You’ll forgive me if we take a slight detour from politics this week. An important event in sports just occurred that requires some personal attention.
On June 25, Liverpool Football Club broke a 30-year drought and clinched the English Premier League title.
Yes, this winless streak pales in comparison to the Chicago Cubs (108-year drought) and Boston Red Sox (85-year drought) winning the World Series of Major League Baseball.
The Kansas City Chiefs struggled for 50 years to win a second Super Bowl in the National Football League.
It took the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues 52 years to win a Stanley Cup and the New York Rangers spent 54 years without a Cup victory.
And don’t get me started on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Nevertheless, for me and many other Liverpool Reds fans around the world, it’s been a long and difficult wait.
How did I come to support this side?
I have no lineage in either Liverpool or the United Kingdom. I took my master’s degree at the London School of Economics but that’s something separate.
My love affair started when I was watching television with my father in 1978. He stopped at the popular Toronto-based multicultural channel CFMT during highlights of a Liverpool-Leeds match.
My father doesn’t follow European football. I was only eight years old and barely knew anything about the sport. Yet in those few minutes of end-to-end action, I was hooked for life.
Liverpool fielded many great teams in my youth and won the EPL (then called Division 1) eight times. Legendary players like Ian Rush, John Barnes, Ronnie Whelan, Kenny Dalglish and Bruce Grobbelaar still bring back fond memories.
Even in the past three decades, the squads have been very strong. Ten top-three finishes in the EPL, 19 top-five finishes – and no lower than eighth place in any season. They won the FA Cup three times, EFL Cup four times, FIFA Club World Cup once, UEFA Europa League once and the vaunted Champions League twice.
In the latter tournament, miraculous comeback victories over A.C. Milan in the 2004-05 final and Barcelona in the 2018-19 semifinals – both from three-goal deficits – are among the most memorable in team history.
Yet the domestic league title was an annual albatross.
Liverpool came close to ending this torturous period on several occasions. Last season, they only lost one game – to Manchester City – and had seven draws. Man City lost four games, but only drew twice – which allowed them to nip the Reds at the post by one measly point.
This season, things gelled perfectly. There were some tight games and close calls, but the team played brilliant and never lost focus.
Star forward Mohamed Salah led the squad with 17 goals, followed by fellow forwards Sadio Mané (15) and Roberto Firmino (eight). Goalkeeper Alisson played well and was ably backed up by Adrián. Centre-back Virgil van Dijk had another stellar season, as did midfielders Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, the team’s assist leader.
Liverpool had only lost one game (an ugly 3-0 contest to Watford) and had one draw (1-1 against Manchester United). In March, they were 25 points clear of Man City with nine games to go. The title was all but theirs.
Then COVID-19 struck.
Would the EPL return? Would Liverpool be awarded the title? Or would the entire campaign be scrapped, forcing the Reds to face another year of misery?
Fortunately, the EPL decided to play the remainder of the season in empty stadiums.
Liverpool’s first game back was June 21 against rival Everton. It ended a 0-0 draw and gave the team an additional point. They beat Crystal Palace 4-0 on June 24, picking up three points and edging closer to the title.
When Man City lost to fourth-place Chelsea 2-1 last weekend, it was over.
Euphoria broke out among Liverpool fans on social media and elsewhere. We all wished we could have been at Anfield, the team’s legendary stadium – but were happy that the nefarious monkey was finally off the team’s back.
Liverpool’s famous anthem, or signature tune, is You’ll Never Walk Alone. Now that the 2020 campaign is over, the Premier League trophy will finally walk with the Reds again.
OK, back to our regularly scheduled political commentary next week. Get ready, federal Conservative candidates — I’ll be endorsing one of you!
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
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