We all have played on many football pitches in our lives. Neighbourhood football pitches, muddy pitches, pitches we only dreamt about, pitches which took us a step forward, pitches to forget and pitches of hope and many more….Stadiums full of history and stories, filled with failures and legends, which have moulded our careers and have propelled us forward, sometimes without direction. Football offers no truce. It devours and forgets only to reinvent itself and start again.
Amidst this whirlpool, amongst so many people, reaching Anfield is to reach one of the possible ends of the road. I say this because I feel fortunate to have been one of the chosen ones. One of those who have stepped on the pitch at Anfield, one who has lived Anfield, one who has experienced in person that football has a dimension greater than the banality that current times offer us. One that has been able to see that Albert Camus was right in saying that stadiums are a melting pot of culture and that in them, like in no other place, we can learn about human nature. Just looking round Anfield you can appreciate the dignity of its people, you can understand the past of a city hit by a history of hardship and realise that football can fill a wounded city with pride and hope.
Amongst so many memories, the Champions League. In no other European stadium have I seen fans believe so much in their team as at Anfield. Real Madrid, Inter Milan, the impossible game against Arsenal….and so many more to remember how ‘the reds’ were capable of putting together, on the streets of Anfield Road, the old essential values of football with the order, rigor, efficiency and the beauty of the game. Giving meaning to the initial roar at the first whistle at Anfield, to the songs full of belief and memories sung by The Kop or showing the possible paths of victory in the winter fog of San Siro, perhaps this is the secret and meaning of all tactics.
During three seasons at the club, my memories of Champions League nights go back to the certainty I saw in the faces of the players in the pre match talks in the hotels in Milan and Madrid, a few hours before playing decisive games which would end up contributing to the Club’s great history. My memories also turn to Reina, with silences full of respect before facing Anfield, realising that the appointment was with the history of a club, a city and its people who have turned the path to Anfield Road into a path of hope and belief.
Author: Xavi Valero, goalkeeping coach Rafa Benitez staff.