A European night at Anfield is a trip back in time
I had heard a great deal about the fabled Anfield atmosphere on European nights but nothing quite prepared me for my first visit.
Quite a night I chose as well. The 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid in what was the first meeting on Merseyside between the two European powerhouses will sit high on anybody’s list of magnificent Anfield occasions.
The atmosphere on the day of the match was great, as hundreds of Real fans took in The Cavern district and Liverpool’s impressive waterfront but it was the walk to the stadium that brought home quite what the European Cup means to Liverpool fans.
Huge banners were paraded through the terraced streets that surround the looming stadium. Boarded up shopfronts displayed murals of Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, two of the club’s greatest managers, although I didn’t see one of Rafael Benitez (well, he is yet to bring the league title back to Liverpool).
As a self-confessed traditionalist when it comes to football stadiums I loved Anfield.
From the moment you walk in you are met by match-day officials who no doubt have done the same jobs for decades. The media room is adjacent to the trophy room and VIP’s bar, where John Toshack, John Aldridge, Jan Molby, Mark Lawrenson and Ian St John, to name but a few, were all greeted with warm handshakes and banter. It was like a family reunion.
I was told by a colleague to make sure I was shoehorned into my red, wooden press seat at least 15 minutes before kickoff to savour the Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone. Great advice.
I’ve been lucky enough to be present for many World Cup and European games while working for Reuters, but this outstripped everything. 45,000 supporters, including the Real Madrid fans, belted out the song and the noise tingled my spine and brought a lump to my throat. With a backdrop like that it is no wonder Liverpool often raise their game for nights such as this.
Real’s players looked completely overwhelmed by their surroundings, and these are players who have experienced the biggest stages in the world.
Long after the game had finished, I walked back through the narrow streets around Anfield. Just for a while it was like being back in the 70s when football really was a game for the ordinary bloke on the street.
PHOTO: Real Madrid’s players react after Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard (unseen) scored the team’s third goal during their Champions League match at Anfield, March 10, 2009. REUTERS/Max Rossi