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 might even say; ‘football is ‘life itself’?
It is impossible to come from Liverpool and not be affected in some way by football. It simply cannot be ignored. Football is in the 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”. Within this conversation, one of the busiest topics is – are you 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, is also a way of life in Liverpool and probably the most talked about topic for those outside of Liverpool.
Tourists, visitors to our City comment on our ‘Two Tribes’ rivalry. It is instantly palpable. As soon as you enter Liverpool’s’ boundaries it engulf’s. Visitors are instantly curious, books have been written and films made about our curious, ‘unique’ football-focused relationship.
Scouse ‘heightened‘? sense of discrimination, injustice is portrayed by some commentator’s as being over-exaggerated, even as far as a being a victim mentality. Whatever it is it is not an exclusive situation? 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 & Sheffield United also share a similar rivalry.
What is unique though is the relationship 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 but hatred? No. Absolutely not,
What is it that defines this unique relationship?
Generally, your tribe is defined for you at birth. If your dad is a red (like his dad) then you are born red. The tribal line continues. However, many Liverpool families do have split, dual allegiances. A father and son could be blue and red, as with a brother and brother, husband and wife. Dual allegiances are not an uncommon phenomena. Why? Families expand, grow (often due to marriages), somebody might marry into the alternative tribe?
Everton FC & Liverpool FC two tribal arenas, Goodison Park & Anfield, 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 is all that divides the two grounds. Hence, another 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. Sometimes, some sinners do ‘come out’ and confess to co-confessors, other crossers. I have several close mates who (admit to) crossing the park. I myself, and my son, both crossed Stanley Park, went from being a Red to becoming a Blue or from Blue to Red. For me this occurs when I was very young (aged 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 post match. Whatever the result there might be disappointment, anger, frustration and arguments on one or both sides. 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 roast. They cannot remain angry with each other for more than a couple of days tops?
As ‘Merseyside’ football supporters, fact is we are spoilt? Historically and in Liverpool’s case, currently. At 62 I have witnessed, shared and celebrated our tribes reach the pinnacle of success. We are lucky for that. 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 see such joy?
Those fans, the loyal supporters of their tribes tend to follow their national teams with increased vigour and dedication than us scouse tribesmen? Maybe as there is more of a chance that 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 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, our DNA, a tribe that sticks together, fights (to the death if necessary) together, against injustice, for justice, for Love, whatever it takes
Thanks for Reading