Why Liverpool? I asked.
“My uncle is responsible.”
I talked to Andy in front of 11th Street bar after Liverpool’s game, and a few beers, so I’m not sure I remember his exact words. But an uncle had something to do with him falling for Liverpool and not some other club. Andy came to live in New York City not long ago. He is from a town somewhere in the English south. He, definitely, is responsible for Tanya becoming Liverpool fan.
Why Arsenal? I asked.
“I’ve been an Arsenal fan since just before my 17th birthday. My high school soccer team went to England for a pre-season and our coach got us tickets to a game while we were in London. I don’t know how he chose Arsenal, but I’m pretty sure that it was the opening game of the season at Highbury. This was before the Premier League, but Arsenal were still in the top flight. I don’t recall the game very well, except for being impressed by David Rocastle. Mainly what I remember was standing on the crumbling terraces behind the goal and understanding why there were stadium safety issues. It was terrifying, especially squeezing out of the too-small-for-Americans turnstiles onto a street full of mounted policemen in riot gear, but also exhilarating.
I’m pretty sure that it was the first game of the season, which I think is also mentioned in Fever Pitch, because the next home game that year was a 6-0 and I definitely would have remembered 6 goals. I had to look up this up, as well as Arsenal’s opponent that day; the internet tells me it was Liverpool and that they won 2-1. I guess If I had chosen my team based on performance I would be a Liverpool fan.
Why Liverpool? I asked.
“I started dating Andy who is a passionate Liverpool fan and that was it.”
Finally, it looks as if the long winter is over. We can expect a great football year ahead with exciting finales in a few European leagues as well as the World Cup.
This weekend I was in New York City. I went to watch West Ham – Liverpool match at the 11th Street Bar which is home to Liverpool’s Supporters Club in New York. There I met Tanya. She is not the first person on this blog who fell in love with a club through their love for another person. With the amount of love in this post there could be no better way to kick-off a new season here. Enjoy it and spread the word that Footballists are back.
Why Roma? I asked.
“My husband found this shirt in between destroyed houses of San Jose district.“
In ruins of Tacloban, thousands of zombie-like survivors loiter. The super typhoon hit the coast and people’s lives were pulverized to the smallest bits from which they would have to rebuild everything. I’ve seen it before, I know the pattern – to have their old lives back, the high spirit will be as important as material reconstruction.
Just to the right from city’s astrodome where hundreds or survivors found shelter, between some improvised shacks and about dozen rotten bodies left for rescue workers to collect I noticed a beautiful young woman wearing a sleeveless football shirt. She was holding a child and I almost fell of my bike when I first saw her. In the ocean of surreal scenes and powerful photographs I took on this assignment, this one stands out – the image of her smiling and pretty face, of her husband and happy child do not belong to this hell like scenery. At the same time, this is exactly the image I bring back from Philippines – despite the monstrous destruction the amazing spirit of those lucky to survive remains inexplicable high.
Maimai Pasqual lost relatives in typhoon; her house and all the belongings are gone. Now, she has very few things but this Roma shirt to wear – and she wears it so gracefully that I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It is three sizes too big and she cut its sleeves off – from the distance it looks like just another basketball shirt that you can see everywhere in Philippines. I’m glad to see it is Totti’s number 10. But, what happened to its original owner?
Why Liverpool? I asked.
“Liverpool has been my team since I was a little girl growing up in Minnesota.”
Sometimes I don’t desire to find out more than what strangers tell me right after I ask the question, so not to spoil the story I imagine. I don’t know if Britania was just visiting New York, like me, or she lives there now. I don’t know if she grew up in a city or out in a country. What I imagine is a little girl growing up on a farm, somewhere in western prairies, mysteriously falling in love with the beautiful game and the Liverpool football club.
Why Chelsea? I asked.
“It’s my team ever since I was a kid.”
For a few blocks we were overtaking each other at intersections, Nick on his skateboard and I on my bicycle. Finally, we were stopped by a red light and I asked him about his jersey. Nick was just visiting, for a weekend, from Toronto, and doesn’t have much time for soccer. Then the lights turned green.
Why LA Galaxy? I asked.
“I know nothing about football. I’ve got this shirt from a friend”.
Locked behind the bars of a cage made of bamboo sticks, 23 year old Taung Lon shivers under his filthy blanket. It is his first week at the Youth for Christ centre for heroin addict and tropical heat is not enough to make him warm in a moment of obviously painful crisis. He is going through detox cold turkey and a young man will stay locked in what is called the Special Prayer Room until the eight day with no medication, only to pray and sing and read Bible. I try to talk to Taung Lon but he just smiles and backs off to the corner of a cell he shares with few others, a typical reaction of someone marked by brutal society as guilty forever.
I come back to the centre few days after and Taung Lon looks much better now. Out of a cage, wearing a totally unexpected LA Galaxy jersey he sings “Jesus Loves Me” in full voice, an important and surreal morning ritual all the people from the centre attend. The bizarre collective offers a 40-day “course” of prayer, Bible study and devotional singing, with football and weightlifting for those strong enough to try to overcome devastating heroin addiction.
Ndingi Laja, a former convict and folk singer, better known by his stage name Ahja established the centre in remote mountains of Kachin state to help fight the problem that is totally out of control in this part of Myanmar. I ask him for the results, how many boys quit drugs in the centre – Ahja’s left eye starts blinking and his tough face turns even tougher. Okay, a wrong question – obviously the main point here is to bring addicts on “the right path”, something us, who believe in science more than in divine intervention find difficult to understand. However, anything is much better than young men staying higher up in mountains hand picking through waste of a mine to get a piece of jade or amber to sell for their daily dose of heroin.