Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Congratulations, Liverpool!

Last night, Liverpool Football Club beat English powerhouse and Premiership champions Chelsea Football Club in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semi-final at Anfield.

The remarkable (though not unexpected) 1-0 victory, courtesy of Luis Garcia's fourth minute goal, means that the Reds will meet the winner of today's PSV Eindhoven v AC Milan match.

This is very exciting, because Liverpool could be crowned the Champions of Europe later this month!

Liverpool is humbly managed by Rafael Benitez, who led Valencia to the 2004 UEFA Cup and La Liga championship over perennial powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Rafa's soft-spoken manner and dedication to his team makes him a breath of fresh-air in these days of superstar coaches who earn more than some of their players and love to talk about themselves.

Enter Jose Mourinho, who has nothing but wonderful things to say about himself, and the sleazy underworld billionaire who pays the bulk of his $12,100,000 salary. Jose Mourinho has never met a television camera he didn't adore (or vice-versa). His good-looks (poster boy for both American Express and British Airways) and his victory record (2004 Champions of Europe and 2003 UEFA Cup) speak for themselves. Mourinho's hubris, self-possession and near-psychotic vanity lead him to make really unpleasant remarks. After last night's victory by Benitez's Liverpool squad, the only comprehensive complete sentence Mourinho could muster for the cameras was: "Tonight, the best team lost." What an ass!

As an Arsenal supporter who is tasting sour grapes about my team's finish behind Mourinho's Chelsea in the Premiership race, I have been cheering for Liverpool to upset the arrogant and not-very-stylish Blues. My wish has come true!

This year's championship match will take place May 25th, 2005, in Istanbul, Turkey.

You might ask why the European championship is played outside of Europe, and I often wonder the same thing. Oddly, in the world of international football, Turkey, Israel and a smattering of Blahblahblahkistans are considered part of Europe.

Israel's inclusion is obvious to me, because it is basically a European culture, government and people inserted in a Middle Eastern state.

I assume that the Mafia-controlled governments of the Blahblahblahkistans have muscled, cajoled and/or blackmailed their way into UEFA. I haven't a clue where to begin a discussion of their inclusion, except to say that some people have a very odd sense of geography!

Turkey's inclusion in the Union of European Football Associations still baffles me, because it is neither in Europe nor populated by Europeans (except during holidays when it is filthy with Germans). I choose not to question too often or audibly, though, because every answer I have heard (from both detractors and supporters) is totally absurd (in that quaint, illogical, English way).

Turkey isn't the safest place in the world. Visiting soccer fans, in particular, have had a pretty hard go of it the past few years. Violent incidents at international matches in Istanbul have the taste and feel of English hooliganism of the 1980s. People are sometimes killed.

Now, I must come to the defense of English football. Hooliganism has waned to the point that very little violence occurs at English soccer events. Violence has not been totally eradicated, nor has it ever been totally absent from ANY sporting event in ANY nation in the world; however, England has done more than any other nation to combat violence at sporting events.

Which brings us back to Liverpool. Thank you, very much.

One of the worst tragedies in the history of organized sporting events (and the low-point in the history of Liverpool FC) took place at the final of the European Championships, at the Heysel stadium, Brussels, in 1985. Liverpool and Juventus, from Turin, Italy, were preparing to play the final match of the season, when rioting fans brought forth a terror none of us wishes to know.

Liverpool FC's website presents a sanitized, but accurate, storyline:

" . . . After a sustained period of missiles being thrown by both sets of supporters, some Liverpool fans charged at their Italian counterparts and, as chaos took over, Juventus fans fled only for a wall blocking their escape to collapse on top of them. Thirty-nine football supporters died where they fell. . . ."

Heysel was a decrepit, crumbling stadium that should never have been selected for an international championship match, and Istanbul is a dangerous, explosive city that should not have been selected for an international championship. This does not absolve the Liverpool fans of culpability in the past; but, it's ironic that twenty years after the most harrowing championship match in which Liverpool played they must now hope their supporters will survive the brutality that is today's Turkish football culture.

If I were a Liverpool supporter, I would not travel to Istanbul. Actually, I would not travel anywhere in Turkey right now.

Be that as it may, I sure hope Liverpool can bring home the championship without any nation being banned from international competition for the next five years.

The Atatürk Olympic stadium in Istanbul, Turkey will stage the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League final on 25 May 2005.

Atatürk Olympiyat Stadi

Heysel May 29th 1985: A Day Never To Be Forgotten


Milan Baros (Liverpool FC) & Joe Cole (Chelsea FC)
nicked from uefa.com


Dick Mac Recommends:

The Official Liverpool FC Illustrated History
Jeff Anderson




3 comments:

Mark said...

Another quote from the always full of shit Jose:

"You can say the linesman's scored. It was a goal coming from the moon or from the Anfield Road stands."

What an asshole.

Mark said...

And thanks for the Kudos, DM! It was great and Clive Owen was there again to cheer us on!

DM said...

You're welcome, Mark! 'Pool are exciting and I hope the next five-year ban isn't too painful for all of us.