The night of 25th May, 2005 was a pretty ordinary Saturday night. I was having a sleepover at one of my friend’s house and we had planned to watch the UEFA Champions League. I was born and brought up in the regular Hindu family, as a result of which I had seen or played nothing but cricket in my entire life. Most of my friends used to follow football so I had to give in to their demands and watch the game. As they had at least some knowledge about the game, my friends were supporting AC Milan as the team looked stronger on paper and were apparently clear favourites. I decided to support Liverpool, partially to spice things up and partially due to my love for underdogs. 44 minutes into the first half, AC Milan had a massive 3-0 lead which looked unassailable at that point. The half-time break passed as my friends mocked me. What happened in the second half was nothing short of pure magic. Within the first 10 minutes, Liverpool had staged what would be one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Yes, it had taken them just 10 minutes to cover a 3 goal deficit during the finals of the greatest competition in club football. Liverpool continued to fight as they fended off various attacks by a blazing AC Milan team over the course of 120 minutes and finally managed to win the game in the penalty shootouts. At the centre of all the magic and perseverance was one man- Seven Gerrard, the captain of the Liverpool team. From scoring the first goal which paved the way for the comeback to winning a penalty for his team which ultimately led to the equaliser, this man never gave up. He marshalled his troops, shouted his lungs out to keep his team motivated and contributed to numerous attacking moves without showing a sign of fatigue.
From that night to this moment, I have been in absolute awe of Steven Gerrard. I have really never liked the concept of being a fan, so, to me, he was more of an idol. This certainly doesn’t mean that I wanted to play football like him, I just idolised the way he conducted himself, the way he never lost his cool and most importantly, the way he never gave up no matter what and continued to fight even when the odds were heavily against him. His last ever Premier League match bears testimony to his unfaltering perseverance. Liverpool were losing 1-3 to Crystal Palace and the match was of little significance as the league table was more or less fixed. At this point, most people in Gerrard’s position would have either not cared or would have given up even if they had cared. However, it was not so with Gerrard. He was still having shots at the goal, staying positive, and motivating his team mates. He may not have been as skilled as Messi or as physically fit as Ronaldo, but the above mentioned qualities certainly managed to put him in close competition to such players.
Another quality of his which really appealed to me was his simplicity. He maintained a simple and constant haircut, didn’t show unnecessary bigheadedness and all in all just stayed out of trouble. He treated everyone with respect and was rarely in news for the wrong reasons.
His love for the game and his club also sets him apart from others of his kind. In his own words- ‘When I die, don’t bring me to the hospital. Bring me to Anfield. I was born there and will die there’. In a world that is crazy after money and trophies he stayed put at one club. He had offers from Chelsea, Real Madrid and many other places where he could have earned more and won more trophies. Many people might call it stupidity but personally, I feel it reflects loyalty and absolute love towards what you do, virtues which are fast depreciating in this world. He still held on to those values and for that he deserves to be appreciated.
It pains me to realise that he will no longer grace a football field and that there will be no more of those thunderous volleys which caused entire stadiums to erupt with joy. But this man led a successful career and no one can debate that. He managed to make us realise that success is not always the amount of money you make or the amount of accolades you win; it can also mean rejecting all that in favour of loyalty and happiness. He showed unflinching dedication towards one club and managed to get unrelenting love from around the world in return. Isn’t that success? He was happy and content with whatever he managed whilst not compromising on his principles. Isn’t that success? I would like to end with his answer on how he would like to remembered by his fans-
“As someone who played for them, who gave everything he had to try and make them happy.”