This is it, isn’t it?
That’s the end of the fucking line, right there. Shining like a light in the end of the tunnel. And we’re sitting here. Waiting. To see whether it’s the beacon of some second-grade European glory or a bypassing Sevilla train, turning our figurative hopes into literal slabs of minced meat.
Yes. I’ve been missing. For a reason as well. Multiple reasons, in fact. One of them is most obviously the fact we’ve somehow done it. We’re in the European final. First one after almost a fucking decade. Let’s not screw around, people. Most of you reading this haven’t seen us compete in one. Or if you did, you were too young to care – the Teletubbies were on and Kuyt’s goal was WAY past your bedtime. For plenty of Reds all around the world this is the first. The first opportunity to see something great.
The last two finals we’ve been in were, let’s say, not so awesome. Carling/Capital One/Purina Cat Food cup. Not so important – and happening in bloody February! Not much joy in winning a fucking final when you have to play Tony Pulis and his 1970s Serial Killer Builders United three days after.
So how about this one we’re in right now? Here it becomes fucking amazing. We’re in a cup final that feels the way a proper cup final is supposed to feel like. Cherish it. Enjoy it. And this what this column is going to be for. Because quite frankly, I couldn’t give less shits about anything happening in the league last week or this week or whenever.
I’m setting myself up either for an ultimate heartbreak or an ultimate triumph. Whatever happens, it will be exciting.
But enough blabbing. Let’s talk about the way we got to the ultimate point.
As Europa-ey as they can get, our group was as exciting as Michael Owen slowly sipping water. Sion, a Swiss team named after a fancy dog who needs his food chewed for him by a trained butler before it can consume that.
Of course, who can forget Rubin, a Russian team. Russia is one of the few countries where blackface is still an acceptable ‘smart casual’ dressing choice. I was pleasantly surprised to see Liverpool come back in one piece, to be fair.
And Bordeaux. Somewhat of a beautiful word for me, because I tend to drink a lot. Just imagine. “I am going to watch Bordeaux”. What a sophisticated sentence. You sound so suave! But I’d rather watch an actual Bordeaux wine maturing into something horribly expensive for bloody years than the shitshow their football style really is.
I’ll remind you here, in case you got your memory completely erased (good job by the way, smart move), we started our season with Brendan Rodgers. And the beginning of that thing was DIRE. Two 1-1 draws with Bordeaux and Sion. In the distance — no, what the fuck am I saying — ALL AROUND US there were voices of people saying “YEAH! Throw that useless competition away!” “It’s much easier to get top 4 than to even try for a cup, c’mon!” In fact, they were echoing EVERYWHERE like a wall of mediocrityacceptance (if that’s even a word).
Then, Klopp came in.
One more draw. Fuck’s sake. Maybe this competition is useless after all. I mean, Klopp wouldn’t lie to us, would he? Lucky us, the other teams weren’t particularly fond about the whole ‘3 points is good for you’ thing either. First three matchdays have given us only two wins in the group. And those were from the unsuspecting fancy pup of Switzerland.
And suddenly, a thing. A thing called a win. Even two in the row! No blowouts, nothing. But there was something in the air. Especially when you consider those two wins were enough to jettison us to the next round.
Along came the final matchday. 0-0 with the fancy pup. We’re both going through. And we’re top of the group. The shuttle is go.
Round of 32
Being first in the group, we have avoided loads and loads of the great clubs as well as Manchester United. Champions League washouts joined the fun and we were lucky enough to end up with Augsburg. Augsburg were more than happy to see us – to no surprise, considering they narrowly escaped their group on goal difference.
They escaped in an away game against their direct competitors. Them being no one else but Partizan MOTHERFUCKING Belgrade. In case you’re new with the whole difficult, difficult world of sports fans and still believe that Crystal Palace have the best atmosphere EVEEEER, take this tiny little clip of Serbian Grobari (Gravediggers) as an example.
Yes. They went through that. And went through handsomely, winning 3-1. Anfield’s European snoozemosphere should’ve been nothing for them. And of course. Why would there be atmosphere? Not like we’re going far there…Right?
Anyway, Liverpool barely but managed to scrap through Augsburg…And then they were given a present.
