Y.N.W.A – You’ll Never Walk Alone
It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme, a close second to the ominous Beauty and the Beast.
The impassioned rendition sends quivers down the spine of every being with a beating heart, sung out passionately by a certain fanbase in the North West of England.
Yet neither one prepared’ for…
Y.N.W.A – You’ll never win anything. Again. Away. A-thing. A-game (insert your favourite ‘A’ troll here).
This is the bewildering narrative that is Liverpool Football Club; a club ensconced in tradition and a key component in the great ancestry of English football stretching across oceans and across generations.
18 league titles, five UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cups, seven FA Cups, and a record eight League Cups don’t simply appear from thin air. Liverpool, for the better part of the ‘60s on through to the ‘90s, were the quintessential ‘English-machine’, claiming titles and conquering championships like ancient warriors winning maidens to turn them into mistresses.
But by the turn of the millennia, the land of their birth became a thorn in their flesh. Yet Liverpool were doing just fine in Europe – meaning fans in other countries continued to flock to the Reds. In the big green land of Nigeria, more than a few caught the bug…although one sex seemed to have immunity.
To be clear, Nigeria loves the Premier League (maybe a little too much). Most men don’t view weekends as a chance to unwind and spend quality time with loved ones, but seem to look forward to pissing off the said loved ones by being inaccessible as Premier league actions commence.
But it’s not the football that pisses off loved ones, but the men’s chants.
The mind-boggling ‘Up Chelsea!’ and ‘ManU for life!’ and ‘The Gunners!’
I’m happy to inform you that there are women who do the exact opposite…upsetting the male kart with their loud, exuberant, and unapologetic ‘’YNWA!’ cries. They also share a beautiful yet powerful romance, the Liverpool way.
Femmes Fatales Come Together
Five Nigerian LFC Amazons: Eky, Cindy, Wunmi, Bisola and Dot. I didn’t necessarily bring them together at a round table, though it’s certainly still on the cards Finding a Liverpool fan is almost like unearthing a hidden gem. Past Failures mean they’re almost always the butt of every ‘Trophyless!’ joke.
But, unravelling these women, these Femmes Fatales, is akin to taking Sisqo’s hit song seriously. I did Unleash the Dragon in them. In a good way.
While eight-year-old Ekene, (Eky for short) was busy wondering about her father’s video tapes, Cindy was rolling her eyes, bored out of her skull by the frequency of Arsenal’s passes, which led to anything but ’the’ goal.
“On this particular occasion, I strolled with my dad to a store to get some Enid Blyton books and there it was, shiny and red. That’s what caught my eyes.’’ Eky revealed.
A shiny and red video cassette, The Liverpool Story, revealed names — John Barnes, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, Kenny Dalglish — to an inquisitive Eky, standing by the living room door.
“These names stuck and you know how kids are. That same weekend, I took out the tape and watched to see what it was all about. I was fascinated by these guys in Red. The things they could do, it was miraculous!”
Across the pond, an unimpressed Cindy was ‘’Gunning for a change.’’
“Arsenal!’’ exclaimed Cindy, “that’s all they ever watched at my uncle’s house! Everyone was an Arsenal fan and it was excruciating to watch. They passed the ball too much and then one day, Liverpool defeated them and that was it. I felt good.’’
These two ladies made a personal decision, one born out of curiosity and boredom, but for Wunmi and Dot, it was simply…a family affair!
“I didn’t catch the bug, I was born with it! It’s in my DNA,’’ a commanding Wunmi emphasized.
“Then, we’re talking around 30 years ago, there was only one English club in Surulere (a town in the Lagos Metropolitan Area) that everyone supported and that was Liverpool before…’’ I sense a dig coming…
“…yes, before Abramovich came with all his money and brothers went to support Chelsea.’’
I knew it!
