Football

Poetry in Motion

Never were truer words spoken. I have moved to a different country. I am meeting lots of different people. I am learning new things every day. I am realising that everything doesn’t work according to a checklist. In short, my life has changed a LOT. But all of it is dominated by one thing. Liverpool FC. Liverpool Football Club. The 2013/14 season of Liverpool.

I am crazy about football. I think of calendar years in football season terms. It is always 13/14 rather than 2013. I shout and cry like a madman when my club wins or loses. I call it my club even though I have never been to England let alone Liverpool. For some reason that only football fans can understand,  I feel affinity to an entity in a part of a country which I haven’t ever visited or may not even be able to visit. That is football. Bloody hell eh?

I am elated when Liverpool win and descend into the deepest despair when Liverpool do not get the result that is expected. Till last year, it was more of the latter than the former. But this season, since August it has been different. My club has been good. It has been great, playing the kind of swashbuckling football that is the envy of all.

Our team is wonderful. It is incomplete but it is a joy. Our strikers are the best in the league. One is a maverick genius who creates moments of such pure magic in every match that we blink our eyes and wonder whether if we just saw that. The other is a prodigy in his own right. An instinctive footballer who was mistrusted by all but is now proving his talent week-in week-out.

We have a tiny Brazilian magician who is inconsistent yet but is a delight to watch when on song. We have a precocious winger right from our youth ranks. He is the pride of all. We have two young midfielders who work hard and contribute when the chips are down. Our defense provides lots of comic relief. Finally we have our captain who is a titan in world football. The best midfielder that the English shores have seen. We are a young team. With a young manager. A brilliant guy who has his own ideas and has adapted the best ideas from elsewhere. The team never loses hope. The fans are learning to do that.

We are fun to watch for the neutrals. We play beautiful fast football. We score lots of goals. We thumped the top team. We thump mid table teams. We thump bad teams. We have scored more goals at this stage of the season than any team in premier league history. We are on course to outscore every but one team since the 38 game season started. We have our flaws. But we seem to be learning from our mistakes.

We are also in a title race. That is unbelievable progress in 2 years. All the supporters expected a challenge for the 4th place and maybe losing out by a few points. Everyone just wanted improvement and a sign that there was progress. Till now, the team has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations. We have the weakest squad in the top 6, but still are placed just 4 points from the top. Everyone has sat up and noticed us.

Of course, no trophies are handed out in March. But it has been a wonderful ride so far. We might crash and burn from the next match onwards. We might also go ahead and win the damn thing. Everyone is dreaming. The elusive 19th. People are afraid to say that aloud after so many false dawns and crashed dreams. But screw that. I want to believe in something. Football, the great escape. I walk around the house singing “We are Liverpool tra la la la”. I sit and contemplate about the various permutations in the matches left to play. I wonder what will happen If.

I wait for the weekend when my beloved Liverpool play. I know that Liverpool will score. That has been the one constant this season. I smile.

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Hunger

I am hungry. The lack of football is starving me. For a passionate fan of club football, off-season might be the most torturous period there can be, with the international breaks providing stiff competition. No blogs to read, no players to swoon over, no players to shout at *cough* Downing *cough* and no more late-night matches and subsequent drowsiness all through next day. Sitting on the edge of the seat and praying that all our players make it through the break without injuries is no fun.

Granted it was not total lack of football. There were the Euros, making it much better than last year’s off-season, but somehow I did not enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to have done. Ze Germans, of whom I have been a fan since that 2006 opening goal by Lahm, were not as exciting as the last World Cup. In 2010, ze Germans were a fast counter-attacking team and tore many teams to shreds as England and Argentina will testify. Ozil and Muller with all there umlauts were so much fun to watch and the speed at which they converted defence to attack was breathtaking. This time though, their movement was more languid, more focus was on possession than before and except for the second half against Greece, never left second gear. Still it was a surprise when they went out to unfancied Italy pouring water on the German-Spain final that many football fans were hoping for.  Spain seemingly as disappointed at not getting Germany as everyone else, then brutalised Italy in the final.

After a long long trophy-less stretch, Spain have won their second consecutive Euro Cup and made history by winning three consecutive tournaments. Vicente Del Bosque, the Droopyesque coach of the team became the only manager in the history of football to have won all three major tournaments, the Champions League, the World Cup and the Euro Cup. The talent for Spain, with brilliant players like Javi Martinez, Mata, Muniain, Llorente and many others still waiting on the wings is absolutely worth salivating over. Only Germany have comparable wealth in hand, but in spite of reaching the late stages of many tournaments they have choked. With experience in the squad that might improve though. Spain are now the champions at all levels and unless something drastic happens, it is highly probable that they will rule over football for the near-foreseeable future.

All that I am still not a big fan of Spain. The purists might enjoy the controlled build-up starting from the goalkeeper, the endless inter-passing, the waiting for the gaps to occur and the sudden rapier-like thrust at the most opportune moment, nowadays referred to by the fashionable name of tiki-taka, but I find no sight more enjoyable than the sudden turn-over of possession in our own half, the excellent controlled long ball to the striker or winger who is waiting as an outlet, the streaking into the opposition’s half at a manic speed and before the other team is aware GOAALL! An audacious chip from the half line and it is even better. The new manager of Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers is a fan of tiki-taka and I might well have to bring myself around to enjoy the poor man’s tiki-taka that Liverpool will dish out. Hopefully we will get into the Champions League next season.

It is not all silence at the club level though. Only one activity seems to be going on but its roar is deafening. Yes, I am talking about the transfer window. The transfer window on the continent opened on July 1st and all sorts of crazy rumours have started flying around. Players getting linked to every other club, agents sniffing around for their 15%, players not signing contract extensions, Arsenal fans committing mass suicide (the last two are said to be linked) and in short total bedlam reigns over Twitter. Whenever a new player is linked, within moments a video detailing all his goals, tricks and celebrations appears on the interweb. A video welcoming him to the club also appears. The player at that time is sugar, spice and everything nice (Yes, I used to watch Powerpuff Girls, sue me). Then suddenly a tweet appears rubbishing that link and linking him somewhere else and the player suddenly turns into a person not fit to tie the laces, let alone wear the precious shirt. Rinse, lather and repeat. Bat-shit crazy, this transfer season.

Thankfully, the actual season is not as far away as it seems. What with preseason and Europa League qualifiers (Europe!), the footie starts very soon. Another season of hope (“this is our year!”) is nigh.