When Fenway Sports Group, the American investment company that also owns the Boston Red Sox, purchased Liverpool FC in 2010 it was clear that the storied club would be getting a lot more attention in New England.
Early on, some of that attention was negative, with many Sox fans I knew fearing the acquisition would lead to the owners neglecting their duties with the baseball team or being a little more tight with their spending.
But almost two years later, Liverpool came to visit historic Fenway Park in my adopted city, and judging by the crowd and atmosphere little of that initial wariness remains.
FSG and Liverpool did a fantastic job promoting this game and the stadium, which was adorned with some nice touches to recreate a real English football match in Liverpool, was practically full. And I’d conservatively estimate that 75% of the reported 37,169 fans at Fenway were wearing Liverpool gear and not giallorossi.
And despite losing 2-1 to the visiting Italian side, the club and stadium hosted a good match and surely won over some of their newer fans.
Some more details about the fan experience and amateur iPhone photography after the jump.
This was not the first European football friendly to be played at Fenway Park. The stadium has hosted 20 soccer matches in its history, the most recent one before Wednesday night being 2010′s friendly between Celtic FC and Sporting Lisbon.
I was in Boston for that match and the excitement was nowhere near the level it reached before this latest affair. FSG, which also owns a majority of NESN, the local sports station here that covers the Red Sox and other Boston teams, has really pushed LFC hard in the area. Many Liverpool matches are shown on replay on the network and merchandise is available in other souvenier shops throughout the city.
The Fenway area was packed, and history was made with the first ever miniature FourFiveTwo meet up between regular commenters Scouse_eh, KC Gunner, and myself at the Boston Beerworks, just one of many packed bars around the stadium.
We made sure to virulently judge the lone dude in a Tim Cahill Everton orange jersey because we knew that’s what you would want from us. Come to think of it, it might have been Brian.
As we made our way in I saw a lot of people wearing these shirts:
A little cheesy. But that stuff works around here. Maybe a no-brainer but tying the club to a team with an already fervent fan-base is a very smart move.
As I made my way to the 1st base side, I passed what was dubbed the “Fenway Kop”, the large center and right field bleachers. It was one of the touches I alluded to earlier that showed some attention to detail, I’d say some authenticity, and were pretty cool to see.
Despite being in a standing-room only pavilion, we had a great view:
The fans had enthusiasm for the most part, but were understandably lacking a bit in knowledge. The “Fenway Kop” wasn’t too happy when Roma’s Michael Bradley opened the scoring in the second half:
Chants of USA! were started by a few sections of supporters, even people wearing LFC shirts because why not? It’s a friendly. He’s a USMNT team player. And we finally saw a goal!
But the massholes behind me were irate, and this after wondering loudly the entire game why Carroll, Gerrard, and Suarez weren’t on the pitch. Obviously there are obnoxious fans at any sporting event, but when you combine obnoxiousness with a total lack of understanding of the sport you get a disgusting blend of ignorance and rudeness.
These are extreme examples, and I did hear a few small pockets of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, but for the most part chants were kept to the rare ”Roma! Roma!” and one or two “Liiiiiiverpooool” choruses.
As the knowledge of the game grows, and this game is clearly part of that, the atmosphere at these matches will continue to improve.
But again, the hosts did a good job of adding to this ambience themselves, and I captured these two images on my way out after an entertaining second half which even saw the jamokes behind me enjoying a goal from their favorite player “Charlie Adams”.
Overall a great experience, and I’m sure a profitable one for FSG, hopefully ensuring more top quality teams choose to come to Boston to take on New England’s new soccer darling (sorry Revolution) and showcase their brands in the future.
I’d be interested to hear from others who were there, so if you had a wicked good time at Fenway also, let us know about it below.