My Weekend in Liverpool

By David Shams

Since becoming a Liverpool fan, it’s been a dream of mine to visit Merseyside. Less than ten days ago, I did exactly that.

My friend Jeremy and I had been throwing around the idea of going. He’s a Liverpool fan too and wanted to experience the match day environment. Five years ago that we watched Chelsea end our title hopes and since then it’s been nothing short of a roller coaster ride—Steven Gerrard leaving for the MLS in 2015, a Europa League Final defeat in 2016, and losing to Real Madrid in Kiev last year.

By January, when it looked like there was another title run in the making, we’d all but settled on making the trip across the pond for the final weekend. There was a glimmer of hope that it’d be a double celebration—Liverpool winning their first top division title in 29 years on my 37th birthday.

We were too late to secure tickets into the ground via the fan club allocation—apparently we should have done that in October. And on the secondary-market prices were astronomical. But that didn’t stop us. Just being in the pubs and around other fans outside the stadium would be enough for us.

I found us (my wife joined as well, she didn’t want to miss out on this experience) an AirBnB on Anfield Road, just blocks from The Shankly Gates. It was an old Police Station turned into a hostel/dormitory. Our host, Ro, was exceedingly hospitable and overflowing with tips on what to do in the neighborhood during our stay.

The Shankly Gates May 12th, 2019.

The Shankly Gates May 12th, 2019.

While my wife napped, we had a bit of a bender in Cambridge the night before thanks to one of my old soccer pals from DC who’s now doing research at the University there, Jeremy and I walked around the ground. Fans from all over had converged in what can only be described as a pilgrimage. For some this would be their only glimpse of the hallowed ground, for others it was more of a chance to get reacquainted, but for all of us we stood in awe the temple that’s played host to so many of our favored football memories.

The team shop was jam packed with fans, too. And if I’m honest it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The shop was great, but the whole experience reminded me of Black Friday shopping in America. Having worked in retail for several of those days, I didn’t want any part of it. Jeremy and I stuck around just long enough to make a few purchases and continue along our path around the ground.

I manage to pull off a half-assed jahel stance, while not really smiling, even though I’m standing beneath The Kop.

I manage to pull off a half-assed jahel stance, while not really smiling, even though I’m standing beneath The Kop.

As we made our way past The Paisley Gateway and then along the outside of the Kenny Dalglish Stand, we ended up back at The Shankly Gates. There was a gentleman just outside the gates with a replica Champions League trophy selling photo ops for £3 a pop. He waived the fee after hearing we didn’t have cash.

Seeing as we were less than a block from the famous Arkles Pub, we stopped in there for a quick pint and an order of fish and chips from the next door chippy. As we entered, though, a group of lads struck up a conversation with us.

“You all going to the game tomorrow,” one asked as we were about to enter the north side of the pub.

“Unfortunately, no. We couldn’t get tickets,” I said.

“Wait, are you from America?”

“Yeah, Washington, DC.”

“I love that accent. I love Americans.”

“Thanks,” I said, chuckling and a little confused.

“Aw, well, I’m sorry about that, if it makes you uncomfortable.”

I knew what he was getting at. We do the same thing when they come over here, so it was even.

“No worries, we do it to you all when you head over to America,” I said trying to go back into the pub so I can have a pint.

“Right, okay, well go have your pint then, I wont hold you up any longer.”

Jeremy grabbed the pints, while I went to the chippy next door to get what was supposed to be something small to share, but ended up being a huge piece of fried fish. It was delicious, but several hours later I had some massive heartburn.

After her nap, my wife joined us before we raced off to the Classic Football Shirts pop-up down at the Royal Albert Dock. It was almost as if they knew I would be in town. I’m a sucker for old football jerseys. My goal was to pick up a Liverpool kit from the mid-90s. Those seem to be in short supply, so I ‘settled’ for two tops from a later period.

I ‘settled’ for these two beauties.

I ‘settled’ for these two beauties.

Once we wrapped up our business on the docks, we decided to catch an Uber to the Penny Lane area. Our parents would be upset if we didn’t at least make an attempt to head up there. We ended up grabbing a glass or two of wine at the Penny Lane Wine Bar, which I think had been overrun by some rather raucous, but still polite groups of lads. Nonetheless, the wine was delicious and the snacks we had hit the spot.

