In this blog entry by Grant Farred, the author of Long Distance Love, writes passionately about soccer, and the team he connects with–Liverpool.
Mark it down, these two dates and places: the 11th of March, 2009: Anfield Road Stadium, Liverpool; 14th of March, 2009: Old Trafford, the outskirts of Manchester. It was the week that demonstrated, without question, as to who the greatest team in English and European football is today. Real Madrid, albeit a shadow of their once-great selves (where have you gone, Zinedine Zidane? Oh, we miss you so in that all-white strip), came to Anfield and Liverpool proceeded to run amok. As early as the third minute, the two geniuses combined: Stevie Gerrard put El Nino, Fernando Torres, through. Wonderful save by Iker Casillas in the Real goal but, no matter, its all over. Magnificent strike by Torres outdone only by Gerrard’s goal. The useless fruitless Ryan Babbel crosses from the left and, Gerrard, who can only, given the bounce and speed of the ball, hit the ball in one spot: his right ankle, and, it has to be perfectly—and I mean perfectly —timed. For Stevie, or, “God’s Own Son,” as I’ve dubbed him in my book Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football, its not quite routine but Lord is it memorable. Stevie gets his ankle into that inch-perfect position and the ball flies into the net. Christ, what a goal. I’ve played that one now, oh, a few dozen times in my head and I’m still awestruck. Can there be any doubt that God, in her or his infinite wisdom, is nothing other than a Liverpool fan? Two days later, said Zidane proclaimed Gerrard the best player in the world. No argument from me, m’sieur. Real left Anfield in tatters, redeemed only by the reflective honesty of their manager, Juande Ramos: beaten fair and square, is more or less what Senor Ramos offered at this press conference.
Such a contrast, Ramos’s acknowledgment, to the bluster of that working class phony (since when do champions of the Glaswegian dock workers accept titles from the British monarchy? “Sir Alex,” what a bunch of crap), red-faced (its what expensive wine will do to the blood vessels in your nose) Alex Ferguson. We creamed ’em: 4-1, on their patch, no less. 4-1. They scored first, courtesy of the stupidity of our keeper, Pepe Reina, but five minutes later, game over. If the Real match belonged to Stevie, this one was all (well, not exactly, but . . .) was Torres’. He’s a big lad, Fernando, and, unlike any forward I know, he tackles like a central defender. Puts himself about, is how the English phrase it. He terrified the Manchester United central defensive pairing, the flat-faced Serb Nemanja Vidic and the pretentiously elegant Rio Ferdinand. “Mark Torres,” Ferguson told Vidic. What a joke. Torres “put himself about,” plus he’s quick, skillful and with a delicious eye for goal, our striker el supremo, and Vidic crumbled. Time after time. 28th minute, long ball bounces, Vidic hesitates, El Nino brushes by him as though he’s not there. 1-1, that’s the scoreline, but, the game, its all over. Torres lays off a pass for Gerrard just before half-time, Manchester United defense is found wanting, again, and the ref’s got no choice: penalty. Stevie, calm as can be, slots home. For 70 minutes, Torres runs Vidic ragged. Then, Torres is substituted but Vidic’s nightmare’s not over. Another high bouncing ball and Stevie blows by the Serb. He rugby tackles Gerrard down. Ref, again, has only one option: red card. Off you go, Vidic. You can almost see the relief on the Serbian’s face. He’s been torn to shreds. It’s what the greatest club does: it beats all pretenders.
Grant Farred is the author of Long Distance Love: A Passion for Football. http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1798_reg.html