Stand Up and Walk Out

TT was super annoyed with me that night when we happened to be watching the same football match. It was the game where Liverpool FC drew 2-2 with Sunderland after being 2-0 up with about 10 minutes to go. It was also the game where Liverpool supporters staged a protest by walking out of the stadium at the 77th minute, to show their displeasure of the club owners for attempting to hike ticket prices by almost 30%.

For some reason I couldn't fathom, TT was agitated and started throwing her wild annoyances in whatsapp. The only thing I could remember reading was, "I had mixed feelings about the protest." The rest, I couldn't be bothered to read. You probably guessed right. I am in full support of that protest. For the record, some fans and the media suggested that the walkout might have caused the team to concede two goals in the last 10 minutes and cost the club 2 points. I don't buy that shit. If Liverpool players are worth their salt, they will have delivered the results even playing in an empty stadium. None of the past great managers that led Liverpool to fame would not buy that shit either.

I have been a Liverpool supporter for 27 years. I was surrounded by mocking Manchester United fans throughout my school and army life because of their success and Liverpool FC's failures. When Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005, I celebrated quietly in my room by biting hard on my pillow and shaking it crazily like how my dog would, in order not to wake the neighbours. I didn't start wearing a red jersey everywhere I go or indulge in exercising bragging rights to those Man United fans. We have more class than that. Besides, I knew that win wasn't sustainable because the club simply could not compete in terms of revenue and it was a matter of time the club would be reduced to mid-table mediocrity.

Despite that, I have never stop following the club. The main reason was that I resonate with the people that made the club, the people I never actually met. They are the Scousers, the local supporters of the club, a working class. The Scousers are not exactly popular among their countrymen. They have been constantly called names and insulting songs sang about them are pretty much a common practice among rival fans. However, these people never stopped standing up against the tide. Perhaps the motto, "You'll never walk alone" truly live in each of them or perhaps, they didn't have a choice. It was that spirit that sparked the most arguably exciting Champion League final in memory, where LFC were 3-0 down to AC Milan by half-time. The fans never gave up and sang through the walls of the stadium during the break. The players heard them and returned to the field like men possessed. The rest was remarkable history.

Football supporters in general have been tolerating incredulous ticket prices for a long while. The Scousers were the first people who stood up against it. For once, their countrymen hailed their efforts and stood with them. I followed comments of overseas fans, in the Singapore supporter groups in particular, very closely. Most of their opinions were cynical at best. "What good would that do?" they chorused. Well, that is Singaporean for you. We swallow whatever that is being shoved down to our throats with a whimper or two at best. We complain but are contented with no result whatsoever towards our own interest. Then we convinced ourselves by telling ourselves, "Bo bian, it's like dat." But it isn't. It only is if we do not stand up for ourselves.

Contrary to what the Singapore LFC supporter group thought, LFC's owners FSG actually did the opposite. They backed down, promised a price freeze for 2 years and issued a public apology to the supporters of the club. In their apology, they mentioned they were "wrong" and "mistaken" multiple times. A particular phrase caught my attention,

"From our first days as owners we have understood that serving as custodians of this incredible institution is a distinct privilege and as such, we have been driven solely by the desire to return LFC to the pinnacle of football."

Whether that is a PR stunt or not, I do not know. What I know is that I come from a country governed by a ruling party for half a century. It has come to a point where they have absolutely zero humility to admit a single mistake and the people are constantly being convinced that the ruling party are god's gift to them. Even as owners, FSG has the humility to call themselves mere custodians of the club. The ruling party somewhere else, merely voted in by the population, acts like they own the fucking country. The saddest thing about that is the people actually agree it is the ruler party's divine right to lord over them and lap up every policy, every decision against the people.

For all I knew too well, Singaporeans, starting from their ex-Prime Minister, labelled their own countrymen stood up and walked out as, "Quitters." I ever challenged someone who told me, "If only I have an PR elsewhere." I asked her if her entire family was granted Aussie PR at that instant, would she have the courage to pack up and leave? I was greeted with a pause longer than a multi-combo. It takes courage, lots of courage, to stand up and walk out. The Scousers did that. I would never have mixed feelings about it. Only admiration.