I had the good luck to attend the Liverpool/Swansea game at Anfield last weekend. It was easily the coolest, most unforgettable sporting event I’ve been to in person.
For those who don’t know, I’ve managed to become obsessed with Liverpool FC (long story)…Last week, I had a business trip to Dublin that happened to coincide with a Reds game at their legendary home ground of Anfield. So I went just a little out of my way to be there.
The game was an exciting 4-3 win for the Reds, but for me the atmosphere was the thing I’ll not forget. Anfield is one of the iconic grounds in English soccer. It reminded me a lot of the historic stadia in the US that I’ve seen in person: Old Comisky, Fenway Park, Boston Garden, or War Memorial Aud in Buffalo. Places that were built in a time when the main attraction at a sporting event was….the sporting event. Not the scoreboard, the sushi or the fireworks. In terms of comfort and amenities, they all fall way short of the creature comforts of modern gems like AT&T Park. But they more than makes up for it with the intimidating aura of history that you just can’t build on purpose. With Anfield, there’s a certain smell to the place. The unmistakable bouquet of stale beer, mud, passion and history.
I arrived at Anfield about 2 hours before kickoff. The area around the stadium is a little…rough. Similar to the old Yankee Stadium’s location in the Bronx. Liverpool’s team anthem is “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – but the anthem of the Anfield neighborhood should be “You SHOULD Never Walk Alone.” It was OK on gameday, though. The fans were all really cool, friendly, and kind of amused that I came to Anfield all the way from California.
The ground is nothing special to look at, especially when empty. But…as kickoff approaches, it really gets special. I sat very near to the Kop: the far end of the field, where the hardest of hardcore fans sit. Very similar to the dog pound in Cleveland, or the bleachers in Wrigley Field (except that the fans are actually watching the game).
Before the game, the Kop comes alive with an inspiring collection of flags and banners.
And then there’s the chants, and the songs. It’s something we just don’t have in American sports…composed and sung by the crowd, and passed along between generations of fans. Our closest comparison might be a college fight song – but for some of the older clubs, like Liverpool, there are literally hundreds of songs and the true fans know all of them.
My favorite one was the simple “LIVERPOOL!” chant – just yell “Liverpool” at the top of your lungs, in unison, with 40,000 other fans. It’s a really good chant for the novice fan (or the really drunk one). Check it out:
I also loved the Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez songs. You know you’ve made it, as a player, when the fans make up a song about you…
The best song of them all though is the team anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Singing that song, with the rest of the Reds faithful was the highlight of the day. I wanted to revel in the experience of it, and only recorded a very small piece:
As I said, the stadium itself is nothing special – and is actually quite cramped and uncomfortable. No fancy concourses; only a tightly packed corridor where fans chug beer before heading to their seats. That’s right. No drinking in your seat! But of course, you can bet on the game from inside the stadium…
All in all, it was an amazing experience. Liverpool eked out a nerve-wracking 4-3 win and kept their title hopes alive. I’ll always remember my first trip to Anfield! YNWA.