Again, to clarify for my North American readers, when Tom Hicks, the new American owner of Liverpool FC said of Anfield: “I’d heard so much about the fans, but that was spectacular. I’ve seen a lot of sporting events all around the world, but nothing that comes close to that”, he was not trying to ingratiate himself with the scousers, nor was he gloating over gate receipts, which do not generate serious profits for football clubs. He was simply stating a fact.
If you’ve never been amongst 45,000 people packed inside a close stadium, all singing the same song in unison as loud as they can, and continuing to roar, bellow and chant other songs for 90 minutes, you can’t really fathom the experience. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in human activity, except maybe Zulu warfare. No orchestra or choir or even heavy rock band makes that kind of visceral impact. You don’t hear it through your ears, it transmits directly to your intestines.
The purple-clad people in the video taking pictures and trying to join in with You’ll Never Walk Alone are Barcelona fans. Barcelona play at a much bigger stadium: the Nou Camp has a capacity of over 98,000. But they’ve never experienced that kind of atmosphere.
As Peter likes to remind us on Diversely We Sail, North American sports don’t have the problems of soccer. They are family affairs: kids fidgeting, dads gallumphing off to stock up on hotdogs.
Hooliganism is the dark side of football tribalism. Anfield on a European Cup night is the blinding bright side.