The Internationale

In the middle of the first international break, there’s a lot of time to look at ancillary stuff or reminisce about recent history or stuff further back. But I’d like to open with something that should hit directly at every football fan’s enthusiasm for the sport and the world which surrounds it.

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Because this is a tragedy. Sahar Khodayari was a football fan. She was a fan of the “blue” team in Iran’s capital, Esteqlal Tehran. For the crime of trying to enter a football stadium to watch her team play, she was arrested back in March. While at the courthouse trying to get her hearing, she allegedly overheard someone suggesting that she could receive up to two years in prison for her “crime”. She later set herself on fire in front of the courthouse to protest the inequality of women in Iran and the injustice of religion-based laws in the Islamic republic. She died yesterday from her injuries.

It’s tempting to just sit here and state the obvious: No one should have to die to point out the essential fallacy of being forbidden from being a football fan. No one should have to die to make the world pay attention (again) to people being persecuted because of their identity or the color of their skin or where they live. The fact that FIFA continues to sanction matches by the Iranian national team is just another example of that organization’s willingness to look the other way, as long as the money is good. But no one should be looking away from this. Everyone should take a good, long stare and ask themselves why this kind of barbarism continues to happen and why that nation (or any nations) reaps the benefits of association with the rest of the sports world.

To his credit, national team captain Masoud Shojaei made a post on Instagram, where he described their latest 2-0 World Cup qualifying win in Hong Kong as “the most bitter and saddest win of the national team. We scored two goals and won the game on the field. But we lost because Sahar is no longer,” he wrote. “Shame on me for not having been able to do anything and shame on those who took away the most obvious right from Sahar and all Sahars.”

International stuff. Like (I presume) most of you, I don’t pay a ton of attention to games during the breaks that don’t involve some kind of qualifying. Consequently, we won’t have to talk about the USMNT’s continuing futility on the path toward instituting a complex system when only training with it during a small fraction of the year and without the personnel to truly implement it. As Stars and Stripes FC noted: “The United States Men’s National Team took a DNA test, turns out they’re 100% being coached by the brother of a USSF executive.”

Instead we could talk about Virg and Gini’s successful outing with the Oranje:

Which includes how Gini basically transformed the attack of the Dutch in the second half against Germany. Granted, it’s debatable how much effect other teams are having on games in which Joachim Löw continues to demonstrate that he’s in completely over his head, but whatevs. And then I think about the competition at the upcoming Euro 2020 and remember this:

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I… don’t even know what to say to that. Maybe if your respective national side’s entire attack focuses on their right back?

Nice memories. I thought this was one of the best tactical breakdowns of the 4-0 comeback over the Blaugrana in May. I don’t watch these guys all the time, but occasionally they’re spot on:

The man who reformed and perpetuated our identity. It was Bill Shankly’s birthday a little over a week ago and, since I started this post with a cry for humanity, I thought I’d carry the theme here, especially since I just mentioned Barcelona. The latter has a motto: “Més que un club.” It means “more than a club.” Liverpool doesn’t need that motto because it’s something that’s understood. It’s something that Shankly re-imprinted on the club when he took over in the 50s. It’s something that’s shouted every time we sing our anthem. Shankly was an avowed socialist. Liverpool, as a city, has carried that identity for 150 years (basically since the end of the slave trade that it was, unfortunately, a key part of.) That’s why the club takes such pride in its social programs for the local community. It’s why the club runs publicity campaigns with the idea that we’re “more than a club” (“This means more.”, etc.) The idea is that the club is of the people and for the people. It’s something to keep in mind when supporters sometimes suggest that LFC lean into the more ruthless and money-driven aspects of the game or when we pick up new supporters who may not understand that Shankly’s most famous quote is the one that has nothing to do with football:

The socialism I believe in isn’t really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life.

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Five favorite players. There was a cool thread on Reddit asking people who their five favorite Reds of all-time were. My first four were easy: Kenny, Barnesy, Stevie, and Bobby. (That’s Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes, Steven Gerrard, and Roberto Firmino for those of you who don’t remember.) After that, it gets tougher. Phil Neal, one of our best defenders ever and whom played in no less than five European Cup finals? As reliable and steady a defender as Virg is today. Alan Hansen, who captained the team during those great 80s years when we were smashing into the Bitters for League and Cup? Another star defender with remarkable speed for the time. Rushie, the all-time goal scorer? So many good moments. Xabi? Sami? Don’t know. It’s tough to narrow it down, but the first four are, for me, easy, even though Bob’s only been here for five years. I keep saying he’s the heart and soul of this team. I mean it.

Last bits. New Balance might be shelling out the moneys to stay with Liverpool. Alisson not likely for Newcastle, but maybe soon after. Napoli? Oh, yeah. Napoli. Our toughest test in the group stage is our first game, as we travel to the San Paolo on Tuesday with the Azzurri facing some injury problems.

But first, the Geordies in Saturday’s early game. Let’s keep the win record growing.

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