Round of 16
“YOU BLOODY IDIOT”
That is a textual rendition of me and many, many other Liverpool fans the moment Jurgen Klopp smugly stated that oh yes, he wanted to play Manchester United in this round. Nuh-uh! Not Braga! Not some other clearly overachieving team! Bleeding Manchester United!
As if that beer-chugging gegendepressing bastard didn’t lose against them earlier in the season! The winning goal coming from no one else but Wayne Rooney, a man who scored two thirds of his goals with his shoes on the wrong feet. Why on Earth would we want to play them? Not to forget this basically means our great European nights will end up being the same shite we do dozens of times in the league already! Ugggh.
Oh man, were we wrong.
That was the firestarter that we needed. United were the team that actually made us fight. You see, this wasn’t a shite second-grade European night anymore.
“Well, it was pretty much a shite second-grade Eur-“
Never mind. It was more than a simple game. It was Manchester bloody United in the middle of a top 4 hunt. And then there were us. Angry. Disappointed about the last game. Boy, did we deliver. Did we fucking deliver. I could’ve been an actual imbecile with no interest in football but I still would be able to see Liverpool were absolutely gorgeous. Lallana’s flicks. Coutinho’s goal. Pyro making every single one of UEFA representatives call their mothers and SCREAM OUT THEIR FINAL PRAYERS! Haha, fucking brilliant! And that was the moment. The moment some of us started believing!
What if this is more than simple midweek fun?
What if this unachievable cup is actually worth something?
We went through United, didn’t we?
What happens next?
We know what happens next.
It takes a special game to make people forget Champions League exists. It wasn’t quite there but it was bound to be one of the greatest continental games of the recent months. Two injured lions looking up, meeting in a competition which has always lacked in brilliant ties. And here’s one right now. Whether decided by the fate itself or the representatives of the fun-loathing corporation, we’ll never know.
Dortmund. Having just obliterated Spurs in the previous round, the Germans were already aiming at their next victim. Ready to pounce. And sure.
Everyone knew we’re fucked. This is why people cared more about Jurgen’s comeback to Westfalen rather than the game itself. It makes a good headline. It makes a good chat. It sure as fuck makes a great football design to get your retweet drug on. Dortmund were not the light in the tunnel we were looking for. They were the fast-pacing car and Liverpool were a deer lost in its beam.
And we moved on. Game number 1. Klopp’s tactical masterclass suddenly showed. We played well beyond the expectations. We did. Controlling the midfield, stopping their attacks before they even started. Klopp nicely reminded everyone around that this is his team and he is the father. A father always lets his child win a fight but this time he was trying to bash Dortmund senseless. But of course. This is Dortmund. Not Bordeaux. And despite us punching above our weight, we went back home with a draw and an away goal behind our belts. Only one though – not enough? Probably. What happens next?
Magic. Words fail me to this day as my talent stops well below the plethora of feelings that caught me that night.
Nil one. This is not good.
Nil two. Suddenly, my glass seems more interesting than the game.
Something in between. A casual game-watching experience. I am almost a neutral, not caring much about anything at this point. I’m a Liverpool fan. I’ve learned to numb myself – I would be an emotional wreck if I allowed this team to phase me more than it does now.
My bag by my side. “Tesco is closing in 15, perhaps I could still get some beer?” I thought to myself.
I stand outside the pub, pissed off and tipsy. Cheapest stouts and canned ciders are still expensive and I know where to get some for less. The time is scarce and Liverpool are still not there yet. It’s 3-2. I’ll wait for this corner, alright?
I look at injured Emre Can and catch my reflection in the window. Slightly pissed off and looking nowhere near as good as in those super low quality selfies that still fail to get me laid, go fucking figure.
Emre looks divine though. Divine and in pain. “Oh now fucking this then” I say out loud and incredibly, in a pub in Ireland, no one joins in to swear together with me. Amazing how broken can a group of people be upon seeing a lad on TV being in a moderate amount of pain.
Right. I’ll wait for this corner.
GAME FUCKING ON.
I come inside and join the celebrations as if nothing has happened. “Just went for a smoke” I reply to an MU-supporting lad who was next to me through the whole obliteration procedure in the first half. Next to me sits a bald fella. “We got them where we want them to be!” he says. “I put 500 euros on Liverpool to go through!”
