A Poverty­-Stricken City Finds Riches In Football!
Sportstar|November 3, 2018

Liverpool Football Club not only brings solace to its home city through its game, it has also set up a red neighbours scheme, a breakfast club for disadvantaged children and space in the Kenny Dalglish stand for school and charity events.

Alexander Shea

In England’s grey cities of the north, the past is often recalled in sombre tones as the tale of one misfortune after another. In the streets that border Liverpool’s foggy quays and redbrick houses, the story is no different. When Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool team took to the field against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final this May, they did so as representatives of a city in which poverty levels have improved only marginally since the Reds last beat Real in a European Cup final in 1981. Eleven of the city’s neighbourhoods are among the most deprived one per cent in the country. In Anfield, forty­three per cent of children live in poverty.

With his grizzly warmth and booming laughter, the fun and pleasure that flows through Jurgen Klopp’s body and onto the Anfield pitch is the tonic a city needs. As the academic John Bennett has shown, football and theatre have long blurred into one on the stony banks of Liverpool’s Mersey River — the earliest plays here integrating scenes from famous games to attract football fans. With his pyrotechnic, frenzied football laced with pace, flair and no shortage of theatre, Klopp has transformed Anfield into a stadium apt for any dramatic staging.

The man from Stuttgart represents nothing less than a nostalgic comfort blanket for a population in search of lost glory. As in the stands, Liverpool fans have thrown back the years by transforming a 1985 Italian disco tune into ‘Allez, Allez, Allez,’ the chant that soundtracked last season’s run to the Champions League final, on the pitch Klopp’s team has transported a city back to the glory of the 1980s. These were simpler, more innocent times for any Liverpool fan. It was an era in which the Reds ruled Europe and, in the words of the American poet Allen Ginsburg, to be Liverpudlian was to “feel like you were at the centre of the universe.”

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