Having lived in Liverpool and worked in Anfield for the three years of university, I always knew that moving to Madrid would be difficult. It was like the feeling of getting out of a horrible marriage and escaping to the sunny lands of freedom, but knowing that I’d be seeing my kid a lot less as a result.
The grey skies of England were Sunday-nights-watching-shit-tele sort of dreary, the pissing down rain the arguments that follow. What about Liverpool, though? How would they cope seeing me less, and vice versa?
The transition was made a lot easier by the fact that Madrid is home to a large Liverpool fan club, which meets for every game at popular ex-pat haunt Triskel Tavern. In a city whose Irish pubs are predominantly fraudulent establishments catering to loud tourists and serving watered-down, five euro pints, Triskel is the perfect antidote: Grimy in that Goldilocks ‘just the right sort of grimy’ way, with €3,50 pints, friendly bar staff, wacky regulars and a distinct lack of stag doos; it’s the perfect local and a brilliant portal for those big nights at Anfield.
During my time in Spain, I’ve peculiarly grown to be a fan of Napoli also. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Spanish football and go to watch all the local sides from Real to Rayo when I can, but it’s Napoli who I watch with most dedication, apart from Liverpool of course.
Curiously, I’ve got a few friends here who land in the middle of a strange Liverpool-Napoli pie chart, too, but we normally stick to watching Napoli in the house.
Seeing the fixtures for the last weekend of October, though, we decided things were too perfect not to do a double-header; Liverpool away to Crystal Palace at 6.30 followed by the monumental meeting between Juve and Napoli at 8.45, and the two bars the supporters gather in separated by just 14 minutes – incidentally the perfect duration to sneak in a cheap street beer on the way.
The Liverpool game could not have worked out better. A far smaller amount of fans made the trip down than can be expected for higher profile matches, but there was still a big enough crowd to create an atmosphere, with songs belted out almost at the intensity of Liverpool’s press.
After a crazy first-half, Liverpool went into the interval 3-2 up, putting the game to bed in the 71st minute with a stylish Roberto Firmino finish. We stuck around for a rendition of ‘Poetry in Motion’ and rushed off to watch the Italian stuff via the chino – a term for a convenience store that would only be used by fans of Roy Chubby Brown in Britain, but is unnervingly commonplace in Spain.
The author is that handsome devil standing up.
Buoyed by the result and the bottle of rum purchased in the shop, we swaggered into the Napoli bar with a spring in our step and a joviality that was immediately dissipated by the tension in the room; the Napoli fans were clearly in no mood for singing. The hatred for Juventus and one Gonzalo Gerardo Higuaín meant too much was at stake for frivolity.
The game was an entertaining affair, with Napoli taking advantage of Juventus nerves and dominating the first-half. Juventus took the lead, however, with Leonardo Bonucci reminding us why every manager and his mother wanted to sign the Italian this summer with a finish that makes the fact he plays in defence very confusing.
Spain’s own Joseph Mary Alley – José María Callejon – got a nice equaliser, but the game wasn’t over. Higuaín, as seemed predestined, netted a winner, creating a mood that only a goal from that particular man or a world shortage of pizza dough could inspire in a room of Napolitans.
This Gif has no real place in the article, but is very comforting.
Despite this scripted tragedy, the game still managed to be pretty fun. We fielded questions at half-time from intrigued fans about what attracted us to the club, our favourite players and such; I even milked up a gratuitous round of applause for being an Englishman in a Napoli shirt (having felt like an awful traitor changing tops in the toilets immediately after Liverpool).
Over a post-match pizza and bottle of wine afterwards in a place owned by friends of our friend – conveniently all Juventus fans more than happy to deliver a bit of unwelcome banter – we drunkenly discussed how great it feels to be part of a movement such as an overseas supporter’s club.
Pining for home with comrades seems to insidiously become a home in itself, to the extent that I can imagine myself sitting in Anfield one day in the future wondering what the atmosphere is like back in Triskel.