But we had bigger fish to fry on Saturday evening. My favorite Liverpool based podcast, The Anfield Wrap, was hosting their end of season party over at the University of Liverpool. To be honest, I was expecting a panel discussion and some Q&A from the crowd. That’s what I get for living in DC for the last 8 years—everything is a damned panel discussion. Even though the event was more pep rally than intellectual conversation about what’s going to happen in the summer or next season, the event was an experience I won’t forget. The three of us learned new chants, ones that I’ve not heard at the watch parties here in DC. And most importantly, we celebrated the amazing season Liverpool has had so far with all the other Scousers in attendance.

Jeremy, me, and Amanda at The Anfield Wrap pep rally

Jeremy, me, and Amanda at The Anfield Wrap pep rally

Owing primarily to the previous night’s shenanigans, my wife and I were beat. And it seemed Jeremy was too. So we all headed back to our AirBnB on Anfield Road. We wanted to be well rested for the long day ahead of us.

The next morning, my wife and I woke up a bit early. It was our plan to take a light run through Stanley Park and around Everton’s ground—Goodison Park. I’ve always been fascinated with stadiums, especially ones smack dab in the middle of neighborhoods. Both grounds at opposite ends of Stanley Park fit that bill. We ended up walking, though, as my achilles tendon was (and still is now as I write this) bothering me.

Goodison Park.

Goodison Park.

An old college buddy has been living in Liverpool for a few years now. He recommended a small bakery near Anfield that sent its proceeds to those who are less fortunate. Seeing as my wife and I love to support local businesses and are suckers for a good cause, we made sure our walk ended at Homebaked Anfield to pick up one of their delicious pies. Afterwards, we stocked up on bottled water at a nearby store—hydration would be key for a long day that would include heavy beer consumption.

Once we rallied back at the AirBnB after Jeremy returned from his own pie run to Homebaked Anfield, we headed to the Sandon. We were told it would be a hopping place to watch the game—to be fair, almost every pub in the area was. It was a bit confusing though, as we knew there would be a beer garden with a huge TV, but we couldn’t figure out how to get there. After a few minutes of deliberations, going through a few doors that led to some back passage ways, which themselves led into other bars, we emerged into a back courtyard that was the beer garden we had been searching for.

It was packed. Not sure why it surprised me, but it did. The scene reminiscent of a college bar on gameday. Lads chugging beers, talking shop, dulling the anxiety from the impending game, all while enjoying the amazing weather. As we took in the scenes just a few blocks from the stadium, drinking plastic 16 ounce bottles of Carling (owned by Molson Coors), the crowd in and around the Sandon started bellowing out the various chants and songs Kopites know by heart. The Fields of Anfield Road, Allez-Allez-Allez, You’ll Never Walk Alone, and other ballads commemorating specific players and their exploits for the club.

I believe they call this multi-tasking…or double fisting…or being responsible (see the water there?).

I believe they call this multi-tasking…or double fisting…or being responsible (see the water there?).

We met a group of young fans—some were just out for the scenes and didn’t really care about the football—that had congregated near us at the north end of the Sandon’s back garden, which was too far away from the big screen to actually enjoy the game. About twenty minutes before kickoff, the other group snaked their way through the crowd to get a better view of the big screen that had been bussed in from out of town, Amanda, Jeremy, and I followed, exploiting the gaps they were leaving in their wake. We made it to about four or five rows back from the fence protecting the bus from the crowd. It was as close as we could get.

There was a bit of a hiccup at the start of the match. The big screen was running on wifi or some sort of internet service and all of our cell phones were sucking up the bandwidth. After being instructed to turn our phones to airplane mode—a first outside of actually being on an airplane—the game booted up although we missed the first few minutes.

I could try to analyze the game here, but that’s not the point. They did win 2-0. But the real amazing moment was that all too brief 21 minutes when Liverpool stood precariously balanced at the top of the table. Sadio Mane scored for Liverpool in the 17th minute. But in a game much farther south between Manchester City and Brighton, one in which every Liverpool fan wanted Brighton to steal a point, Glenn Murray, Brighton’s journeyman striker, nodded home a corner kick to put Brighton up in the 27th minute.

The fans in the ground had started making some noise, which led all of us to believe that Liverpool had scored a second and for some reason our feed was delayed. As phones came out and off airplane mode there was a sudden realization that 29 years of waiting might actually come to an end.