He looks calm. He smiles. I look at him as if he’s a fucking madman. But suddenly, we start warming up to the idea.
Maybe it’s not over?
And guess what.
And from this moment, my words are not enough. You’ve been there. You’ve seen it. If you left early and you missed it, you failed to see the one and only reason why football is such a ridiculously popular game. A moment of madness. An unexpected hero. Something absolutely remarkable.
This tie wasn’t just Jurgen Klopp Says Hello To The Old Friends anymore. It was an European night in its fucking finest. And we all know. These comebacks happen every once in a while, they do. But rarely they hold such importance on and off the pitch. And it’s even sweeter when you remember we went further than anyone’s expected. Kicking down two clubs that were supposed to choke us until we gave in.
Villareal. The tricky fox of the competition. Every single one of those needs one. Tactically brilliant, defensively terrific, the Spanish were ultimate poster boys as to why their nation is on top of the European club rankings. Yes, they may seem to be the fuzzy underdogs, chewing on their toys and salivating all over the pitch but this is exactly the kind of team to show the English bastards that they don’t belong in the finals. These are not of of those big and screamy ties Liverpool seem to love. It’s a whole different story.
And we go. And we lose. In the worst way possible, injury time goal. Ouch! That’s how it feels? Alright, let it be.
We went back to Earth after this, didn’t we? Swansea played us off the park, spawning loads of great, great video edits of our defense running circles like glorified hamsters in their wheels. Sure. Every fairytale has an ending. Ours seemed to have a cute little spice of Grimm brothers. Blood, gore and hate to make sure you sleep well by 10PM.
And then…Well, to this day I don’t know what happened.
To this day I don’t know what turned our team into blood thirsty animals in the second leg. As well as the fans. Remember Augsburg? Remember the Anfield atmosphere there? Everyone who tried to sing during the Augsburg game was given a death stare by a librarian wielding inch-thick glasses. The result was uninspiring as well.
During the second leg vs. Villareal, it was the exact opposite. I didn’t see much of it. I was in the plane for the most of it. Yet I made sure to watch the replays and some highlights and Emre Can’s best bits for like twenty seven times or something so you better believe I fucking know what’s up. What happened? Why were we so good? I don’t kn-wait, I got it. Cheesy as it may sound, cliche at it may be…
We believe in fairytales, we do. But rest assured, every child can tell you that a fairytale doesn’t end at its beginning. It progresses.
The players didn’t believe at the start. Even we didn’t, for God’s sake. Even us! Except an odd weirdo there or there, we were all looking at the Europa as a burden. Not an opportunity. But somehow, we went forwards.
We got ourselves a hero to go through the group stages in Klopp.
We got ourselves a villain in Manchester United.
We got ourselves a set up in Dortmund.
We got ourselves a turn for the conclusion in Villareal.
And now, here come the final lines.
And it’s up for those in Basel to decide how does this story end. There are plenty of ways this could go but we all know. No matter what lessons you learn along the way, what friends do you make, there are two possible endings. A good fairytale either has a good ending or a bad one.
What will it be, Liverpool? Good? Or bad? We set ourselves up for something amazing. Each one of us Liverpool fans have a story to tell, despite most of us not even being in the stadium for any of the campaign’s games.
I secretly hoped Sion would destroy us so Rodgers would leave. I fell asleep during the second half of Augsburg’s game. I was drunk off my head during St. Patrick’s, singing Liverpool songs after Coutinho’s goal against United. No joke, most of the mates I’ve been with that day I barely spoke since. I was hiding behind a pub window thinking Dortmund got the best of us and half an hour later I was smoking bald guy’s celebratory spliff. And I got caught by a fucking speed camera in my dad’s car, hoping to make it in time because maybe, just maybe I’ll get to see a little bit of our semifinal (I did!) This team brought me so much joy over the past weeks. Did the same happen to you? If that’s a byproduct of an useless European cup no one cares about, I hope we’ll keep doing it. Because it’s fucking amazing.
And now I believe in fairytales. No matter how will they end.
Maybe you should as well?