Our theme for the month of June is “Top Ten.”
On June 25, 2020, Liverpool F. C. won the English Premier League for the first time in the club’s history. This is Liverpool’s nineteenth first division title in English soccer, but their first since 1990, and the first since English football’s top division re-branded as the Premier League in 1992. Liverpool set a record by winning the league with seven games remaining (there are no playoffs in European soccer leagues), and they have a chance to break the Premier League points record for a season.
As an American who only became a Liverpool supporter around 2012, I can’t imagine what winning the title means to the local fans and the city. My experience as a Liverpool fan is decidedly disembodied; I can only watch from across the ocean, and I’ve never set foot on English soil. And I will admit: fandom, in general, is a bit ridiculous and, at its worst, idolatrous. But that doesn’t take away sport’s ability to bring joy, and while I realize that I’ve arbitrarily connected myself to a club thousands of miles away, yesterday I felt joy. That is enough.
So in honor of Liverpool F.C. winning the 2019-2020 Premier League season, here—in chronological order—are my personal top ten Liverpool moments.
The Miracle at Istanbul – May 25, 2005
At this time of my life, I regularly came home from school and immediately flipped on ESPN. Usually that meant I watched a sports talk show or an early evening edition of SportsCenter. This day, however, when I turned on ESPN, it was halftime of the Champions League (the most illustrious intracontinental competition in Europe) final, and Liverpool was losing 3-0 to Italian side A.C. Milan. My love for Liverpool sparked as I watched them crawl back in the second half, tie the game at 3-3, and then win the trophy in a penalty shoot-out. One of the greatest comebacks in soccer (sports?) history.
Luis Suarez scores four goals against Norwich City – December 4, 2013
I’ve written about this match before on the post calvin because it ignited in me a love of Liverpool that had lain dormant since 2005. After Luis Suarez’s opening goal, the commentator said three words that for me have defined the most beautiful aspects of being a soccer fan: “Inevitable! Magical! Genius!”
The Slip – April 27, 2014
During the 2013-14 season, Liverpool looked as though they might win the Premier League in a tight race against Manchester City. But in a game against Chelsea toward the very end of the season, Liverpool captain and legend Steven Gerrard slipped while trying to pass the ball. A Chelsea player stole through and scored; Liverpool lost the match, and, eventually, the title. Obviously, this was not a joyous moment. But it’s one that feels redeemed now in 2020, and its ghost can leave now for good.
Jurgen Klopp’s introductory press conference – October 8, 2015
On October 8, 2015, Jurgen Klopp held his first press conference as Liverpool manager. A little over a year removed from finishing a heartbreaking second in the league in the 13-14 season, Liverpool floundered in tenth position. Liverpool fans, including me, were disheartened. But Klopp, when asked if he had a message for supporters, said that the whole club needed to change from doubters to believers. Millions across the globe took heart.
Liverpool vs. Norwich City – January 23, 2016
Probably the most roller coaster game I have ever watched. After falling 2-0 and then 3-1 behind, Liverpool came back to take the lead at 4-3 until Norwich City tied the match at 4 with barely any time left. Then, with practically the final kick of the game, Liverpool scored to win 5-4. As the players celebrated exuberantly with Jurgen Klopp, the manager’s glasses broke, and I remember watching the celebrations in the hope that the camaraderie within this team might lead to something more.
Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund Europa League quarter-final win – April 14, 2016
I watched this match with my friend Jonathan. At one point in the second half, Liverpool were down 3-1, and it seemed the game was over. It was not. Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren scored late in the second half to win the game 4-3, and I have this blurry memory of dancing around my apartment with Jonathan, shouting at the top of our lungs.
Liverpool vs. Real Madrid Champions League final loss – May 26, 2018
Liverpool went into this game as underdogs against the reigning European champions Real Madrid. I watched the match with friends on a huge projected screen, and two ridiculous goalkeeping errors and an incredible bicycle kick goal led to a 3-1 loss for Liverpool. I remember feeling sad, but my overwhelming emotion was an appreciation for the fact that Liverpool had made it back to the biggest stage in European soccer. It felt not like an end, but a beginning.
Liverpool vs. Barcelona Champions League semi-final victory – May 7, 2019
In the Champions League, the quarter- and semi-finals are played across two “legs,” which means that advancing to the next round is based on the aggregate score of the two matches. Liverpool lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the first “leg” of this semi-final, which meant that they needed to score four goals without reply in the second leg to move on in the tournament. Spoiler alert: they did, and as I watched the fourth goal float into the top corner, I sat back in my chair and fought back tears.
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Champions League final victory – June 1, 2019
A year after their loss to Real Madrid in the final of this competition, Liverpool fought back to the final once more. With my family and Liverpool supporters from around the world, I watched this game at a jam-packed pub in Malaga, Spain. Honestly, it was a rather boring match, but it didn’t matter. Liverpool won 2-0 and lifted the most coveted trophy in European soccer. Afterward, we went out for tapas and celebrated Gwyn’s birthday. What a night!
Premier League Champions – June 25, 2020
Liverpool clinched the title when Manchester City lost to Chelsea. I didn’t expect to experience the amount of joy I felt; it was more than enough. As I wrote back in 2015, fandom doesn’t lead to salvation, and there’s more than one reason to be wary of its clutches. But every now and then, in a moment, some goodness comes over you.
Brad Zwiers (’12) graduated from Calvin College in 2012 and Western Theological Seminary in 2015. He will not be graduating from any more schools. He often stares at books he wishes he could read but knows he will not finish and goes for long walks with his wife, Gwyn. Sometimes he plays basketball and always he follows the greatest sporting club in the world, Liverpool F.C.