly together so far, and they may continue for years to come.
  • Raheem Sterling – At just 18 years of age, Sterling has been a pleasant surprise for LFC to this point, contributing nicely when given the opportunity. At the midfield position, Sterling certainly has a while to learn from some of the veterans like Gerrard before he’s given a huge role – although he has already started 19 games this season.
  • Jonjo Shelvey – The last guy I’ll mention on this list is Jonjo Shelvey, who hails from England and is already a fan favorite despite seeing limited game action. Another midfielder, Jonjo too has time to develop, but certainly plays into the team’s future plans.
Jonjo (left) and Borini (right) celebrate a goal at Anfield. Credit: @MostarLFC

Jonjo (left) and Borini (right) celebrate a goal at Anfield. Credit: @MostarLFC

There are a couple more guys I could mention, but these are those are the main ones.

Considering Liverpool management could strike up exciting transfer window signings at any point in time, this team has a lot of promise in years to come if even just a couple of the aforementioned youngsters live up to their potential.

———

As you can see, I’ve soaked up a lot of information so far.

Being the intense sports fan that I am, I’m always eager to learn more whenever I have the opportunity. But I’m sure you’re all wondering whether I’ve actually been watching the team. This past weekend, I did indeed watch the squad face off against Norwich City, in what turned out to be a great ‘first game.’

Stay tuned for the next installment of “A Journey Into Fútbol Fandom,” as I’ll tell you about my first experience watching a Liverpool game as a ‘supporter.’

***

Make sure to follow me on Twitter @GropSports as well as MSF @ByMSF for more of my journey until the next installment of the series, coming soon on MidwestSportsFans.com!



About Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb.
Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year.
He runs a White Sox blog at GrabSomeBench.com and also contributes and reports for AssemblyCall.com. Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show.
He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.

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