There was a time, during those awful and uncertain days in mid-to-late March, when it seemed all but inevitable that the moment would never come. That Liverpool, which won its first English title in 30 years on Thursday when Chelsea beat Manchester City, would not get to finish its season for the ages on the field. That the coronavirus pandemic that abruptly shut the Premier League and just about every other part of normal life down would render the rest of the season null and void. That despite leading City by a whopping 25 points with just nine games to play when basically stopped cold, the Reds might be denied the crown they and their legion of long-suffering supporters wanted more than any other.
In the bigger picture, it was among the least important worries given the severity of everything else going on. Unemployment on an unimaginable scale. The sudden inability to simply send kids to school or visit elderly loved ones. A staggering death toll that in mere months would claim almost half a million souls, and counting. But still, for those who had stuck with their Reds through thick and thin through the decades, the possibility was yet another concern.
Even as the Prem announced plans to return to the field this month, fears that the heath crisis would once again intervene remained. Which makes the fact that Liverpool was actually able to claim the trophy on the field of play (albeit Chelsea’s) even sweeter.
All that talk about an asterisk? Forget it. Of course this cursed campaign is different from any that came before. Or course it’s a shame that Liverpool couldn’t celebrate its much-anticipated achievement with the adoring masses, the way they the Reds had their sixth European title a year ago. The images of a emotional Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s universally revered German manager, speaking to club legends Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness on Sky Sports via Zoom, was a reminder that the times we’re living in still are anything but business as usual.
Try to tell the thousands of red-clad revelers who descended on a locked-up Anfield, English soccer’s spiritual home, to celebrate their team’s glorious victory into the wee hours, social-distancing be damned. Klopp implored them to stay home, quite rightly. But one can also understand why, after the collective suffering of the last few months, those fans were willing to risk their well-being in order to forget their problems for a few hours, to connect with their neighbors and celebrate what for many of them is once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s a relief because of the three months interruption, when nobody knew how it [the season] will go on, then you don’t know 100-percent how you will come back,” Klopp said. “It’s for you out there … it’s the best thing I can imagine and it’s more than I ever dreamed of.”
This pandemic is far from over. The alarming rise in infections across the globe in recent weeks has driven that grim fact home.
Yet for one night at least, thanks to Liverpool’s triumph, things seemed a little more right with the world. After all the handwringing about how or even if the 2019-20 campaign would end, this outcome —while not the way anyone envisioned it — was right and just. Liverpool has dominated this season like no club before ever had. They’ve won 28 of 31 games. They’ve lost just once. They clinched the title with a seven matches to play, a new record. They earned the right to enjoy it.
Plenty of neutrals also toasted Klopp and company’s win along with the diehards, partly because of what it represented: a sign of hope, an important reminder that joys big and small can still shine through the darkness, that not everything is terrible all the time right now, even though the daily barrage of depressing and infuriating news has often made it feel that way over the last few months.
Liverpool’s win was cathartic. It was a welcome diversion and a visceral, communal celebration of something genuinely inspiring at a moment when something uplifting was needed. After all those months without any sports at all, this was sport at its absolute best.
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