By David Rogers. August 3, 2014. CHARLOTTE, NC — There was something decidedly "foreign" about Saturday's Guinness International Champions Cup match between A C Milan and Liverpool at Bank of America Stadium.
Field level photographic images by Skip Sickler for Blowing Rock News.
Press box level photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
It might as well be a Liverpool home game. Well over two hours before the professional soccer match's kickoff, Liverpool fans were lined up at a Mint Street concession across the street from the Stadium — 10 across and 40 deep — to buy Liverpool memorabilia, from signs and banners and t-shirts, to favorite player jerseys and seat cushions.
"You'll Never Walk Alone" was a song composed for the musical Carousel, but the most successful cover of the composition in the United Kingdom was released by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963. It became the anthem of the Liverpool Football Club and is traditionally sung by the mostly red and white clad supporters of among England's most famous soccer clubs before every one of their games.
Liverpool is a western seaside city known in history for its participation in the Atlantic slave trade, the port of registry for the RMS Titanic, Guinness World Records recognition as the "World Capital City of Pop" (music), the Beatles, "Beat Music", and visits by authors Charles Dickens, Daniel Dafoe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Washington Irving.
On this day, even though in America and a long way from the stony shores of the U.K., red and white colors dotted, no swamped the BofA Stadium landscape. In short, the Liverpool fans made sure that they lived up to their anthem in the eyes of the players on the field, who certainly did not "walk alone" Saturday night. There was reported attendance of 69,000+ and only a handful of them were rooting for AC Milan.
For the provincial reporter, Saturday's post-game press conference was a study in frustration. Liverpool won the game, 2-0. We may have captured a digital image of the last Liverpool goal (our featured shot at the top) in the 89th minute (out of 90), but we were much less adept at capturing post game comments, even with a recording device.
The AC Milan coach went first, responding in Italian to questions asked in Italian. After passionate, two and three minute responses that surely detailed every tactical and strategic aspect of the boot-shaped nation's soccer failures on this night, anyway, the translater — in undecipherable English — summarized (we think) in about 10 seconds.
The Liverpool press conference was only slightly better. Manager Brendan Rogers was so soft-spoken he could hardly be heard, but the highly decorated Northern Ireland native reflected a gentle soul. In answer to a question from Blowing Rock News about his perception of soccer's evolution in America, he noted the improving and enthusiastic fan support, the youth programs, and a growing popularity for professional soccer and improved U.S. play in international competition in saying that soccer in the USA is going down the right path, with a great future.
The play of an international soccer game was almost an afterthought compared to the fan response and enthusiasm. Play was fast, featuring a lot of one-touch passing by both sides. A little surprising was the level of holding and body checking that players got away with. It was a tough, physical match. The players were not playing for the European Cup, but they were playing for real.