Thursday, 3 February 2011

BlueBarney's excellent dissection of Liverpool's "fanatics"

"Let me try and explain Liverpool Football Club and why they have so many representatives in the media, why they seem to get away with anything, why they are so distressed about Torres leaving and why this all leads to Chelsea being openly hated.

It's quite simple and fascinating. Liverpool (the "club", which is like any other football club, no more than an abstract concept built on concrete facts like past records, a stadium and supporters), the fans and many of their former players show the same behaviour traits displayed by followers of major religions. Once you begin to understand this and how it manifests itself, the anger dies down.

The closest comparison is with the Catholic Church and Islam. Both powerful religions obsessed with being big. Obsessed with the number of followers they have and obsessed with preserving their beliefs even when faced with evidence that disproves or just challenges their long-held assumptions.

Ritual, as we know, is a key element to religious behaviour. "You'll Never Walk Alone" is an incredible example of this. It is sung with religious fervour and is about surrendering individuality for the group. It is a defining moment for all Liverpool followers. No other football chant comes close. And they ask everyone who hears it to comment on it. They ask us to confirm that it is the loudest, most awe-inspiring, most spine-tingling, most religious moment we have ever experienced. And it is repeated word-for-word, note-for-note before every match as a gospel choir would sing in church. It does not behave like a football chant. There is no humour, no taunting the opposition, no jolly lads getting ready for 90 minutes of support and abuse. It is born-again, wide-eyed fervour.

Repetition is, of course, a central factor to the belief system and that is why every Liverpool follower (I choose this word above supporter), is primed to say exactly the same as every other Liverpool follower. There can be no deviation from the true path. Have you ever met a Liverpool follower who would dare to say that YNWA is a dreadful chant or that talking about "history" is a load of bunkum? This kind of deviation is not allowed and if someone dared to say such a thing then the simple answer would be that he is not a true follower because a true follower would not say such a thing.

History. What is this fascination with history? Football is really only about the present and memory. It is not about history. Most supporters know all about their team. They know the great players, cups won and disappointments along the way. But history? This is something that religions do in order to create a back story on which to build a myth. Liverpool has no more history than Crewe Alexandra or Queens Park Rangers, although it has certainly had more success. Success can be measured and although Liverpool's followers like to quote their successes (and fear being surpassed), it is something that is ultimately too risky to build a belief system upon. In fact, this season Manchester United could become more "successful" than Liverpool in domestic league titles. For this reason Liverpool's belief system is built on an abstract concept (history) rather than something that is scientifically provable (league titles). In fact, the more Liverpool stopped winning things, the more "history" became the currency for their beliefs.

Only recently have we heard commentators say on television that even with all Chelsea's money and recent success, they will never have Liverpool's history. Of course that is true because nobody knows what it means to have another club's history and nobody could ever be anybody else anyway! This is a trick that religions have been using for thousands of years and why it is practically impossible to debate with "true believers".

As an aside, an interesting comparison can be made between Liverpool and Everton and one that a football anthropologist would do well to study and report on in detail. The followers / supporters of these clubs display very different traits even though they may come from the same families, live in the same streets, go to the same schools. Everton play the theme tune from Z Cars when the team runs out and talk about the School of Science. They support their club and leave it at that. I would love to see some genetic research on those who choose to be a Blue and those who opt for the Reds in Liverpool. If, as neuroscientists are attempting to locate at the moment, there is a "god gene", I would imagine it is more prevalent in Liverpool followers than Everton supporters. (This doesn't mean they are closer to god but more disposed to believing in one).

