'My son plays as Mohamed Salah in our basement but Liverpool kids made both our dreams come true'

The young lads at the end of  the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on February 25, 2024 in London, England.
-Credit: (Image: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

We are Liverpool. This Means More. These six words have probably caused far more controversy than the marketing department expected when they cooked them up.

We’ve seen them echoed by Trent Alexander-Arnold, which appeared to cause a minor meltdown among the Manchester City squad. We’ve seen them ridiculed on social media, where rival fans accuse Liverpool of exceptionalism.

But why would you not think your own team is exceptional? On the pitch, Liverpool fans have had the privilege of watching some true greats in recent years: the iconic front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, the imperious Virgil van Dijk at the back, Alisson in goal, and many others. Yet it’s off the pitch where it’s hard not to believe that this club is truly special.

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As part of a regular new series, we’re speaking to Liverpool fans based overseas, hearing their stories of incredible commitment to watching the club. So far we’ve heard from supporters who made the pilgrimage for Jurgen Klopp’s farewell, and in this instalment, we talk to someone who was in attendance for the iconic manager’s final trophy.

Hisham Abdelhamid is usually based in Washington DC, but on February 25, he was at Wembley. In a fit of melancholy over Klopp’s departure, he felt compelled to at least catch one last game, this time bringing his six-year-old son Kareem along for the ride.

You would certainly never call a cup final a consolation prize, but hugely inflated prices for the remaining Premier League games — at a time when Liverpool was still firmly in the title race — led Abdelhamid to consider the Carabao Cup.

“I had been in a funk after hearing that Klopp was stepping down at the end of the season,” he told me. “Sadness and worry about the future setup but also just very nostalgic for all those memorable moments he gave us.

“I soon realized that my six-year-old was also in a similar state. He has only known Klopp as a manager and never experienced a transition such as this. I also quickly realized I have to do everything I can to get him to see Klopp before he leaves.”

And so the trip of a lifetime, especially for Kareem, was born. Hisham’s son, from whom the trip was kept a secret until the last minute, has long since been indoctrinated into the Liverpool lifestyle — but his day out at the Carabao Cup was a bit different to his typical experience.

“You could mistake any day of the week as a Liverpool matchday at our home,” said Abdelhamid. “My son Kareem lives and breathes Liverpool.

“As soon as he comes home from school he finds the nearest ball to take to the basement and asks Google to play boss nights by Jamie Webster. He then plays as Salah as he scores goal after goal against a hapless imaginary Man U side. All while singing along with Jamie.”

Ultimately, injury to Salah would mean that Kareem did not see his personal Liverpool idol. But he and his father got to see some new legends emerge.

“As we were in extra time and all the kids came on, I started to seriously worry,” Hisham admitted. “It seemed we were running out of steam. Chelsea for sure would take control now.

“I couldn't imagine having to leave the stadium if we lost and see the disappointment on Kareem's face after all we had been through to get there. And then we all started that legendary round of Allez Allez Allez with any shred of voice left. And slowly we started to get back into the game.”

Earlier, elation had turned to disappointment when VAR controversially ruled out what appeared to be a legitimate goal for Van Dijk. Abdelhamid remarks that the response from the Chelsea supporters inside Wembley was the first time he even heard them.

But there was some poetic justice when Van Dijk scored one they couldn't take away. When Salah was absent, he stepped up as the hero (alongside Klopp's youngsters), in a goal that Abdelhamid and his young son will remember forever.

"That goal made it all happen. It made all our dreams come true," he declared simply. "That goal gave us One Kiss with the fans and the team and Jurgen dancing. That goal gave us a You'll Never Walk Alone that we will never forget. That goal gave us Jurgen fist bumps with the trophy that would be his last for Liverpool.

"At the time we were pumped at the chance of getting three more trophies. But looking back now, the way it was won, the players who won it, the supporters dragging it out at the end. Klopp has said it is his favorite cup. I initially booked these tickets as it was the most attainable and we had not progressed yet in the other tournaments. I had no idea Klopp and the team would make all our dreams come true.

"The fact it was done with all the kids, Bradley, McConnell, Danns. I really hope Slot provides them with opportunities next season as there is a lot of potential there. Future is bright and with this closure Kareem and I are looking forward to a new era built on Klopp's foundation."

Time will tell which Liverpool legend of the future Kareem emulates in the basement next — maybe it will be one of those who took an unlikely place on center stage at Wembley. But while there's plenty to be excited about in the Arne Slot era, we'll be spending the next few weeks looking back at special moments like these, ones which make this club truly mean more.