Pandemonium. Scenes. Shouts. Screams. Ecstasy.

Beer was thrown, smoke flares were set off, fans quickly became friendly enough to embrace. An odd, profusely sweating chap with a Barcelona hat on backwards and wearing a heavyish leather jacket was giving everyone in his proximity double high fives. And this young lad with an Irish accent—or maybe it was Scouse, I don’t know—was nearly inconsolable. I’m not sure he was alive the last time Liverpool won a top division title.

“Are you okay,” I asked after we hugged in celebration, my hand still on his shoulder.

“No, I’m not,” he said laughing, possibly even holding back some tears, doubling over with his hands on his knees.

We all had some tears, if I’m honest. It was hard not to.

But less than a minute later, City had equalized. And ten minutes after that, they’d gone ahead. This was the exact scenario that my friend Jeremy and I had wanted to avoid. Brighton scoring first would only upset City even more and push them into a higher gear. They went on to win 4-1. Liverpool’s slim title hopes were dashed.

As both games wrapped up and the coverage switched from the Liverpool players lap of honor around Anfield to City’s trophy celebration down in Brighton, the inevitable beers started flying towards the imported big screen. Some missed. Some landed square in the heart of the screen. Fans cheered. It was an understandable frustration. Had Liverpool lost because of a bad call or egregious error by a match referee, the response would have likely been far worse. But Liverpool did everything they could—they lost once, had a points haul that would win the title in all but the last two years, and still managed to finish second place.

When we arrived on Merseyside the afternoon before, there was this overwhelming sense of jubilation, hopeful optimism, the idea that Liverpool fans were within 90 minutes of seeing their team get their hands on the league trophy for the first time in 29 years. My wife and I felt it on our walk Sunday morning. And in the bowels of the Sandon and more so as we emerged in the back beer garden, it was even more palpable. There was a buzzing a sense of accomplishment, that whatever happened, Liverpool had finally arrived back at the pinnacle of English football.

Maybe it was that feeling that somehow managed to mute what might normally have been a much more destructive response to having to delay their celebration for another year. But as we left the Sandon and headed toward Anfield Road to find Jeremy a match program, the entire atmosphere felt more deflated. As fans were finally filing out of the stadium after applauding their team for the best season Liverpool has had in ages, their facial expressions told a bigger story.

Dejection, confusion, heartbroken, but all with their heads held high. Not just because of the points total, but also because Liverpool’s season isn’t over. In two short weeks, Liverpool will travel to Madrid to face off against Tottenham in the Champion’s League Final—LFC’s second in a row.

Unlucky in our own pursuit for a program, we did manage to find much needed sustenance at a wonderfully named take-away counter. Wok On is exactly what you would think it is—a greasy spoon, serving asian noodles and rice, doing a thriving business on match days. It hit the spot, six hours of beer, sun, and only a smattering of water and our stomachs were engaged in a debate only the British Parliament could surpass.

My wife called it quits after the food, though. Jeremy and I spent the rest of the evening bar hopping. A quick beer at the Park Pub, just across the street from the Kop at Anfield. Then, on the advice of my wife, we headed down to the Flat Iron, where we got the last pints of Guinness before the owner cut off all the taps and ordered the bar staff to serve bottles only. To be fair, they’d run out of everything on tap…or were nearly there by the time we walked in.

We finished the night at the Arkles. Most of match day crowd had died down and gone home by that time. But when we entered it was still buzzing filled mostly with employees from the stadium. Plus they weren’t experiencing any beer shortages.

Jeremy and I struck up a conversation with Walter, a security guard at Anfield. He doesn’t get to actually see the games or participate in the chants/songs, because his job requires that his attention is elsewhere. But he does record the games.

“If we lose, I delete it. But I try to watch all the other games,” Walter told us.

He was a big fan of San Miguel, which is a popular spanish lager in the UK. We get it here, in DC, but its not as wide spread as it is there. We, also, found out that he supported the New York Yankees and does his best to catch as many games as possible on TV, but they were often too late. When we told him that the Yankees were coming to London, he seemed excited. But he didn’t act like he’d be able to make it. Before he left, Walter invited us to a few bars the next day to watch some bands play, which we declined since we had to leave for London early in the morning.