“My dad was an academic, a university registrar who studied in Liverpool and my mum joined likewise,’’ Dot shared. “Imagine growing in such a home, under my dad, you didn’t have to think about going to school because you just had to go to school so with the club, it was the same. You just had to support Liverpool.’’
Then there’s Bisola, who bears the burden of fandom by association.
“That Champions League night in Istanbul, I was a student at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK and I was outside my lodge when some guys drove by shirtless…’’
I had to stop her for a moment, in order to catch my breath. This was getting steamy…
“..And I heard them scream ‘Yaaayyy!’ and I screamed ‘’Yayyyyyy!’ too.” She laughed, “I didn’t know what happened until later. It was crazy!’
And crazy in love she fell, after two years of watching from the sidelines.
The romance – that’s the thing about Liverpool. The fans are caught between mid-table mediocrity and breath-taking comebacks. And yes,it’s quite understandable when you walk out that door, three goals down in the first half.
“May 25, 2005, we were 3-0 down and girl, I was crestfallen,’’ Eky made sure the stress the word ‘crestfallen’. “I told my Dad I wasn’t watching anymore and went to sleep.’’
“I won’t lie to you, at the end of the first half in Istanbul, I went home!’’ Cindy confessed.
“Memories!” Dot chuckled nervously. “Once you’re a fan, you’re a fan regardless of how things go. I didn’t think there was a remote chance of us winning the game. I cried asking myself how much heartbreak can one take.”
Despite the…unpleasant…first half, Wunmi stuck it out. “I remember when we were 3-0 down, my brother, who moved to Manchester United because of Eric Cantona, just looked at me and thought I was going to lose it.”
“The second half started, and I remember seeing Gerrard’s face. I told [my brother] ‘Gerrard looks angry’… and soon they scored. Then it all became blurry after that. My phone stopped ringing because people couldn’t make fun of me anymore. I cried!”
“It’s just one of those days that people are going to ask you, where were you?”
That night in Istanbul keeps Liverpool fans believing. It’s why, during the Reds’ Europa League comeback against Dortmund a fortnight ago, they did not walk out that door. That’s what Liverpool teaches you. It’s not over until the fat lady cries…er, sings.
Lows and More Blows
“Gerrard deserved better and it’s one of those mistakes you never want to rehash,’’ a saddened Wunmi reflected on the infamous 2013-2014 season that refuses to slip from the confines of memory.
“Oh my Lord! I blame Brendan Rodgers for that season. Do you know what hurt? It wasn’t that Gerrard slip or losing 2-0. It’s why did it have to be bloody Chelsea? Common sense could not tell Rodgers to get his team defending after going 3-0 up at Crystal Palace,’’ bemoaned Eky. “I cried when I saw Suárez weep after the 3-3 draw. I knew we’d lost the title.’’
“There’s an element of luck in football and I think we’ve not had that luck, so I got frustrated one time and said I was going to stop watching the games until one particular coach left,’’ Bisola digressed.
Was it Roy of the Rovers?
“Yes!’’ she affirmed, ”Roy Hodgson!’’
Cindy was certainly not impressed. Is she ever?
‘’We scored over a hundred goals and that was the first time in the history of football that a team that scored 100 plus goals didn’t win the title. It has never been heard before — best counter-attacking team in the world! I never really liked Brendan.”
“It’s gone from bad to worse and then worse to bad. Since 2009, it’s been a mixed journey with the bright spot being 2014 and that was even bad year with bad signings and Champions league inexperience.’’
Throw in the chaotic administration of Tom Hicks and George Gillett and the shocking signings, from Andy Carroll to Bolo Zenden, then add the justice recently served for the 96 who lost their lives following Hillsborough disaster, and it’s no wonder the ladies spoke with a lot of sadness.
But envy, too, crept in.
“I can’t stand them. I’m jealous, it hurts. I’ll prefer Spurs or Arsenal to win the title. They are not elite.’’ Bisola spoke like she had insects crawling all over her skin. “Anyone but Leicester.’’
