I’m a Liverpool FC supporter.
On May 1, I went to my first ever soccer match. It was Barcelona against Liverpool at the gorgeous (and intimidatingly big) Camp Nou, in Barcelona. It was the first leg of the 2019 Champions League semi-finals. I know, WHAT A GAME TO BE MY FIRST, RIGHT?
My amazing mother bought me the ticket as a birthday gift, and although I was seated in enemy territory, the whole experience was spectacular.
Well, getting to watch Liverpool was.
Next to me sat a Barcelona supporter with a beer in his hand. I was seated right above the Ultras (Barcelona superfans), and the men in my row were intense. But this one was kind; he knocked-over my popcorn and instantly went to buy me a new one. Making my way to Camp Nou was intimidating, there were A LOT of people, and the soccer culture in Barcelona, like that of Liverpool, oozes with passion.
I had my Liverpool jersey hidden under a hoodie because I was afraid I would get in trouble if Barcelona fans knew I was rooting for the opposition. The kind man next to me asked me if it was my first game.
“You look nervous,” he said. I laughed and said it was, and that I was more excited than nervous. The players came out onto the pitch for training before the match, and I watched as the 6’4 colossus Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk made his way to my side of the pitch. Dear humans… I peaked in life at that moment. I couldn’t contain my excitement and my teary eyes, and the kind man told me “Barcelona players are amazing, right?” I didn’t even answer, because in came Red’s goalie Alisson Becker. This is what it feels like to be awestruck. It was surreal.
“I’ll explain the game for you,” the kind man quite literally elbowed me back into reality with this. My eyebrows shot up, and I kind of just smiled… He pointed at Mohamad Salah, and said “that’s their best player.” And he went on to explain who everyone is, including Barcelona players.
I thought to myself, did my dumbfounded look make him think I didn’t know anything about soccer, for him to tell me that it’s a corner when the ball went off the defence and out the pitch? Was it the fact that I was silent and just staring at the players? I wish I had asked him, is it because I’m a girl?
In Lebanon, it wasn’t uncommon that I got surprised reactions from boys and men when they found out I liked soccer. It even wasn’t surprising that I was ignored if I had an opinion, or was assumed to like soccer for my boyfriend, who’s also a Liverpool supporter. But to have an assumption thrown at me in Spain was surprising—it made me realize this isn’t a Lebanon thing, it’s kind of a man thing, isn’t it?
The truth is, it was because of my boyfriend, rather than for him, that I’m a Liverpool fan. How come some people don’t see the difference?
“It’s so cute, you watch Liverpool for your boyfriend.” No, dear, I watch Liverpool because of Istanbul 2005. I watch Liverpool because of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, and the Fields of Anfield Road. I watch Liverpool because of Sean Cox, because of the 96 fans who passed away in the Hillsborough disaster, and because of Klopp.
No, I wasn’t a supporter all my life. Yes, I’ve only begun really watching the game after getting with my boyfriend. And yes, it has only been three years.
But if I ever hear someone tell me they’ll explain the game for me, or assume anything that isn’t me being a real fan, I will Trent-Alexander-Arnold’s corner your butt.
Photo by Katelyn Thomas