By the time we left Arkles, we had made several other friends, seen one person escorted out of the bar, one drink thrown on a patron, one person puke and then rally almost immediately, heard several renditions of the Bobby Firmino song, and at least one Sweet Caroline sing along.

When we arrived back at our AirBnB, we were famished but all of the chippies and restaurants had closed by that point. So we ordered Dominos, which is a realtively easy task rendered a bit more difficult once you realize you’re in a different country. What if the driver needs directions to your location? What if they need to call you? Will the pizza even be worth it?

Not being a Domino’s fan, it was a tough decision for me to make. But it wasn’t bad. And after an evening of beers, I’m pretty certain anything would have worked.

I feel asleep serenaded by the sound of Jeremy watching the Tick, or whatever it was called, on Netflix.

It was tough waking up honestly. Not because I was hung over…the hydration tactic worked, apparently…or maybe it was the pizza, but because I wasn’t ready to leave. Alas, we had an 11:45 train to London from Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

The weekend in Liverpool was an amazing experience. And as cliche as it sounds, I’m already planning my next trip back. Hopefully, in late September-early October and this time for a little longer than two days. I’ll be back on Merseyside in no time.

David is the founder of DC Soccer Digest. He lives in Washington, DC. You can follow him on twitter at @ShamsWriter.

Can You Forgive My Hot Takes?

It’s highly likely I’ve been jinxing Liverpool all season.

Back in late August, while sitting in Brooklyn’s Monro Pub, a favorite haunt for Kopites in the Big Apple, I leaned into my wife. She’d joined me enthusiastically, just as I join her a handful of times each year at a few Sunday services.

This was my church, my religion, not that I’m well versed in the history of the famous club from Merseyside. I’m not going to remember games from the high times in the 70s and 80s. If I’m honest, I’m only a recent Kopite convert choosing the Temple of Anfield as the way I worship the beautiful game.

“This is the year we do it, Doc. We’re just that good,” I whispered, hoping that it wouldn’t be loud enough for the soccer gods to hear and then spin whatever machinations necessary to make it not come true.

At Christmas, in a text to a friend I said, “City dropping points to Palace and now Leicester makes this Liverpool’s to lose.”

He texted back something along the lines of “It’s still too early to tell.” Apparently, he wasn’t wrong.

When City managed to lose at St. James’ Park, almost a month after Liverpool lost that energy sapping match at the Etihad, there was a palpable sense that Liverpool just may pull it off after all. My friend and I had just decided to buy tickets for a trip across the pond to celebrate my 37th birthday and maybe even be present for the first top division title in 29 years. Understandably, I got caught up in the excitement.

Then a few weeks ago, bursting with hubris and a visceral hatred for the Mancunian Sky Blues (maybe visceral is too strong a word, but this is sports and we’re allowed a few outrageous sentiments), I tweeted out that we’d be celebrating a title after a win v. Huddersfield.

To be fair, I did add the hashtag for TooHotTuesday, but clearly it’s part of a long pattern of over-confidence.

And the coup de grace, the one that’s made me a bit more reticent for any future hot takes.

In a state of ceaseless optimism, I engaged in yet another crossing of the hot take line. This one predicted Barcelona, that ever dangerous side driven by arguably the greatest single player to ever grace a soccer pitch, would go down easily.

Again, I’d like to point to the hot take hashtag. That should have been enough for the great soccer puppet masters in the sky to not smite my hopes of a trophy this season. Apparently not.

But I’m not going to say all is lost or that there’s zero chance Liverpool hoists a trophy this year. What ever is left is but a glimmer, a thin sliver of light, a sniff or two of something delectable. If anyone can do it, it is Liverpool.

“We’ve been ying-yanging between two improbable championships,” Rob Gutmann from The Anfield Wrap said on the Post-Match Pint after Wednesday’s match against Barcelona. He’s not wrong. But at some point, we reach the end of the road and either the results we need will come or they won’t.

If someone had told us, though, at the beginning of the season Liverpool would be nearing 97 points by May 12th and in another Champions League Semifinals, we all would have thought that would have been enough for at least one trophy. Our enthusiasm—and let’s be honest, hubris—would have been understandable.

