Anfield inspires football passion in American kids

Posted by Rushian on January 27, 2004, 12:02:17 AM

We don't normally repost articles from elsewhere on the RAWK front page but we thought this American article was excellent and it deserved a much wider readership among Reds.

Anfield inspires football passion in American kids - by Nick Webster, Fox Sports World, Jan. 26, 2004 2:33 p.m.

I've spent the best part of two decades coaching soccer in this country and the one thing that has never been in short supply is enthusiasm. Whether they be kids, men or women the players would always be excited to play. However, I've always felt that there is one vital ingredient missing from the game -- passion.

This weekend I invited my High School boy's team to my apartment to watch the FA Cup fourth round tie between Liverpool and Newcastle United. You should've seen their eyes widening as the surround sound immersed them, and my not-so-appreciative neighbors, in the noise and emotion of Anfield.

"Coach, what are the fans singing?", "Why does it mean so much?", "They're all crazy," were some of the comments about the fans as the match moved along.

When the contest entered injury time and Liverpool faithful in the Kop turned up the volume on 'You'll never walk alone' I could've sworn a couple of the kids looked misty-eyed as the crackling atmosphere seeped into them.

"Is this what you mean by passion?" one asked.

"The players looked as though they're be driven along by the crowd, feeding from their emotion," observed another.

This was nothing like going to the Lakers and having the announcer implore the audience to make some noise. This was real, spontaneous and passionate.

I explained that just as the crowd supports their team to the fullest extent, the players have an incredible desire to play as hard as possible, because deep within their souls is a love of the game that they've carried since they were kids. It's always been more than a game; it's a way of life.

The following day the boys played one of their local rivals on an onion patch of pitch with biased referees and a team intent on kicking them off the park.

Usually under these circumstances they'd fold quicker than a house of cards, but with the bench belting out a rousing edition of Liverpool's famous anthem, I noted a new resolve, a different emotion. They were up for the scrap and willing to sacrifice their bodies in a way they'd never previously done.

That's no big deal I can hear you muttering, kids get stuck into each other throughout the land every day. However, I coach at one of the most exclusive private high school's in the country. These kids drive to school in BMWs, Mercedes and Porches.

They've never had to really battle for anything and if they lose, it's no big deal, there's always a party at some fabulous mansion to go to.

I couldn't help but wonder if the FA Cup with its magic and history had lit a fire within these kids. As they came off the pitch after holding out for a gut-wrenching three-two win, I knew it had. They all spoke of a churning in their stomachs, the determination to leave it all out there and a new found feeling of love along with respect of their teammates.

Seniors were hugging spotty freshman, petty jealousies were put aside as 'we' had become a team united by a common cause. We're by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.

The Kop certainly felt that victorious unity after taking care of the Magpies a day earlier. Once again, Gerard Houllier proved that he's a man who knows when to get a result.

After losing to Spurs and tying Wolves, I was fairly convinced that a defeat would finally bring his reign to an end, but you just can't write him off. He knows that value of the Cup. The old competition might have taken a bashing recently, but it's a tournament that still means plenty to the fans and the players, especially those out of contention for Premiership glory.

Hey, if it can inspire a bunch of Southern California kids, you know that it still has a quality that the Premier League will never have; History, magic, emotion and priceless passion.

Until then, get the beers in.

View Comments | Post Comment