It is often remarked that there are more ex-Liverpool players in the media and on football programmes than any other club. Match of the Day is a good example where the definition of a balanced view is to listen to Alan Hansen first and then Mark Lawrenson. But why does this happen? Again, the answer lies in religion or how Liverpool displays all the traits of religion at its worst. There are not more Liverpool representatives because they have history or had success. That would be ridiculous. And statistically Liverpool has had the same number of players in the last 40 years as any other club and they are only one of about 45 teams that have been in the top division during this period, which makes it unlikely that any club would be represented by more than a couple of ex-players on television. But, like religious followers, the ex-players are believers and believers want to be heard. (Evolutionary biologists describe the meme theory where beliefs are transmitted by individuals or a group. This may be how religions survive and so the analogy holds in this case). It is essential for the Liverpool story to be told over and over again and therefore it needs storytellers. This subconsciously propels ex-players from Liverpool to become spokesmen and storytellers and thus perpetuate the myth. The only other club that does this is Arsenal, where it has convinced its own followers first and then the wider public that it has a "way of doing things". But we can leave Arsenal for another day.

And all this brings us up to Fernando Torres. He is a footballer. He played for Liverpool. He is a good footballer. He decided he wanted to move to another club (in much the same way he decided he wanted to move to Liverpool four years ago). This happens all the time. Footballers either stay at one club all their career or move. These are the only two things they can do. We are all used to it. But something very different has happened here. In fact, something religious has happened.

Fernando Torres was loved at Liverpool. He had a special status like a saint or a leader. And he became an apostate. In religious terms, this is as bad as it gets. No matter how big or how powerful a religion is, the "church" is rocked to its foundations when someone chooses to leave or step outside the line. In Islam, apostates are killed. Think of Salman Rushdie. He wrote a book where he imagined some scenes that involved the prophet having sex. This led to death threats, book burning, flag burning and the incredible scenes of followers of an enormous religion feeling threatened by the words of one man. The lesson is simple. When you are in the club, the church, the movement you do not criticise and you always follow the party line. You'll Never Walk Alone. The Biggest. History.

Fernando Torres angered his followers by becoming an apostate and daring to say that he was moving somewhere else that might be bigger. And just like across the muslim world the same reaction happened on Merseyside. Book burning, shirt burning. And to back up the meme theory, this was transmitted through the media. It was considered a subject for debate even though the conclusion was never in doubt (as it never is with religious followers). TORRES DID NOT MOVE TO A BIGGER CLUB. HE IS A BAD MAN. HE HAS LIED.

And so Torres has moved from saint to apostate to sinner to Judas figure. And he has been replaced by a second coming, by a brighter future because religions don't like to lie down and admit defeat. They are never wrong. Every Liverpool follower is now saying exactly the same thing. They did best out of the deal. They got two for one. They traded in someone past his best. They are happy. The religion was challenged but it has come out on top. They will never walk alone.

And just like the Catholic Church has a history of murder, rape and massacre from the Crusades to the Inquisition, this history is irrelevant. Only good history is history. And no other football club has blood on its hands like Liverpool but this is also ignored in its history. Just like a religion, it creates myth and worries not a jot about the truth.

I could go on about how they have created a god out of Shankly. Someone who is often quoted, even though he didn't really ever say that much which is particularly illuminating or original. I could also mention the self-pity (another religious characteristic) and their desire to always be a part of every tragedy. In fact, once you start the more you realise how interesting it is that in England there are so many football clubs but only one that stands out for displaying the behaviour traits of a religion.

Religions do need other religions in order to survive. It may be argued that through memes they create other religions themselves along their evolutionary path (Judaism to Christianity to Islam as well as the different branches specifically within Judaism and Christianity). Opposition is a necessary factor for belonging. And, for another day, this is why the new Chelsea myth exists and why "pundits" (followers of Liverpool) are openly antagonistic towards Chelsea, something which they would not do to any other club. Chelsea is a threat and must be treated that way, according to the followers of the Liverpool religion.

But I don't want to linger on Chelsea, or why Manchester United has continued being successful without displaying the same traits as Liverpool or why nobody has ever considered if Bolton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion or West Ham United have a history. I just want to show why we all find it so frustrating listening to the nonsense that is spoken about Liverpool and by their followers. And once we begin to understand that it is like listening to a Moonie talking about being saved or a theologian cloaked in mythology masquerading as fact "proving" that miracles really do happen that we realise that we will never be able to argue with Liverpool followers. They are too far gone. And quite simply, that means they are too far away from truth, reality and knowing how to have a good time."


