Sunday, August 27, 2006

does sport give meaning to life? - the Kop at 100

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of The Kop, a stand in the stadium of the Liverpool football club. It no longer exists, replaced roughly 20 years ago by conventional seating; it was a set of concrete terraces built on a constructed hillside made of brick and rubble. I blogged about it last February in a post on Liverpool FC fans, Susan Sontag, and the Boer War. The fans, called Kopites, were credited with helping the team achieve dominance in home matches, not through visciousness towards opponents but rather by showing unquestioning support and passionate affection. As local accounts put it, this passionate affection for the Reds is shown in the adoption of You'll Never Walk Alone as anthem.

A club fan-site has a short review of the Kop's history. I've put extracts below. There's more history at the club's tv site and has an informative article on Bill Shankly, who is credited with helping the Kop achieve much of its character.

Shankly came from a small Scottish mining village where life was hard and football was an essential diversion from the dangers of the pits. The article says "Working six days a week in the harsh dangerous world of the coal face, left only Saturday evening for socialising over a beer at the Miner's Welfare Club - and Sunday for playing soccer." Shankly turned into an excellent player (one of a surprisingly large number who were able to use the sport as a means of escape.) As the article quoted below says, his work-life gave him a life-long commitment to socialism and helped him retain a strong bond with the working-class fans who inhabited the Kop.


Here's the extract from the Liverpool FC tv web site:
Spion Kop's mixture of myth and magic, Aug 25 2006


Saturday's first home game of the season marks the 100th anniversary of Liverpool FC's Spion Kop. In the first of two special reports, Mike Chapple looks at the creation of a sporting legend

THE Afrikaans name for the battle is Spioenkop, spioen for spy or look out and kop meaning hill or outcropping. Logical then that, at the end of the 1905/6 season, the new brick and cinder banking at Anfield should be christened the Spion Kop by Liverpool Echo sports editor Ernest Edwards.

It was named in honour of the many Merseysiders who died vainly trying to take the hill against overwhelming odds during the Boer War.

If Mr Edwards were still alive to celebrate tomorrow's 100th anniversary celebrations for the Kop, he would no doubt be pleased to note that, without the benefit of foresight, his moniker had come to mean something more profound than its literal translation.

This is epitomised by the Kop's anthem You'll Never Walk Alone. Sung at the climax of Roger and Hammerstein's classic movie musical Carousel, it's a song about united strength and fighting on together against all the odds.

It became Liverpool's rallying call after the song became Gerry and the Pacemakers' recordbreaking third consecutive number one hit in October, 1963.

[Under one of the] most iconic managers of them all, Bill Shankly, the terrace at last began to build its own unique and formidable identity.

Shankly's influence in all this was crucial. A true Socialist, he was the ultimate believer in the concept a football club had a responsibility to perform a service not to the shareholders but to the ordinary man in the street who worshipped at its gates.

Kopites know that through the wind and the rain their support is always expected - and respected. They respond in kind.

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