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It is only 900 metres from Everton's Goodison Park to Liverpool's Anfield. In the streets between, there live priests, drinkers, hairdressers and soldiers. For them, the football is both close by yet a million miles away. In April, we walked down the streets inbetween the two stadiums. This is our longread with pictures and videos.
Black letters are carved into the red brick wall: Everton Football Club. Behind it, Goodison Park, the stadium of Everton FC arches up. Nine-year old Aiden McGee whizzes by on his scooter. Which team do you support? He doesn’t answer verbally but points across the park on his left. There are terraces behind the park. Those of Anfield, the stadium of Liverpool FC. Which club do you your family members support? The kid points over to the other side, behind the red brick wall. Goodison, Everton.
His mother smiles. Her son has been overwhelmed by presents from the other family members, she says, Everton tops, scarves and all that. He even had a trial at the club. But Aiden shakes his head, no chance, Liverpool forward Daniel Sturridge is his beloved idol. Once again, he points to Anfield and says, ‘I will be a professional for the Reds. And then, I will buy my parents a Convertable’. For now he has to settle for speeding his scooter through the neighbourhood. A quite unique neighbourhood that includes two renowned clubs of the Premier League.
The straight-line distance between the two stadiums is only 900 metres. Between them, there lies the buffer zone of Stanley Park. It doesn’t take longer than 20 minutes to walk from one to the other. Everton started playing at Anfield at the end of the 19th century but after controversies over the purchase of the land from its then owner, the club moved to Goodison Park. The businessman John Houlding founded Liverpool FC at Anfield. It was the beginning of a special relationship. In the words of Bill Shankly, Liverpool’s legendary manager and no less talented aphorist, ‘If Everton were playing at the bottom of my garden, I’d pull the curtains’.
Feud or mere folklore? How distant could be two clubs that stand so near to each other? Answers lie in the streets on a quiet Thursday in April when no game is scheduled and the streets are empty of fans from outside the city. A walk through the quarter, a visit to the neighbours of Goodison and Anfield.
Stacey Peers is a hairdresser, red hairs, red nails, red heart. Liverpool FC born and bred, she says. But she can’t avoid Everton as the stadium towers over her salon from across the street. Ten years ago, at the age of 23, she met a young lad named Steven Gerrard in a bar, ‘nice company’, she says nonchalantly, as if this Steven has grafted in the docks and not for seventeen years in the midfield of her beloved club. Stacey Peers is the only employee of Susan Savage, a lady with long bleached blonde hair. Susan is an Evertonian through and through. In a space of 15 square metres, the two women cut and debate, no mattter if the clients are old ladies with permanent waves or young lads with tattooed wrists, no matter if they are red or blue. Right in the shadow of the stadium. They all get along well, like a family, they say. But why is that? The answer is just one word: Hillsborough.
11FREUNDE-Dossier on Hillsborough: http://www.11freunde.de/tags/hillsborough
On April the 15th in 1989, 96 supporters of Liverpool FC lost their lives in the stadium tragedy of Hillsborough – the home of Sheffield Wednesday FC, most of them were juveniles and died in a terrace crush. It seems everyone round here – whether a Liverpool or Everton supporter – has his own sad Hillsborough story to tell. The grief over their dead family members and friends bound them together as did the subsequent fight for justice. Police, Politicians and tabloid newspapers wrongly blamed the victims for the tragedy. The relatives fought for decades until the case was reconsidered and the administration apologised.
It is the burden of memory the people bear – but it is not the only one. Out on Goodison Road, sunbeams shine through the stadium walls. The neighbouring, narrow streets are an ocean of bricks. People in tracksuits sit on the steps of the entrance, in bony hands fags burn down to the filter. Young guys race by on Cross motorbikes, apart from that a calm atmosphere prevails in the quarter, shutters are let down, shops closed. They only open on matchdays, spenders and spending power is absent. Forty thousand plus people come to visit the game but the majority are not not interested in staying. The girls in the pubs tell us that only football keeps these bars alive – and this is England?! It’s as if, in another country, all the bakeries in town were closed down. A hearse drives down the road, through it’s large window you can see a blue coffin with the Everton club crest on it.
A man in a leather jacket comes across, frizzy grey hair, reddish beard. Which team do you support? He stands straight like in a military salute. Everton FC. He points to the stadium. Alan Ball, Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey – the holy trinity, the great midfield trio of the late sixtees and ealry seventees. Whoever watched these boys play had to be a slave to Everton instantly.