Back in January Maria and I had the great fortune have tickets for Liverpool versus Manchester City at Anfield, which turned out to be one of the games of the 2017 – 2018 Premier League season. Ending 4 – 3 to Liverpool, the game had pace, passion, excitement and goals galore, including an absolute corker from Mane.
Before the game we had dinner with a number of other Liverpool fans and were able to meet and chat with Phil Neal, a legend of Liverpool the team’s most decorated player. Phil has a huge and warm personality, and when he found out that Maria was Brazilian and we lived in Brazil, he spoke about his admiration for Brazilian legend Zico who he played against in the world cup.
Of course one of the most incredible moments of the day was to be able to experience the entire stadium sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the anthem of Liverpool which is sung before the start of every home game. Here is my recording from the game:
As someone who lived in a number of places while growing up, I never really had a home team. My first team was Rangers, and then I used to go to see Bristol City when we lived near the city when I was 8. Moving to Buckingham meant not having a good local team, so my next proper team was Nottingham Forest whop I supported while at university. Nowadays I do still change teams a little, but without a doubt I have really been loving many of Liverpool’s flowing football in recent years, so it was incredible to have the chance to go to the game.
And it was with great anticipation that Maria and I looked forward to the Champions League final, and what a night of drama it turned out to be.
The first disaster of the night, both for Liverpool and for Egypt, was the shocking foul on Salah that would see him attempt to carry on after a heavy fall on his shoulder. But after a few minutes, and in tears, Salah could no longer continue, and in tears he was forced to come off.
In the eyes of many, not just Liverpool fans, it was a cynical and deliberate action from Ramos which slow motion replays would seem to suggest was the correct interpretation.
Despite not being a starter, and with the game at 1 -1, Gareth Bale came on for Real and after just two minutes on the pitch scored one of the greatest Champions League Final goals ever.
But what probably will be remembered more than Bale’s sensational overhead kick will be the two major howlers from Liverpool’s goalkeeper, Lorius Karius. I really do not think I have seen such a strange goal as the first to be scored by Benzema, who in a situation of pretty much zero danger for Liverpool, stuck out a boot as Karius attempted to roll the ball to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
It is terrible to maker such a blunder, but then when Bale scored his second goal, an arching shot from around 40 yards away, many thought that Karius should have saved it easily, the ball slipping through his fingers and in to the back of the net.
But then while all the focus was on Karius, some did ask how it was that Bale had so much space with which to make his shot.
After Karius’ first huge mistake, he was left to walk alone, with no Liverpool players going up to console him and urge him to stay positive. I was thinking this as I watched, thinking what would I have done as a Liverpool player having seen that error.
After the game Karius was inconsolable, and walked up to the Liverpool fans to ask for forgiveness. The torrent of abuse he has received on social media was horrendous by any standards.
At times it was difficult to watch, for those feeling the lonely agony of Karius, who as a goalkeeper, has the most exposed position on the pitch, with mistakes being the most expensive.
In life all of us have made mistakes, many of which we will have regretted, and many just silly things which will have caused us embarrassment. But virtually none of us will ever make a mistake under the intense global exposure of the Champions League where the error is recorded, watched, rewatched, analysed, criticised and agonised over. And right now I cannot every hope to know the pain and stress which Karius must still be feeling over two mistakes which could result in the end of his Liverpool career.
He was a real man last night, having the humility to ask for forgiveness from the Liverpool fans, some of the most passionate in the world, many who would have had to have made sacrifices to be able to travel to Kiev. His terrible suffering was in stark contrast to the cynical Ramos, the captain of Real Madrid who even had the gall to console Salah who also left the pitch in tears, knowing that he had probably lost the chance of playing in the world cup, as well as the chance to win a Champions League final.
But whereas football mistakes are played out on a world stage for all to see, so many more extremely harmful actions to society and our planet are carried out in secret, behind closed doors. We have many and multiple complex challenges no matter where we live – corruption, ecological damage, wars, violence, poverty.
I was thinking about all of this last night, and while of course I am a huge football fan, many like me are hoping that Karius can receive support rather than abuse, and that his errors are put into perspective.
This is the time where we need to come together and not walk alone in these challenging times. Football is full of drama, action, tension and euphoria, but we now need to look at our tactics and strategies together. There are no simple solutions, but it is a time for those who are brave enough to confront those who have the cowardice to hide their actions, no matter how great or small the impact on others. And may players like Karius and those Liverpool supporters who live by their anthem inspire us in their response.
Life is a journey which as the saying goes, if we want to travel quickly travel alone, but if we want to travel far, travel together.