This season has been brilliant and while I’ll fully admit my hot takes were a bit premature (but isn’t that the point of hot takes?), I know that this campaign signals one important thing. It’s Liverpool’s shot across the bow of every damn club in the Premier League and Europe.

And next season, we go again.

With Three Games Left, the Season's not Over

By David Shams

The odds are long and the hope fading. Liverpool’s title challenge is nearing its end.

Manchester City has been chased, pressed, and harried at the top of the table much like the gegenpresse tactic Liverpool manger Jurgen Klopp has made famous. At one point, in early January, Liverpool had a chance to go up 11 points. It would have been an insurmountable lead, one that would have surely led to Liverpool’s first title in 29 years.

But they lost that game, and dropped points in a further four matches. Two 1-1 draws to Leicester City and West Ham and a pair of scoreless matches against two rivals—Everton and Manchester United. A win in any of those games and Liverpool would be at the top of the table, two points clear.

Hindsight’s 20-20, as they say. And looking back, trying to find what went wrong and when, is likely a futile endeavor. Maybe it was one of the three ties to Chelsea, Man City, or Arsenal in the first half of the season. Maybe it was that loss to Man City on Jan 4th. There’s no way to tell what doomed Liverpool’s season.

What the hell am I jabbering on about? I’m acting as if this season’s an utter failure. That there are little to no bright spots in the 10-month season.

As it stands Liverpool are on 88 points. And while it’s not guaranteed that they’ll win out, there’s a good chance our Reds will end the season with a points haul in the mid-90s. That points total wins them the title in every season except this one (I’m assuming City wins out as well) and last when Liverpool’s current title rivals hit the 100 points mark.

All we can ask for as fans, really, is that year-on-year the team makes improvements and there’s at least a good faith effort to challenge for a trophy or two. Keep us within a sniff or two of the trophy and we’ll be happy…at least for those of us who are rational. Get us close year-on-year and eventually we’ll hoist a title.

Klopp, FSG, and the club in general have gotten us to that point.

Last season we earned a spot in the Champions League final. This year we’re challenging for the first title in 29 years (sure there have been other challenges, but this one seemed all the more likely). We’re likely to end with a 22-point improvement from last season. And just maybe, there’ll be a return to European glory, as long as we get past Barcelona in that all important semi-final match up.

All is not lost, Liverpool fans. There’s still three games to go in the league—and at least two more in Europe. City have to win out…so do we.

We know the task at hand.

Win at home v Huddersfield today, then send all the positive vibes possible to the Burnley faithful at Turf Moor. Dominate the Camp Nou like we did in 2007, then win at St. James Park. Two days later, send our positive vibes to Leicester as they travel to the Etihad. Defend Anfield against the Catalans. And on that final game of the league season, scream our hearts out and pour every ounce of energy in to beating Wolves and hoping Brighton get a result at home.

These are simple things really. The sorts of things we should have been doing all along.

If you’re confused just listen to the chorus of You’ll Never Walk Alone: “Walk on, Walk on, With hope in your heart, And you’ll never walk alone.”

Up the Reds!

David is the founder of DC Soccer Digest. He lives in Washington, DC. You can follow him on twitter at @ShamsWriter.

Spurs Injuries Cause Problems for Poch

The situation looked grim for Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino. In the 86th minute, with the score in Sunday’s match versus London rival Fulham knotted at 1-1, one Tottenham’s key playmakers, Deli Alli, went down holding his hamstring.

In real time, the player left no doubt about the injury, pulling up lame then gingerly using the ad boards as a crutch to ease himself to the ground.

Luckily, for the North London side, a stoppage-time winner meant walking away with three points.

For most top six sides in the Premier League, an injury to a key player isn’t the end of the world. But for the Pochettino coached side, it meant missing yet another star going into a tough run of games, especially mid-February to early March.

Harry Kane is with an ankle injury and unlikely to return until the second leg Round of 16 tie away at Dortmund. Although, there are reports he may be back sooner.

And Son Heung-Min is out at least until next week while on International Duty with South Korea. Luckily, barring any injury in UAE at the Asia Cup, Son will return for the match Leicester City in February--maybe even sooner.

The problem isn’t just missing star players, but it’s also not having players who can fill in and be a stop gap. Moussa Sissoko, Lucas Moura, and Victor Wanyama have all been nursing injuries, but have returned to training this week. And with both Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen woefully out of form, there’s no wonder that the North London side’s manager is feeling a little pressure.

