at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
One-club men in modern football are as rare as honourable presidents in southern Africa. Many aspire to be, but they fall along the way, tempted by easy money, citing ambition or bad guidance for giving into temptation.
Modern footballers use the same excuses, too. They point to desolate trophy cabinets, to cupboards full of nothing but replica jerseys from more decorated adversaries, and the need for a few extra zeroes in the bank balance.
Who could deny them that? After all, a sporting career can be over in moments. Such is life.
It is precisely that unpredictable nature of life, particularly on the football field, that makes Steven Gerrard’s career-long vigil for a league title at his beloved Anfield so honourable. So deserving.
Gerrard, in his prime, could have gone to any club in Europe, and demanded a starting position, as well as his cherished number 8. And what’s more, none would have grumbled. Not Real Madrid, with their galacticos. Not Chelsea, with their blue-bloods. Not Manchester United, with their suspicions of anything Scouser.
No one would have told Gerrard, at his magnificent, marauding best, that they didn’t need his unique talents in their arsenal. No one. As the years have taken their toll, Gerrard now finds himself in the quarter-back role, feeding the ball to the gifted Coutinho to make the incisive pass.
Others may have seen that as a demotion, and gone off to chase easy money and headlines in America, or in a commentary studio. But not Steven Gerrard. He never left the city or the club that made him. Now, he stands four wins away from a dream that must have seemed so far away at times, especially during the torturous eras of Kenny Dalglish and the end of the Rafa Benitez tenure.
Back when he was sharing midfield duties with Momo Sissokho, or trying to locate a jaded Fernando Morientes with a hopeful pass – on crappy Thursday nights in the Uefa Cup – ‘Stevie G’ must have figured the football gods had decided that his would be a career with some great nights, but not the claim of being the best team in the land.
Those dark days are a world away from the slick, modern mob which is tearing teams to pieces, armed with the best strike partnership in Europe. In full flight, as they were in the first half against Manchester City last week, Liverpool are truly devastating. The potent mix of relief and rejoice that greeted the final whistle at Anfield last Sunday will ensure that when Chelsea visit next Sunday, they will be greeted by a deafening wall of emotion not felt there since their titanic Champions League scraps of 2004/05.
Back then, Jose Mourinho was openly courting Gerrard. Nine, manic, memorable years on, Mourinho has travelled across Europe, collecting trophies and enemies with equal ease. Gerrard stayed. He was there when Fernando Torres arrived at Anfield, and was immediately proclaimed as the new Ian Rush, the saviour of Liverpool. Gerrard was there when Torres slinked into the night for a fortune, abandoning the Reds’ dinghy for Roman Abramovich’s luxury liner.
But football has a funny way of rewarding loyalty. Torres’ two former sides, Atletico and Liverpool, are enjoying renaissances that even Hollywood couldn’t dream up. He could have been there, revelling in the glory of a success forged in hard labour, and not cold cash.
Now, he is a tortured soul at Stamford Bridge, a shadow of the gazelle who used to terrorise visitors to Anfield. The Kop, witty even during the club’s darkest hours, will remind Torres of the folly of his ways. But only after serenading Gerrard. You see, The Kop knows that Gerrard, when he was head and shoulders above his team-mates, could have left, much like Torres did. - Sunday Independent