You'll never walk alone

How Words and Sport can impact World Peace

10 DECEMBER 2014,
Gerrard and Johnson celebrating during a game in November 2013, Source: Instagram
Gerrard and Johnson celebrating during a game in November 2013, Source: Instagram

And in the 85th minute, Glen Johnson netted, Liverpool 1 - Stoke 0. Anfield stadium erupted like a volcano, but Johnson was still lying on the ground. Later, during the press conference the manager of Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers, said that Johnson sacrificed himself in order to score, and that's was exactly what he expected from his team. My conclusion was that sometimes we all need to sacrifice something in our life if we want to reach happiness and peace. It may be a contradiction because when you lose a game you might be on the receiving end of the fans’ brutality, as it happened on the same day in Madrid, but when you have fans which walk always with their team and never leave it, then you realize the power of sport, culture and words and how they can affect reaching happiness and peace.

I wanted to fulfill my son's dream and mine. That is the glue which binds us, a bond between a father and a son - the love of football. So, when I thought about my next article, facing the violence and racism which still exist in our world, and when I thought about my love for my son I found a winning combination.

I contacted Liverpool football club and asked their permission to arrive to Anfield stadium with my son, and watch their match against Stoke football club on the 29th November in order to examine their measures to eradicate any violence or racism on the field and outside of it and write an article about that. Gladly, they agreed immediately, and that was a good opportunity to thank the charming Matt McCann, the head of press and his team, Steve and Joe.

As you know, I live in Jerusalem. Besides being a fan of Beitar Yerushalayim, our famous local team, my son and I are fans of Liverpool. I remember being a fan of Liverpool from the age of ten, and I felt so proud that my son had followed me. It's interesting, because later on I discovered that we are not unique, the love of Liverpool football club is frequently passed from father to son, especially among Liverpool's residents and fans.

Few years ago, I created the first football comic booklet, as a pilot, for my football team Beitar Yerushalayim. The story was about two young men, my son and his friend, who established an international group of youths’ football fans called Goal4us, with the intention to eradicate the violence and racism at the football games and fields. They made contacts with youths from Liverpool, London, Manchester, Madrid, Barcelona, Munich, Rome, Milan, Paris and Marseilles. Together they try to influence positively all the fans and make them understand that the beauty of the sport is when it remains an on-field competition, and must never be used as an instrument to hurt people.

I must admit that this pilot ended with the first booklet, and my team suffered a lot of penalties due its fans’ behavior during the next season. Maybe if they adopted its philosophy, they would avoid the penalties and the grief caused by the violence.

So, I thought to jumpstart again my idea, and I tried to find some funding from the teams themselves and produce this comic booklet worldwide. Words, as you know, have enormous impact on people and through the comic booklet it's easy to convey educational themes.

On Saturday the 29th, we took the train from Euston station to Liverpool and we found ourselves sitting next to Liverpool fans. Paul was born near Liverpool and Ken was born in Liverpool, but they both live in London and they are always traveling to watch the games. They agreed with me that football is considered to be the unifying element between people from all over the world. The evidence for this were hundreds of fans from the United Kingdom who were traveling with us on the same train, like Ken's nephew from Nice, France.

Paul and Ken told me that violence was indeed very present during the 70’s, but Liverpool’s management did everything to put a stop to it. At that point, I recalled the games I was watching when I was young; when Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish were juggling the ball and I enjoyed the memories.

I couldn't ignore the spark in their eyes when they spoke about their team. Later, when my son and I picked up a taxi from Liverpool Lime Street train station and shared it with Ryan from London and his friend, I was overwhelmed by their anticipation for the Liverpool to win. The fans of Liverpool are really the 12th player.

Then the taxi driver told us about the fact that Liverpool fans are so proud of holding season tickets that they transfer them from father to son or daughter. When we sat at the main stand in the seats that Matt McCann offered us with courtesy, Peter, Sylvia and her daughter Mandy and Paul (a different Paul) showed me their season tickets and their neck ties, and in this too, I could see how proud they were. Peter was wearing a 60 years old tie, and Paul showed me a 64 years old tie claiming it once belonged to the legendary Bill Shankly.

Just two and a half minutes before the opening whistle, the song "You'll never walk alone" was played while tens of thousands of fans where singing it out loud. We were so excited! And then when the announcer announced that the main sponsor of the team, "Standard Chartered" is behind everything and that the team expects any antisocial and discrimination behaviour to be reported immediately, I understood that we came to the most distinguished and respectable football club, which not only respects the words lovers like me, offering us food before, during and after the game and provides all commodities imaginable, but respects its fans from all over the world no matter of their religion, colour, gender or age, and above all, it respects itself. That is why when my son asked me why I came in a black jacket and a tie to watch the match, I told him that when you respect yourself others will respect you, too.

On our way back to London in the train we witnessed some violence between the fans - not Liverpool fans - but the police handled that episode in a calm and orderly fashion. Maybe, there should be some restrictions for beers on trains.

That journey only strengthened my philosophy that education and love of words, culture, food and sport can change our world into a better place. I gave Matt three of my books, "The Dream Weavers from Teheran" and "Stewed Poems" and Matt promised me to give one of the books to Brendan Rodgers, and I thought it would be a good idea if Liverpool football club visited Jerusalem and played a friendly game against our team to demonstrate friendship between all humans. Now I am curious whether Liverpool and other clubs would accept this challenge of mine, and would adopt the idea of the comic booklet?

So I will just conclude by saying: Come on Reds!