  1. (1) "every Liverpool follower (I choose this word above supporter)"

    A not unsubstantial amount of Liverpool's fan-base follows blindly, without a sense of reality, acceptance, perspective or understanding. This is undeniable.

    (2) "But history? This is something that religions do in order to create a back story on which to build a myth"

    Their feeling of entitlement and the progressive importance of their history, in order to sustain their false feeling of superiority, is frankly embarrassing. "A European Cup is worth 2 league titles since we're about to be surpassed in terms of league wins." Straws. Clutching. At.

    (3) "But, like religious followers, the ex-players are believers and believers want to be heard."

    The level of bias shown by pundits/commentators/analysts varies, but it is uniform in existence and spreads beyond ex-players. You don't need to be told that Alan Green, Colin Murray or numerous others are Liverpool followers, spreading the gospel via whichever media outlet.


    The piece goes over the top somewhat, but this sentiment was/is widespread and loudly voiced. Especially prior to the weekend when the signings of Suarez and Carroll had not been confirmed, and Torres had requested a transfer.

    Attempt to walk alone and there's no middle ground, you're achievements and contributions are forgotten because admission of defeat or inferiority is not possible.

    (5)" we will never be able to argue with Liverpool followers"

    It all comes full circle to further emphasize the blind faith and lack of perspective.

    - - -

    The point about self-pity also rings true. "Our tragedies are the worst because they happened to us."

    Interesting stance for a Chelsea supporter though. Without the distinction of a close rivalry, it underlines how dislikeable Liverpool are in their own distinct way. (The most Chelsea could hold against them is the Champions League knockout via a disputable goal, I think)

    Like religion, it's very little to do with the beliefs and values themselves, but moreso the perpetrators, their complete lack of tolerance and the methodology in which they spread their diatribe.

  2. As an Evertonian can I fully approve this piece?

    From the Stalinist re-writing of history (it was Chelsea) to the outrage over Torres (the Rooney transfer doesn't look so funny now, eh lads - once a red, always a blue, their droning on about their unique support (best fans in der weerld) and relationship with the players (apparently theirs aren't mercenary bastards like the rest) they really do beggar belief.

    Best of all their 'iconography' should be hilarious on Sunday - huge Et tu Torres flags should be worth the Sky subscription alone.


  3. As another Evertonian, can I simply say, "have you really only just realised that football on Merseyside is a religion?". Er, duh? Blimey, all that just to state the bleeding obvious. The insecurities shown by your belittling of another clubs' history reflect more on you than them. You see, history is made up of events. An interesting history is made up of major events, such as the crimes, tragedies and trophy wins associated with our dear neighbours across the park. Chelsea aren't as interesting because they don't have the same amount of major events. It's like comparing Lawrence of Arabia to a lottery winner. One is interesting, the other can only dream of being so. I know who I'd rather spend time with.

    And to correct you, Evertonians are made of exactly the same stuff. We are just as fervent in the support of our religion. Sadly, because of the Libpewl fc bandwagon, few notice. But ask your own Frank Lampard which ground he finds the most intimidating to play at, and you will find that it's Goodison, not our old ground Anfield. (Shankly's best quote by the way, made after retirement, was "I have been made more welcome at Everton than I have at Liverpool").

    There are several cities where football is seen as more than a sport. Glasgow is an obvious example. Your article compounds the stereotype that London isn't one of them.

  4. What a load of tosh! When Rooney left Everton he was the ultimate Judas with Graffiti all over the walls near Goodison. A club sponsor was banned for abusing him on the pitch before an Everton United game.There is no doubt that Torres has gone to a better team at the moment but one which is in decline. Two years ago he was a fantastic player but with injuries and a bit of disillusionment he has been average for 18 months.

  5. ya nice football game to see