Football fans are fickle, nothing new there. They can turn against their favorite players and managers within mere seconds if things are not going their way or if they decide to leave the club (Usually the case when it is to a bitter rival and/or for more money). Another aspect of modern football is that fans expect instant success on the pitch. This sad era of billionaires pumping ridiculous amounts of money into football clubs has certainly not helped.
Well, what does that have to do with me? I am a Liverpool FC fan. I have been a fan for over a decade and I saw my beloved club win several trophies (Notably between 2001 – 2006). Where does the club stand now? Well, we have changed ownership thrice in the past 5 years, have been linked with a move to a new stadium since the late 1990’s but there are no firm or clear plans in the near future, we have had 4 managers in 3 years (Rafael Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers). We went from finishing in the top four regularly and having epic “European nights” in the Champions League at Anfield and abroad every other week to struggling to even qualify to the Europa League. We went from having world class talents ala. Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres (He was unstoppable when he was on form and injury-free) to signing flops like Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson (The former was off-loaded to Stoke City, we couldn’t get rid of the latter even in a money + player deal with Fulham for Clint Dempsey).
Now there were some positive things happening on the red half of Merseyside. Luis Suarez has been a success when he puts his mind to playing football, Sterling and the other emerging Academy graduates and reaching two cup domestic cup finals last year (Winning one and narrowly losing the other despite a late push led by the forlorn Andy Carroll).
My club’s situation is not an ideal one of course. I am not delighted with our current form or the previous few seasons, but I am content in a way. Looking at the general scheme of things, we could have been worse off and staring at a horrible reality. One thing I will never understand amongst football fans, especially in our region (The Middle East) is the mentality of having to support a winning team and that if you support a club that is in a transitional phase or is simply going through a rough patch then you are some sort of social outcast or some idiot for being loyal (Arsenal are an example of a team in transition at the moment. Juventus previously is another good example).
Why should I not support a team when it is not winning? Why should I hide my alliances and not show signs of supporting a team that is not as good as its rivals? I personally have a decent collection of Liverpool tops and I take pride in wearing them. I often get people genuinely asking me why am I ‘still’ supporting Liverpool, not in a bantering context, but in true bemusement especially if the other person has limited knowledge and/or interest in football.
In this time and age everyone wants to be cool, teams like Liverpool, Valencia, Lazio, Roma and dare I say the two Milan clubs are not “winning” teams any more and hence, they are not cool enough to support anymore. They have been replaced with Chelsea, Man City and PSG (Something totally unthinkable 10 years ago). People naively tend to forget how football has changed. A look at Man City’s spending on new players, coaches and training facilities says a lot about how money is changing the game on and off the pitch. When I started following and supporting Liverpool the playing field was slightly more level. A club that was being managed well had a shot at the top. Look at Arsenal who invested wisely in players and talent, and provided the last team that genuinely competed with United for the league title (And beat them to it a few times). Clubs like Newcastle, Liverpool and Leeds (Before they gambled on success) made it to the Champions League and did well judging on their limited resources at the time.
Things changed once Roman Abrahamovic bought Chelsea and made it one of the most expensive toys in history (Eventually reaping the rewards of his investment with the much-awaited Champions League trophy last season in Munich). Buying success is in, and it doesn’t seem to be waning with Qatar’s ever-increasing investments in PSG and Abu Dhabi’s support to Manchester City being clear examples). Nowadays the top 4 spots are pretty much reserved to the elite of the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea and either one of the North London clubs (Spurs were very unlucky not to play in Europe this year). Where does this leave us? We are languishing behind, needing a long term strategy which seems to be in place by Brendan Rodgers and the owners (Given results gradually improve).
I do not like seeing my beloved Reds struggle to beat supposedly lesser sides at Anfield, but I would still support and follow them no matter what. I cannot see myself having any alliance to any other football club. I am attached to it emotionally and I have had many, many fond memories over the years supporting it. Fickle and plastic fans will probably not relate or understand what loyalty means or feels like since being hip and trendy dictates following the best out there. While you fake happiness when you’re newly “beloved” team wins the Champions League or whatever its future incarnations may be called I will still be celebrating capturing three precious points against the Fulhams and Wigans of this world. YNWA 🙂