October 2015 saw Jurgen Klopp manage his first game for Liverpool FC. The game was a 0-0 draw against Spurs. But that day also forever changed my story and my life’s social trajectory for the better.
To that point, I had been a Liverpool fan for about five years. I discovered the club in the bad old days of Hicks & Gillette and the coaching of “Woy” Hodgson. As I would quip later, I picked one of the worst times to become a fan. But at least I could say I didn’t hop on the bandwagon either.
The first time I heard the Kop sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” I got misty-eyed. At that time, my story wasn’t a good one. I was teetering towards academic probation and was in the process of having a very violent falling out with someone I thought was a good friend who had turned toxic. Needless to say, that song, coupled with the fight for justice for the then-96 gave me hope and strength when I needed it most.
Walking Through The Storm
I survived my flirtation with academic probation. The aforementioned friendship ended in a flurry of “go to hell” exclamations shortly after. But while I had Liverpool to fall back on, there weren’t many groups at the time to watch games with. I had other groups I was trying to fit in with, usually to no avail.
By 2015, I was at a crossroads. Church had been my main social outlet for years. However, my friends from there were moving on with their lives. They were building relationships, having kids, starting careers, all of that type of stuff. I was striking out on all three fronts.
I didn’t have a lot of friends, much less one of a romantic nature. Despite my best efforts after graduation, I was striking out a LOT professionally. This relegated me to a dead-end job solely for a paycheck and benefits. But Liverpool FC provided some happiness to my story. Any time I’d go to watch a match, I felt a sense of belonging. It also proved to be an easy conversation starter. For someone with social anxiety like me, any bit helps.
Stumbling Upon A Family
A random Facebook search one day registered a group that met in San Diego. The first game I could make it down, I took the chance.
As the team slowly began to pick itself up over the years, I was making the drive more and more. I became a founding member of OLSC Carlsbad, making my driving to games that much easier. As club vice president, I’m usually the first to arrive to meet whoever else has shown up as well as get the television situation sorted. Whenever I had an issue with my church friends, the people I knew from this group gave me the support I needed.
My last relationship ended five years ago via a text. There were issues at work and coupling that with seeing so many friends succeed was even tougher as I picked up the shattered pieces of my life. But one thing kept me happy during that time: Liverpool FC. It is not hyperbole to say the 2018-19 season saved me from doing something permanent to myself. And that was rewarded.
I went to Las Vegas on the weekend of the Champions League final, against ironically the team that began this story, Spurs, for Kop Con. At that convention, a wave of social confidence I had never seen in myself came out. Some of the friendships I would forge there grew stronger during COVID.
A COVID Story
During the pandemic, I reconnected with many of the people I had met at Kop Con. As the world effectively shut down, Zoom chats on Saturday nights kept me going. As a result of those calls, and the much-needed reprieve from my toxic job, I finally found my people. I learned that some friendships aren’t from the ones that are closest to us geographically, but closest in our hearts. That social confidence has done wonders for me in other aspects of my life, even as I still unpack the trauma from past rejections.
I titled this “This Means More” because to me this club is more than an escape from the mundane reality of life. It’s fun. It’s friendships. Being a supporter of Liverpool FC provides purpose and belonging, things I had been in desperate need of. This is my story, thanks for letting me share it.