On July 25th this year, Liverpool FC will play a preseason friendly against AS Roma at the home of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park. This tie has a lot of off field connections — John Henry and Tom Warner own both Liverpool and the Red Sox, Thomas DiBenedetto is a limited owner of both the Red Sox and is president and part owner of AS Roma. Even an NBA rivalry has entered the world of soccer with LeBron James of the Miami Heat a stakeholder in Liverpool, and Kevin Garnett a Boston Celtic, a stakeholder in AS Roma. There is also the history between Liverpool and Roma, most notably the 1984 European Cup Final which Liverpool won on penalties.
It is an historic year for America’s oldest ballpark too, as Fenway Park is 100 years old today. It first opened its doors on April 20th, 1912. That same year, the Red Sox won their first ever World Series and they also went on to win the World Series in 1915, and then again in 1916, and 1918. The 1915, 1916, and 1918 teams contained one of the game’s greatest ever players, namely Babe Ruth. Ruth was bought from the Baltimore Orioles in 1914 and spent six years at the Red Sox as a starting pitcher and a batter. After he was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919, the Red Sox never won a World Series again, a period known as the Curse of the Bambino, that was until John Henry and Tom Warner were at the helm some 86 years later in 2004. Now Henry and Warner own Liverpool and they want to being similar success to Merseyside.
Fenway Park is as an historic stadium as you can get. Similar to Liverpool fans, Red Sox fans are known for being some of the wisest and well-read in and about the game. Over the past few weeks, and as the news has sunk in that Liverpool are due to play Roma at Fenway Park later this year, I caught up with two massive Liverpool and Red Sox fans here in Boston, Chris Boulay of the Red Letter, and Beth Baker of LFC Boston to gauge their reaction to the forthcoming football/soccer/futbol game this July.
What does it mean to you to have Liverpool playing at Fenway Park this summer?
Chris: This is spectacular. Just to have them come back to the United States and New England is great. It’s huge because it shows that the owners care about Liverpool fans in Boston and in America. It’s also a huge opportunity for Americans to get into soccer. This is exactly how I got into Liverpool when they played Celtic in Hartford, Connecticut 8 years ago. I went to see them then as a newbie, and now Liverpool are one of the most important parts of my life.
Beth: It’s fantastic. For a lot of Liverpool fans in the Boston, this is the first time they will see the team in the flesh. For them to be playing in what is now my home town, Boston is just fantastic. Everybody is really excited about the game, fans from LFC Boston, and other fans too. The fact that they are coming to Boston means that it is going to bring a lot of Liverpool fans together from all over New England and beyond. I can’t wait for July to get here!
Do you think Liverpool coming here will actually impact on the growth of soccer in America?
Chris: Absolutely. Every time a soccer club comes here from Europe, it gives people here an opportunity, either just general sport fans or soccer fans or even just anybody, to see some of the best quality soccer the world has to offer.
What would Kopities make of Fenway Park?
Chris: Fenway Park is special. It’s an American Landmark in its own way and it’s in its 100th year as Americas oldest ballpark. It’s very historic in its own right yet it is completely different from Anfield. It’s not a large stadium, but it’s going to very loud, it’s going to be a very special atmosphere and Liverpool and Roma fans will be there in numbers. There’s the Green Monster in left field and it’s like nothing in any soccer stadium in the world.
Beth: You can kind of feel the history at Fenway as you walk into the ballpark. It’s the same at Anfield. Anyone who has been to Anfield should be able to feel the historic nature of Fenway and draw comparisons with that feeling you get at Anfield. You’ll be able to feel that this is the 100th year anniversary of the ballpark when you get there. During the game I’ll be screaming my head off and most other people I’ll be with will be too. At the pub when we watch Liverpool here in Boston, we try to get the environment of Anfield by singing, and chanting and shouting, and we’ll do our best to replicate that at Fenway.
Do you think there is any significance playing Rome in Boston?
Beth: I’m not sure. Both Roma and Liverpool have Boston and Red Sox connections through their ownership, and then there is the 1984 European Cup Final too. II think a lot of people will know about the Liverpool-Rome-Boston connections, and others they will learn about it over the coming weeks and months. I don’t think any significance regarding the ’84 cup final or any other connections are going to be lost in Boston, especially if July’s game goes to penalties!
What have you seen in terms of the growth of soccer in the USA over the past 8 years since Liverpool last played here?
Chris: Soccer has just exploded here and continues to get more popular. I remember watching the World Cup here when I was younger, and I only knew a few people here who were interested in it. Now it seems, everywhere you go there are soccer fans. Be it a Liverpool fan, a fan of a different English club, or a fan a club in another league. Everyone seems to be taking to the sport here and it’s only going to get bigger. Regarding Liverpool support here, it’s definitely changed. I remember a few years ago when I lived in Connecticut I knew very few people who loved Liverpool or even followed soccer. In Boston it was almost the same but now there are thousands of Liverpool fans in Boston and its suburbs alone, thanks in large part to the 2004 Liverpool Tour to New England and due to the work of LFC Boston over the past 6 years. When Liverpool played Celtic here in 2004, it got people interested and curious about soccer. This year’s tour is going to do that all over again. We think there are a lot of Liverpool fans in Boston now, but when we talk about the 2012 LFC tour in 2020, we’ll talk about how big support is for Liverpool then, and we’ll look back to 2012 and say how small it was compared to 2020 and beyond.
Beth Baker lives in Boston and she is the LFC Boston membership recruitment officer. Beth is also responsible for all LFC Boston memberships that are received through http://www.lfcboston.com
Chris Boulay lives in Boston and among other writing ventures that he is part of, he is the pregame writer for LFC Boston’s blog, The Red Letter.