It’s likely too late.
“Seeing Leicester win this title hurts. Chris Smalling has like two PL titles, Phil Jones has one, so it hurts — that 26 years trophy-less for Liverpool is a bloody long time. That’s older than my younger sister! But I get the satisfaction that it’s better [that Leicester take the title] than a club than spent 250 million pounds buying trash just to struggle for top four.’’ Eky’s certainly aiming for the Troll Queen tiara.
*Cough. Manchester United. Cough*
But there’s hope in their hearts
“We got Klopp!’’ The three words that make every Scouser grin sheepishly.
“I have a crush on him. There’s just something rugged about him that I love…’’ I had to interrupt Wunmi here because I thought her husband might be slightly uncomfortable with this talk.
Maybe not. “José Mourinho is still a potential baby daddy of mine so he’s not bothered about it. He’s got a crush on Halle Berry and we don’t argue about it so…’’
Are we still talking about Liverpool here?
“We have a good manager right now.’’ (Thanks, Dot, for the distraction!) “Things are beginning to look good so if we had to wait this long for someone like him, then it’s worth the wait. Even if it takes Liverpool another 20 years to get back to where they were in the 70s and 80s, there’s no problem. I’m not going anywhere. My kids will see it.’’
Speaking of going somewhere, the Europa League presents the perfect backdoor through which the Reds can compete on the Champions League stage…if only they can get past Villarreal in the semifinals.
“Oh, we’ll beat them!’’ Cindy was unfazed. “I watched them against Madrid and oh my days…they didn’t play anything. The problem with Villarreal is their defence and midfield. Really solid so the only way we can win them is travel away and score one or two goals and concede just once. Just come home with a win.’’
Bisola cut to the chase
“It’s better that we drew them instead of Sevilla so we leave the best game for the final.’’
But this is a Liverpool side missing its spine, lacking key players like Jordan Henderson, Divock Origi, Emre Can and Mamadou Sakho. Yet Bisola dropped the mic.
“Don’t worry, Klopp can pick gems from dirt. We’ll definitely make the final.”
After stating — perhaps to the surprise of many women — that they’re not easy targets for men, and instead are lauded for their bravery and uniqueness, the ladies went on to make bold predictions about when Liverpool would next win the title.
“Within the next three years,” Bisola asserted, but Cindy was more specific, believing 2018-19 would be Liverpool’s season.
Elky agreed. “They’ll contend next season but I will go out on a limb to say we’ll certainly win it in the 2018-2019 season.”
Wunmi played it coy, sticking to her belief in a five-year plan, but Dot simply said:
“Every year is our year.’’
Sometimes our love for our teams gets tested. Not by the teams themselves. And, in these cases, not by men demanding an explanation of the offside rule. Dot recounted her ultimate test:
My brother, China Acheru, wanted me to buy a ManU jersey here in the UK for his colleague in his office back in Nigeria. Buying a jersey is not a problem but I don’t know how I’m going to by a ManU jersey. He insisted on it even though he’s a Liverpool fan and I told him, how am I going to get to a ManU store? If people see me going in there, how will I explain it? Even if I mistakenly get in there, with which hands am I going to use in touching that jersey? No I couldn’t do it!
So, if Liverpool didn’t come as a knight in red, shiny armour what paths would these ladies have chosen?
Bisola, she glances at Arsenal from time to time, but remains ever faithful to the Liverpool crest. Eky is truly devoted, saying, “If I come back to this world 10 times, I’ll be a Liverpool fan 10 times. Hell yeah! Unrepentant!”
And Cindy? Her answer is hilarious: “Liverpool reserves!”
It’s Wunmi who conveys perfectly what the ladies are dying to express:
Look, Liverpool is like that boy you love so much. You know he’s not going to cheat on you, but he does some really annoying things but you know you’re not going to leave him. Not doubts. You know you’re still going to be there forever.