Inside the mind of a Liverpool fan: Souvenirs, scars, tests of faith and loyalty

If you’re a Liverpool fan, you don’t just collect trivia or memorabilia, you accumulate scars. It takes a certain kind of loyalty to be a Reds fan, keep hope alive through years of your team being in a slump.

Like most fans, I fell in love with them just after a win. I was 11 years old, and Liverpool had just won the first football match I had ever watched.

It’s been 21 years since then, and for most of that time, I have watched and hoped as Liverpool have lost Cup after Cup. There have been brief moments of hope, and then those too snuffed out.

For many years, nobody around me understood what this dedication to an oft-losing team was about. Manchester United were the reigning champs of the 1990s. They won everything. They had fans everywhere. Their loyalties were to the wins, it always seemed to me, and not to the club.

We Reds walk a path rather solitary, but we are not alone. We meet, in spirit, at Anfield. Every game the team plays at their home stadium is transportive and triumphant. Especially when they’re losing. There’s a never-say-die, never-give-up spirit that becomes electric.

You see, Liverpool fans are a force to be reckoned with too. We’re the 12th man in a team of 11. And Anfield is home. The stands here are always a sea of red, with scarves and banners flying overhead. We shout and sing, and cry united the uplifting words of the team’s anthem – You’ll Never Walk Alone – words also inscribed on the Anfield gate.

It’s telling that opening lines read: When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high / And don’t be afraid of the dark / At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky / And the sweet, silver song of a lark.

For a Reds fan, it’s the struggle and hope that inspire, not a ceaseless string of wins. It inspired me to take up football in school. By Class 10, our team was in the district finals, playing the city’s long-time champions in Mysore. We didn’t win either, but we felt victorious, because the whole school roared and cheered behind us. We didn’t walk alone.

The losing doesn’t matter. The winning will eventually come if you stay at it and at it long enough.

We’ve been through a lot together, the club and I. Memberships, memorabilia and trophies aside, Liverpool’s most coveted possession, the source of its power, is its age-old fans.

It’s easy to like Liverpool these days. They’re on top of their game; have been these last couple of years. They won the Champions League and FIFA club world cup last year, and lifted the coveted Premier League title for the first time in three decades, this July.

And since they’ve been winning, they’ve garnered a larger fan following. New fans are welcome. But true fans must be willing to stay.

So here’s how you spot a fake Liverpool fan. Just ask: Who is the captain of Liverpool FC, Salah, Mane or Firmino? Trick question. It’s none of the three. Most people know only these names, because they’re the star goal-scorers. (Jordan Henderson is captain, and one of the best).

Here’s another. Name one manager of the club other than the current manager Klopp. A true fan can name at least three, in order of preference, from the club’s 128-year history. For me it’s, Shankly, Dalglish and now, yes, Klopp. (As told to Natasha Rego)

(Dylon Pinto, 32, is an advertising executive)

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