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October 18, 2011 / benwolfson08

Trip to Liverpool

Gigantic billboard on Anfield

Seeing LeBron James making his first trip to Anfield Stadium for the Merseyside Derby (nickname for Liverpool facing Manchester United) this weekend made me jealous, but also think of my experience to Anfield over the summer.

Anfield Stadium has a certain mystique to it, that none of the other stadium tours had.

I am not a fan of Liverpool even though I do respect them and an a fan of some of their players, but seeing Anfield was a once in a lifetime experience.

Liverpool has been around since 1892 and has remained the home of Liverpool since then, despite speculation that a new stadium would be built.

A few years ago much of the area around Anfield was bought up in anticipation of bull-dozing these buildings to have space for a new state-of-the-art arena.

However, Anfield still remains and a new stadium is in doubt, but the boarded up houses are still there. The bus ride to Anfield made me feel like I was on season three of the Wire and being introduced to Hamsterdam.

area directly outside Anfield

Prior to booking a hotel we were told not to stay near the stadium because it is a very rough area at night, and this was extremely true on the bus ride up.

As soon as we made our way to the stadium though everything was fine and I felt a feeling that is hard to describe. It was weird being in such a historical place, where people had died for their love of Liverpool.

One unique part of Liverpool is that of the Kop. The Kop is a section in the stadium that used to be open-air and with no seats. It just used to be a hill with a fence at the end of it to keep people separated from the pitch.

In 1989 however that changed. On April 15, 1989 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death while attending a match vs. Hillsborough in Sheffield. Because of this Anfield re-did the Kop so it was filled with seats instead of a platform so the same thing wouldn’t happen again.

One of the most moving parts of Liverpool was seeing the famous Shankly Gates, named after former manager Bill Shankly.

Statute of Bill Shankly.

Shankly Gates

Memorial for the Liverpool 96

The phrase, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” accompanies the gates. The phrase was taken by a hit song by Gerry and the Pacemakers and was made into the club’s anthem during Shankly’s time as manager.

Today’s YNWA is a common slogan among Liverpool fans, knowing they each have each others backs and support the club. Even the Liverpool crest is adorned with the phrase.

Another part that I loved about Liverpool was just the simplicity of everything. The locker rooms were nothing special, and I was shocked. However, it is seen as the Liverpool way. They’re players don’t need a fancy locker room with all these necessities, they use the locker room to prepare to beat their opponent, they don’t need distractions.

Sitting with one of my favorite players kits, Luis Suarez

When exiting the locker rooms players go down a tunnel and tap a sign that says, “This is Anfield” for good luck. This was something else I respected so much about the club. The statement wasn’t “Welcome to Anfield” it was simply “This is Anfield”. In my opinion that just sets a complete mindset and home advantage, players get pumped up knowing this is historic Anfield Stadium with some of the best fans in the world and they play for them.

Liverpool is truly a remarkable city with incredible tradition. From traveling to pubs that the Beatles used to frequent and talking to Liverpool locals about the housing projects surrounding the stadium just made me realized how this entire team affects the community surrounding it.

I’ve never felt that way about a sport in the United States, and this reaffirmed my love for soccer.

I’ll leave you with this, note the song which has gotten a cult following after it was popularized by Uruguayan striker, Luis Suarez.

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