Life – Terror. Ecstasy. Fight. Denial. Flight. Failure. PAIN. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Hope. Love. Peace – Death.
I hate football ‘International’ breaks.
The suspension of Premier League fixtures for World Cup, European Championship qualifier fixtures. I especially hate breaks to accommodate international friendly’s, essentially pointless fixtures in order for FIFA, UEFA et. al. to make money.
Where I come from Football is a way of life. Some Scousers would say; ‘football is ‘life itself’?
It is impossible to come from Liverpool and not be affected in some way by football. Like or loathe it footy is part of Scouse DNA. In the words of the late, great, Bill Shankly, when asked; ‘is football a matter of life and death on Merseyside?’ Shanks replied; ‘’No son, it’s much more important than that”.
One of the first questions a Scouser will ask another Liverpudlian is – ‘are you a RED or Blue’?
Which tribe are you aligned with?
It is no secret that in Liverpool there is an intense rivalry between both football tribes. This is juxtaposed by a unique friendship. Friendship, support for each other, especially when presented with adversity. Fighting against injustices is also a way of life in Liverpool and probably the most talked about topic about Scousers for those outside of Liverpool.
Tourists, welcome visitors to our proud city often comment on Scouse ‘Two Tribes’ rivalry. As soon as you arrive in Liverpool, it is instantly palpable. The second you enter Liverpool’s’ boundaries ‘twotribesness’ engulfs you. Visitors, especially international tourists, are fascinated, curious? Books have been written and films made about Liverpool’s curious, ‘unique’ football-focused relationships with each other.
The Scouse, (disproportionate)? Sense of discrimination and injustice is portrayed by some commentator’s as, over-exaggerated, as a victim mentality? Whatever it is or is not is not totally exclusive?
There are several ‘similar’ (geographical), territorial footballing relationships dotted around the footballing landscape. Inter & AC Milan, Real & Atletico Madrid, Manchester City & Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday & United also share a tribalism rivalry.
However, what makes the relationship between Everton (blue) and Liverpool (red) supporters unique, are the (actual) relationships between Everton & Liverpool fans compared to that of all others? Inter & AC fans, literally hate each other, Manchester United and City supporters despise each other? Granted, tension, rivalry, bitterness (from both Merseyside tribes) has increased, especially in recent years, as the older, more traditional generations of fans expire. Hatred? No. Absolutely not, how can you hate Yeh Ma or Yeh Da, your brother or sister, your best mate? Well maybe during a heated game but for any longer than 90 minutes?
What is it that defines this unique relationship?
Generally, your tribe is defined for you, at birth. If your dad is red (like his dad) then you are born red. The tribal line continues. However, many Liverpool families have split, dual allegiances. A father and son could be blue and red, as with a brother and sister, or a brother with another brother or a husband and wife. In Liverpool, dual allegiances are a common phenomena. Why? Families expand, grow (often due to marriages), somebody might marry into the alternative tribe?
Goodison Park & Anfield Stadiums, the two, Everton FC & Liverpool FC, tribal arenas, , the Blue & Red (footballing) amphitheatre’s are literally, so close to each other they are visible form either or.
A short, 5-10 minute walk across Stanley Park (the Park) is all that divides the two stadiums. Hence, another unique phenomena, ‘Crossing the Park’. When one supporter changes their alliances to the other club. When a Red tribesman becomes a Blue tribesman or visa versa. They cross the park. The equivalent to Crossing the House in politics.
Some would argue, Crossing the Park is the ultimate sin a scouser can commit, akin to a Scouse voting Tory. However, it happens and when it does it is (largely) ignored, denied, kept secret, not talked about.
Occasionally, some sinners will ‘come out’ and confess to a (trusted) co-confessor. I have a couple of close mates who (admit to) crossing the park. I, myself, my son, both crossed Stanley Park. We went from being a Red to becoming a Blue and from Blue to Red. I was young (aged 6 or 7), it is unusual (if ever) for a crossing when older.
Reds and Blues will travel together to ‘Derby’ games, shoulder to shoulder, father and son. They may even (stand) sit together during the game and then afterwards, in the pub. Whatever the result, there will always be be disagreement, anger, frustration and arguments. Ultimately, whatever the hostility, they will still be father and son, they might even have to live with each other, or at the very least meet the following week at grandma’s for Sunday dinner. They cannot remain angry with each other for more than a couple of days, tops?
As ‘Merseyside’ football supporters, we are incredibly spoilt? Historically and in Liverpool’s case, currently. At plus 60, I have witnessed, shared and celebrated both tribes reach the pinnacle of success. We are lucky, privileged as many clubs haven’t, don’t, won’t ever. How dare us ‘be angry’ be disappointed by our clubs (EFC), current form, our lack of success? There are 200 clubs below us who have, and never will, EVER experience such satisfaction?
Those fans, those who don’t, those loyal supporters of their tribes tend to follow their national teams with increased vigour and dedication than us Scousers. Maybe as there is more chance they can achieve, at national level, what is impossible for them at club level? Hats off to them. Those dedicated tribesmen, loyal supporters, for their steadfast, unwavering support, their love for ‘the game’, for their clubs despite any chance of glory.
Is football a matter of life and death on Merseyside?
Of course it is but it is not just about the football. Football is just a part of, what defines our identity as a City, as Scousers. It is part of the glue that holds us, our scouse identity together, the life-blood that makes us who we are, footy is in our DNA, a tribe that sticks together, fights (to the death if necessary) together, against injustice, for justice, for Love, whatever it takes! All Day La!
Thanks for Reading