It was a game dripping with symbolism. The Premier League – the national football organization in a land that has a troubled past all its own as an imperial colonizer – has responded well to the global outcry resulting from the continuing injustice that is the plight of black people. Having not watched any of the games since Project Restart began, this was the first time for me to experience this response. The patches on the players’ kits, the replacement of all of their names on their jerseys with this simple phrase, it all spoke volumes – for hope, for kindness, for inspiration. I could not hold back a tear as the players, who had coordinated this in advance, took a knee down when the game began.
Then, of course, you had the impact of 2020’s smash hit, the killer of killers, the dominator virus, COVID19. Watching the Reds try to take on their crosstown rivals at their home turf, in front of an empty stadium, was nothing less than eerie. Seeing sir Kenny, who, I believe has successfully beat off an infection, with a mask on his face, was a moment of joy mixed with sadness. What a strange world it is in which Liverpool will win its first title in three decades…
Oh, and yes, there was a game, too.
Honestly, there isn’t much to write about. The game felt a bit like a preseason one. Piped-in fake crowd noise notwithstanding, the players simply weren’t quite sharp, and little things that you would expect to go well this late in any season regularly went sideways. The Terminator (Fab) and Hendo showed up well, as did for the most part the defensive unit and Mane, but that extra edge did not present. For quite long stretches Liverpool dominated, but never looked particularly dangerous. With that, I do feel for Minamino; the man needs a goal so badly to get that last bit of confidence, and he almost got it in the first half after a pretty bit of combination play, finding himself with the ball right over the penalty spot. But a hesitation ever so slight let a blue leg in front of the kick, and that was that.
If either of these teams deserved to score, it was the Toffees, who were a bit more clinical in their approach, and were it not for the ever-dependable Alisson, they would have done so. Richarlison has a right to be disappointed with himself, and Calvert-Lewin almost scored a lovely backheeler that the highly alert Liverpool keeper saved with a combination of instincts, determination, and focus – a focus otherwise mostly lacking in the squad. I am almost inclined to give him man of the match for that alone, but in the end, I think it is appropriate that, on this day, in this game, with everything that surrounds it, the award is given to a man that was not on the pitch, not playing football, not even in the same world as us anymore. A man whose heartbreaking death at the hands of a killer in police uniform in one country has managed to unite the entire world in such powerful fashion that it mattered more than a century-plus year old arch-rivalry, more than deeply-sated traditions in one of the most tradition-oriented human societies, more than the result of the game that was actually being played today.
My man-of-the-match award goes to George Floyd.
The title can wait a bit longer.