Overseas Liverpool fans making Jürgen Klopp pilgrimage - tears, good fortune and 8400km

Jürgen Klopp the head coach / manager of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool FC at Villa Park on May 13, 2024 in Birmingham, England.
Jürgen Klopp will say goodbye to Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday. We spoke to fans travelling thousands of kilometers to be there. -Credit:James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

The reality that Jürgen Klopp is truly leaving Liverpool is just now starting to sink in. Fans around the globe will have by now been floored by countless montages, memories and interviews — and a lucky few will get the chance to say their goodbyes in person at Anfield.

For Liverpool fans overseas, and especially in the US, every trip to Anfield is a pilgrimage. Some make the long journey just to soak up the atmosphere, or to take in the stadium tour. But a handful of them will now get the opportunity to witness Klopp’s final farewell, a historic moment in the club’s history.

Aside from some understandable jealousy, you certainly couldn’t begrudge them their presence. In the shape of Mark Kastner, I thought I’d have found the fan making the longest journey — he’ll be at the Wolves game after travelling more than 5000km from St Paul, Minnesota.

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A fan of more than 20 years, Kastner is one of countless examples of a ‘converted’ Liverpool supporter, set on the path to Anfield by a Scouse missionary.

“While I was in school as a kid there was another kid from Liverpool that I became friends with and honestly, he didn't really give me a choice in who I supported,” Kastner explained. “He told me I was a Liverpool supporter and I have been ever since!”

Decades down the road, that’s led to the trip of a lifetime. It will be a little different to the usual viewing experience for a US fan.

“I typically either watch at home or with a small group of friends at a local bar in town here,” Kastner told me. “I recently moved to the Twin Cities from Seattle, WA so Liverpool has been a really good excuse to get out and meet people.

“Despite the growing popularity of the Premier League in the States, it's still dwarfed by other American sports leagues so when people find out I sometimes head to a bar for a 9am match I get some funny looks!”

Like Kastner, US-based fan Ryan Hurley only found out he had a ticket very recently. And coming from Monterey, California, he takes the crown for journeying the furthest, making the 8400km trip to Liverpool to say goodbye to Klopp.

“I [felt] sure we were going to have a parade,” Hurley recounts. “So I book a ticket for this weekend. I didn’t expect a ticket to the game.

“I just wanted to be there. I wanted to be in that number.

“As we falter and finally it’s announced there will be no parade, I have a think. Should I still go? And my soul told me yes. I want to be in Taggy’s next to Anfield for the last day of Klopp.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] morning I wake up to a message… I’ve got a ticket. I get to say goodbye to Klopp. He gets to hear my voice. I get to thank him one more time.

“I’m now crying. I’m so, so thankful.”

It’s a stroke of luck any Liverpool fan would dream of getting. And Hurley has previous, scoring free tickets to the 7-0 win over Manchester United last year and the clash with Manchester City earlier this season from his ‘fairy godmother’.

But he has earned his luck. Not many would travel that far without any expectation of a ticket — Kastner, too, was all set to make the journey before he knew whether or not he would be able to make it into Anfield. And as anyone who has followed the Reds from any part of the world will know, communities form, and communities often have a way of coming through for you.

An image of Jürgen Klopp taken from behind the dugout by US-based Liverpool supporter Ryan Hurley.
Ryan Hurley has got up close to Jürgen Klopp before - and reckons he made the Liverpool manager laugh! -Credit:Ryan Hurley

Indeed, it’s a similar story from a little closer to home, although Dublin-based fan Robert Whelan admits the person who handed over two tickets to the famous Barcelona semi-final hasn’t got over it since! Whelan will take in another iconic match on Sunday, and will be attending Klopp’s farewell with his 12-year-old son, as the kind of passion that makes people cross oceans is passed on to another generation.

“I was ecstatic to get the tickets as no matter what, to get the chance to say goodbye to Jürgen, in person, is a privilege and one we’ll remember forever,” said Whelan, though he admitted he had at one stage harbored hopes of seeing Liverpool lift the Premier League trophy.

But while there will be no more silverware, the overwhelming message is one of gratitude for all that Klopp has done for the club. I asked everyone I spoke to for their message to the manager.

“I really have no way to put into words how grateful I am for the last nine years,” admitted Kastner. “It kind of feels like saying goodbye to a family member that has never met you! So, I'll just keep it simple: ‘Thank you, Jurgen.’"

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“Thank you,” echoed Whelan. “You’ve given me the very best days of my life but beyond that you’ve made me a better person and a better leader in my workplace. You deserve the break and I wish you and your family nothing but the very best.”

Although Klopp might not have the most restful time away from the sport if Hurley gets his way. “I’d love a drink, I’d love to party with you for a week in Ibiza!

“But I cannot ask for anything else. You’ve made my dreams come true. Thank you.”

From Anfield to Alabama, Liverpool to Louisville, that simple message rings true. For those lucky enough to be in the stadium, wherever you’re coming from, make sure Klopp is made to feel exactly how much he means to this football club.