This is it. The thin end of the wedge. The barbarians have taken down the gates. The fall of civilisation as we know it.
No Wimbledon. No Euro 2020. No T20 World Cup. A bloodthirsty neighbour hellbent on global dominion.
Locusts. Pandemic infecting millions and razing the global economy to the ground.
Yet, all the Old Testament horrors seem redundant when compared to the gravest sin that has occurred in the last three decades.
Lord Voldemort Queen Elizabeth was evidently mistaken when she called 1992 Annus Horriblis because nothing can compare to 2020 of which July 22 will be remembered as the D-Day, the mini-cherry of horrors on the cake of everlasting misery.
It was a sight not fit for man nor beast as a grinning maniac and his band of merry men lifted the giant trophy in a horrific red backdrop.
Liverpool Football Club – Premier League Champions
Liverpool Football Club – Premier League Champions. Kings of the North and now the Kings of England and the Kings of Europe.
As a Manchester United fan, Liverpool’s record-breaking run which was achieved with seven games to spare, which couldn’t be halted by a global pandemic, has led to deeper existential conundrums.
What if that grinning maniac creates a dynasty?
What if Klopp is their Ferguson?
What if they never leave the perch?
As a Red Devil, watching Liverpool stumble was one of life’s given joys.
One used to joke that Liverpool fans had waited so long for silverware, they had gone from Chelsea fans, Man City fans before returning to the Red brotherhood.
Liverpool winning the Premier League was football’s Waiting for Godot moment.
In some ways, it was the sporting equivalent of Bob Dylan winning a Nobel Prize.
No one thought it could actually happen until it happened. And then it did, just like Dylan.
It was 30 years of hurt, of near misses and literal slips.
There was Steven Gerrard’s tumble, reminiscent of Karna’s chariot’s wheel getting stuck at the moment of truth.
There was Rafa Benitez’s ‘fact rant’ in 2008-09 where Liverpool looked on course for the title before a meltdown of epic proportion. Every fact complained about United and one was almost surprised he didn’t complain about the portion of pot roast served at Old Trafford.
Premier League – bringing us together
The Premier League started in 1992-93 – the same year interestingly when India opened up its economy - and soon became a collective global experience much before we were united in loving Avengers, hating the ending of Game of Thrones or wondering why The Big Bang Theory didn’t finish.
It’s beginning coincided with the internet boom and plethora of cable television across the globe earning it scores of viewers. The early years of the Premier League are reminiscent of the WWE attitude era, but even Vince McMahon couldn’t have scripted this messianic madness. Though there was an epic crossover.
It also created a new form of tribalism.
Manchester United mattered to our deracinated selves more than Mohan Bagan.
We were de-rooted from our own culture and yet found quasi-tribal meaning in one across the globe.
We became instant fans, instant members of a tribe. Almost everyone had a favourite club – English or European.
The Glazers | Wikimedia Commons
We became the unwitting foot soldiers of capitalist hegemony which made the rich richer as we used our hard-earned money to buy goods that would only benefit The Glazer family.
But it didn’t matter because we were happy, even though our dads probably didn’t understand why the mere logo on a t-shirt should raise an item’s price five-fold.
Those of us who couldn’t afford the original stuff – which were made in Vietnam – bought rip-offs from the other side of the railroad. Ironically, the rip-offs probably were made in Vietnam as well.
We took our football clubs more seriously than we took caste and religion. As Bill Shankly said: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.”
For even atheist Manchester United fan, Sir Alex Ferguson became the one and true God.
Eric Cantona was Stone Cold Steve Austin meets Jean-Paul Sartre, the French enfant terrible who scored magical goals and kicked racists off the field.
He still has it, as he became the first ex-footballer to quote King Lear leaving Messi and Ronaldo look on in awe.
Paul Scholes was the quiet genius who had trouble differentiating between a pub-side hack and a legitimate tackle.
Roy Keane was the eternally angry uncle.
Dimitar Berbatov was the laconic laidback genius who could make you come with one touch.