Any decision Pochettino takes will carry risks, however. Playing Llorente up top in Kane’s role runs is a gamble. As we saw against Fulham, Spurs lacked any real creative effort up top and the Spanish striker looked out of sorts. Janssen hasn’t played since August 2017 and won’t figure into Poch’s plans anyway. Sissoko, Moura, and Wanyama may not be fully fit, but will nonetheless be called on to play, running the risk of reinjury.

It’ll be too late for Thursday’s Carabao Cup match against Chelsea, but Poch could look to the transfer window--something Spurs didn’t do in the summer. But who would they pick up? Gonzalo Higuain, the player most similar to injured striker Harry Kane, is already on his way to Chelsea. Regardless, he wouldn’t want to simply be a role player after Kane returns.

And any transfer could upset team chemistry, which has seemed to be going well at the moment.  

My guess is that the Argentine manager chooses to stick it out. Seeing as Troy Parrot, the young 16-year-old Irish striker, trained today it looks like that’s the direction he’s going.

It certainly is a gamble, but that’s life in the Premier League’s top 6. There are certain risks each team has to take. Of course, you want to minimize exposure, but often there’s not much a team can do.

Pogba Shines sans Jose

“It was Jose,” read the text from my friend, an only recently suffering Man United fan.

I wanted to copy, paste, then print out his message. He’d been reluctant to blame Jose Mourinho for a less than stellar start to the 2018-19 season. For what’s it worth, the writing was on the wall this time last year.

My friend’s revelation took well into the sixth game after Mourinho was sacked for him to accept, without provocation, that Jose was at fault. (I’d been working with him on how to say the uncomfortable phrase).

‘Say it with me, “It was Jose. It. Was. Jose.”’

To say that I’m proud is an understatement.

But I digress from the topic at hand…Paul Pogba’s resurrection as an attack minded central midfielder, one who can take a game by the scruff of its neck and dictate terms, especially in the attacking third.

Playing in a role that’s more defensive is something that Pogba can do. Just look at France’s World Cup victory last summer. But that was for seven games and players make sacrifices for the national teams all the time, especially in a tournament as big as the World Cup.

At Manchester United, however, the season is 38 games long, add in several cup games and that number sometimes reaches closer to 60. A few games out of position here and there aren’t a problem, but you need your best players in their best positions for most of the season.

Under Jose, Pogba’s offensive prowess, his surging runs from the midfield into prime attacking real estate were stifled. He was to play a role clogging lanes, something more akin to a holding midfield player. It was almost as if Jose had the former Juve star slated to play in the Makalele role--named after former Real Madrid and Chelsea star Claude Makalele who helped Jose to a premier league title in his first ever season as manager at Chelsea.

For an example of a modern-day Makalele, look no further than N’Golo Kante. On rare occasions, he ventures forward to exploit space in his teams attacking third. While he certainly may have better vision than Makalele (although that’s debatable), Kante’s main objective each game is slowing the other team’s attack and then cooly distributing to one of his other midfield partners. He doesn’t dribble, he doesn’t make incisive passes (often), he doesn’t take more than two or three touches.

That’s not the Paul Pogba any soccer fan has come to appreciate. He’s a taller Paul Scholes, a nicer Roy Keane, and definitely not a Nicky Butt or David Beckham (who sometimes deputized as a center mid for Sir Alex Ferguson). Rather, he’s more of a Frank Lampard-Steven Gerrard hybrid with more speed and physicality. He can shoot from distance, pick apart defenses with incisive passes from any distance, beat defenders 1v1, and finish from anywhere inside 20 yards with any surface.

If the last five Premier League games under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are any indication, Paul Pogba has finally lived up to expectations after three seasons at Old Trafford. In 14 appearances under Jose, Pogba only netted once, while this recent run of games has that tally at 4 with 4 assists. The bottom line is, Pogba is happy and excited to be in the squad.

Maybe this is the honeymoon phase though. What will happen during a spell of bad results, it may all come crashing down.

I doubt it.

Pogba unleashed should scare the rest of the league and embolden his teammates. As a Liverpool fan, I’m not excited to see a resurgent Manchester United led by Pogba ready to play spoiler. But a pure soccer enthusiast, I don’t mind it a single bit.