Nick Stuart describes the nature of Anfield appreciation – and his own recognition of the efforts of Benfica’s supporters
With an electric buzz around the stadium ahead of kick-off, the Kop littered with giant flags is an iconic sight. Some of my personal favourites include legends from past and present, with the big red and yellow flag covered with trophies from former European glories my pick of the bunch. Decorated from top to toe with the Liverpool colours, the Kop stands ready, eager to impact proceedings.
You'll Never Walk Alone for me and a lot of the Liverpool supporters is much more than just a song. It is an anthem celebrating good times yet a show of solidarity on more sombre occasions too, like when it was sung as the tifo in tribute to the Hillsborough disaster was held aloft. Istanbul hero Xabi Alonso once said that it was at the Anfield leg of the 2005/06 tie against Benfica, when we were knocked out, that he heard the best rendition of the song – because the occasion was in such stark contrast to the highs of Istanbul the previous season.
Fast forward to 2022 and the Benfica fans were impressive, chanting right the way through the match, even as Bobby Firmino made it 3-1 to the Reds. Their support had some really great choreography, with the fans splitting in half and taking it in turns to point at the other section; from my seat in the Kop it was mesmerising to look at, even if I didn't know what they were singing about!
After the match I met up with my Benfica counterpart, Champions Journalist Fabio, for a quick post-game chat. As a show of fair play we swapped scarves too, ensuring we will never forget this tie.