David Beckham was everyone’s favourite sex symbol and pin-up, though it was teammate Ryan Giggs who was really doing the dirty with models and sisters-in-law.
It became part of other aspects of our lives. It was like being part of huge group which excluded no one.
We started playing pirated version of FIFA on our PCs with friends. We spent hours on Football Manager, so much so that by 2022, Old Trafford was renamed the Nirmalya Dutta Stadium and had a seating capacity of 1,50,000.
We stayed up late to watch matches. We sneaked beer in. We were mocked for referring to our team halfway across the world as WE.
We threatened opposing fans with physical violence despite the fact that none of us had ever set foot in Manchester, Liverpool or London.
We begged a cobbler on the streets of Kota to let us watch Manchester United vs Chelsea as other IIT aspirants wondered why a team would even be called 'Manu'.
That’s how we connected through our Premier League experience of supporting clubs.
It was years later that I realised how football had reshaped us, despite the fact that I was too fat to even kick a ball.
On a solo trip to Goa, I walked into a bar run by an English gentleman to catch a FA Cup match between Manchester United and Chelsea and we spoke as if we’d known each other all our lives.
Despite being a Liverpool fan, he had a signed George Best jersey who he met in his younger days and he was shocked how much a Kolkata-born, Chhapra-bred Indian was so well-informed about an Irishman whose footballing days were over even before one started watching football.
Tony Blair once described that he went to a remote Japanese school where no one could recognise him or Britain. He just said the words ‘David Beckham’ and immediately everyone knew what he was talking about.
It wasn’t just football, but the British tabloid culture which jacked up everything.
There was Vinnie Jones – who memorably played a football hooligan in Euro Trip – and his Christmas party shenanigans. In 1994, he organised a unique Christmas party which involved booze, girls, and one of the most bizarre games one has ever heard of – dwarf-tossing!
As teammate Tony Cascarino hilariously recalled: “I had a go, but I can't remember how I did. They were heavier than I expected.”
That wasn’t the only one.
Some of the Premier League parties were so outrageous, that even the British press – never the upholders of Victorian modesty – were shocked. The incidents read like the rejected takes from Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire.
There was Wayne Rooney’s dalliances with a grandmother.
Kolo Toure’s diet pills.
Rio Ferdinand missing a test.
David Beckham getting hit by a boot kicked by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Richard Keys and Andy Gray wondering if women couldn’t understand the offside rule.
Joey Barton treating his teammate’s eye like a cigar ashtray.
Kevin Keegan losing his head on air and saying he’d love it if someone beat Man Utd.
Fabregas throwing pizza at Alex Ferguson.
Roy Keane telling Patrick Viera that he’d see him out there.
Liverpool’s Spice Boys and their cream suits.
Jamie Carragher smothering himself with whipped cream before having sex with strippers.
Ali Dia convincing Graeme Souness he was George Weah’s nephew and getting him to sign him on!
Most of my memories would be United-related but the Premier League made us part of a bigger culture.
I probably learned more about Europe, UK, and its history from following football than I ever did in history class.
Football has amazing ability to create change this world.
Dr Marcus Rashford showed that recently as he browbeat a reluctant PM into providing meals for every hungry kid in UK. In different ways, football made us become better people. It taught us about the inequities faced by black people in different places.
It taught us the aspects of racism that we didn’t realise was racist till then.
It made us realise Europe’s complicated history with colonialism and migration without boring us to sleep – as history classes are wont to do.
In a way, Liverpool’s long-awaited championship feels like the logical conclusion of a Premier League experience that made us part of a collective whole. And it has been one hell of a ride.
Hopefully, the Scousers won’t stay on their perch for too long.
Read other Nonsensical Nemo columns.
Ever since he was a kid, Nirmalya Dutta always dreamt he would be the new Bob Dylan.
Sadly, he soon realised, he was only a freewheeling brat asking his dad for freebies.
The author is the Web Editor the Free Press Journal and tweets at @nirmalyadutta23.
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