An Ode to the Pub
Cheering for a sports team from outside your native country is a peculiar experience. The usual communities don’t exist. You likely didn’t inherit your allegiance from your family. Your friends and coworkers don’t necessarily follow the sport, let alone your team. Going to the game involves a passport. Social media, podcasts, and blogs like this one can help fill that void, but the closer connections among fans, people you see in person as you go about your life, are missing. But depending on where you live, there may be another option to enrich your experience of following the Reds: the home pub of your official supporter’s club.
Experienceing Victoria Freehouse: Philadelphia, PA
I first experienced a Liverpool pub in Philadelphia. For years I had followed the team from rural Pennsylvania, so a text thread with two friends from graduate school who are fellow Reds was my main, and sometimes only, connection to other fans. It was a delight to grab breakfast at the Victoria Freehouse down by the Delaware River. I cherish the memory of my then-girlfriend (now wife) going with me for United away for a 7:30 am kickoff. She wisely chose to go to the restroom just before halftime because the pub was packed to the gills. She texted me “of course I missed it” because although the game ended 0-0, when Alisson saved Lingard’s shot from 6 yards the celebration blew the roof off the place and she assumed Liverpool must have scored. I like to imagine someone walking by on the sidewalk thinking, “Surely the Eagles aren’t playing at this hour??”
Welcome to Gallagher’s Pub! Home of the Long Beach Supporters Club:
So, when I moved back to California and settled in an area of the state where I didn’t know anyone, I knew I needed to see if there was a Liverpool pub near me. Thankfully I didn’t have to look far to find the Long Beach Supporters’ Club at Gallagher’s Pub. My hope was I’d be able to go to a few games and have a place where folks said “Hey Chris, good to see you” while I settled into my new home. I found that, and much, much more. I couldn’t tell you anything about the first game I watched from the bar; not who Liverpool played, the score, or if they won. It doesn’t matter. The experience will stick with me for years. At halftime, we went outside for the photo, and they were distributing LFC scarfs they had made, with all proceeds benefiting a local softball league for people with special needs (the one I bought the day hangs in my home office, always ready to come down for the game). Even more touching was what came next; an LFC shirt of a member who just lost his mom with her name above the number 1 given out amongst local supporters. When he protested that we were going to make him cry, he was matter-of-factly informed “You never walk alone.” His mom was then remembered in song. I knew then these were people I wanted to spend time with.
A Supporters Group? No, a Family of Supporters.
In the years since we’ve cursed the refs, taken a lot of halftime photos, celebrated trophies, confused NFL fans as to why they had to wait for their game one crowded Sunday, and huddled over phones when whoever had broadcast rights for the Club World Cup tried to gouge the pub to show the final. Even when we haven’t been able to go to Gallagher’s, we’ve still been a community. Beyond talking shit about Arsenal and those two clubs from up the M62 online, the Supporters’ Club has kept busy volunteering at the local food bank and raising money for the staff at Gallagher’s when the pandemic shuttered the pub entirely for a while. No matter how dark the night or strong the storm, no Long Beach Red walks alone.
So as Liverpool begins a new campaign to take the title back from City, think about giving your local Liverpool pub a try. The beer will be cold, the game will be on the big screen, and you’ll be surrounded by people as crazy about a team from Merseyside as you are. And if you happen to be new to Long Beach, look for the big guy with the beard at the bar. The first Guinness will be on me.