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Champions

In a way that can rarely if ever be said to be the case for teams in major sports in the United States, Liverpool Football Club and the City of Liverpool have grown, risen and fallen almost as one. Liverpool the club began to hit its stride in the mid-1960s, when of course Liverpool the city became one of the cultural centers of the world. In the 1970s and the 1980s, Liverpool the club won everything – between 1973 and 1990, they only once failed to finish first or second in the league, and in that period they became European champions four times too. And there was a period in the 1980s when if Liverpool didn't win the league, their local rivals Everton did. And the sport and those teams meant so much to the people of that city, because for much of that period the city was going through incredibly hard economic times, and in 1981 it was one of the cities across England that erupted in riots. The response of elements of the Thatcher government to the decay and riots of the 1980s was to basically let the city rot, to adopt a policy of "managed decline." But through it all, the football team at least kept winning until it didn't, and its demise roughly coincided with the darkest day in its history: in 1989, 96 fans were crushed to death at a game at Hillsborough in Sheffield, and the Thatcher government, the Murdoch press and the police all blamed them for it, accusing the living of pickpocketing and urinating on the dead and of mob behavior that resulted in the deaths. It took more than 25 years of struggle before there was an official acknowledgment that that was all lies, and that in fact the deaths were a result of horrendously bad policing and crowd control and that all 96 had been unlawfully killed. But as the 1989 tragedy was shortly followed by the team's fall from the top, so that verdict, that redemption, coincided with the return of Liverpool to glory under its new manager, Jurgen Klopp. An avowedly socialist city and a team whose slogan and ethos is You'll Never Walk Alone embraced a liberal, working class manager whose team embodied the collectivist spirit of its fan base: not one player on this Liverpool squad was a superstar when they joined, but they all are now. Last year, they juuuuuuust lose the league title by one point, but then became European champions and then this year they have been dominant, ending 30 years of hurt to become Pemier League champions with seven games to spare.

 

I am not from Liverpool, but I became a Liverpool fan when I was about seven or eight, in the mid-1970s. It was easy enough to be a Liverpool fan then: lots of my friends at school were, as often is the case with teams that are sweeping all before them. But there was another reason for me: because we had little to no live match coverage then, we were reliant on the weekend highlights package shows, and because liverpool won a lot, they were on thise shows a lot. And I particulary loved watching their star striker, Kenny Dalglish. He becae my favorite player; ergo, Liverpool were my favorite club. I drifted away shortly after Hillsborough, partly because I lost the heart for it and partly because I left England the next month, never to return to live. But I became re-invested a little over 10 years later and my obsession has renewed and intesified since.

 

Because of the team's history, the fans' sense of otherness and uniqueness, and because of its failures and tragedies over the last 30 years, fans of other teams often continue to regard fans of Liverpool with particular derision and disdain. But that makes this record-breaking season all the sweeter. Everybody thinks their sports team is the best, but right now only Liverpool Football Club is champion of the most popular sports league in the world

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