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As most people on the east coast slept Wednesday morning, a vote was taking place more than 3,000 miles away, which could have a significant effect on the most beloved franchise in Boston. By a vote of 3-2, the Board members of Liverpool Football Club approved the sale of the most successful soccer franchise in England to New England Sports Ventures – the group led by John Henry and owners of the Red Sox. The sale will be completed in the next week and will be a new era both at Liverpool and for NESV. I’m the resident Liverpool supporter at SoB, so I’m here to give you an introduction to the club. As you will see, the similarities between Liverpool and the Red Sox are uncanny.
Liverpool FC was founded in 1892 in Liverpool, England, which is on the northwest coast about a two-hour train ride north of London. In short, Liverpool is the most successful soccer club in the history of English football, winning 18 League titles, seven F.A. Cups and five European Cups.
Liverpool have been in a lull since the early 1990s, having not won a league title in 20 years (sound familiar?). But in 2005, LFC made a magical run in the Champions League – which is Europe’s top playoffs with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich – and made it all the way to the title game in Istanbul, Turkey to face A.C. Milan. Liverpool went down 3-0 at halftime, usually an insurmountable deficit. But, like the Red Sox in 2004, the reds weren’t done. Liverpool scored three goals in the first 20 minutes of the second half and eventually won in a penalty shootout in one of the most unforgettable Champions League finals in history. Here’s a short highlight clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEV38t20ulI
When talking about the players at Liverpool, the conversation has to start with the captain, the skipper, Steven Gerrard. He’s Tom Brady, only if Tom Brady was born and raised in Boston. Gerrard joined his hometown club at a young age and came out of nowhere to become one of the best midfielders in the world. He’s known for his strong leg, kick-ass celebrations and scoring in the clutch.
To get a real taste for what Gerrard can do, here’s two of his most famous goals. First, during the magical run in 2005, Liverpool looked dead in the water against Greek team Olympiakos. Liverpool were up 2-1 at home but needed a third goal to advance out of the group stage, and that’s where Steven Gerrard went from great player to legend: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSwilt4kfFM
A year later in the F.A. Cup final – a competition which includes every football club in England no matter what league, Liverpool again needed a bit of magic. Down 3-2 to West Ham in the final minute, Gerrard unleashed the fury from a clear 40 yards out to send the game into extra time, where once again Liverpool would win on penalties. Have a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD80XYD1FvU
The other superstar on Liverpool’s squad is Spanish striker, Fernando Torres. Also called “El Niño”, Torres came to the club in 2008 and started scoring goals in bunches. He’s been injury prone over the past two seasons and wasn’t at his best at this past World Cup, but he’s still viewed as one of the best strikers in the world. Here’s his game winning goal in the final of Euro 2008: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWbExFIbx_0&feature=related
The other name you should know is Jamie Carragher. He’s a legendary defender and an Englishman but you probably can’t understand a word he says because of his scouse accent. Here’s an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDaTTVR2JXY
Like the Red Sox, Liverpool are aided by some of the best rivalries in world soccer. First and foremost is Manchester United – aka the Yankees of English soccer. The hatred between these two sets of fans is so intense that when Liverpool play a game at Manchester United, their supporters are kept locked in their section until all the Man U supporters have left the stadium. Here’s what I mean: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKoPLt_coFI
Man United are probably the most well known club in England and are quickly creeping up on Liverpool as far as titles go.
The other rival is Everton FC, the other major club in Liverpool. The blues are not as big of a club as Liverpool but the two teams have been rivals for 100 years. U.S. soccer fans know a familiar face on Everton, as their starting goalie is Tim Howard.
For a perspective on the heated nature of this rivalry, take a look at the celebration of former Liverpool greaet, Robbie Fowler. In the week leading up to the game, Folwer had been accused of cocaine use and was taunted by Everton fans. So what happened when Fowler scored a goal in the game? Only the best celebration is history: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYEMa465re0
Look, just because John Henry and his consortium is buying Liverpool doesn’t mean soccer will take off in Boston. But if you were a follower of the World Cup and perhaps are looking for a team to support on a yearly basis, take a strong look at Liverpool. They are recognized as having the best fans in the world, their uniforms are blood red and they are now the underdogs when it comes to spending.
Hopefully this will mean LFC will be coming to Boston or Foxboro soon and you will see first hand the passion and tradition surrounding our new team.