It is one of those questions that every football fan should have an immediate answer to: where were you when Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005?
Most will say they watched it in a pub or round at a mate's house with takeaway pizzas. The lucky few will even say they got to go to Istanbul and witness one of the greatest European Cup finals of all time for themselves.
My answer is slightly different. Despite being a Liverpool fanatic, I could not watch the match when I was back in Year Seven at Wood Green School. I was not allowed to. Why? Because the teacher said so.
On a history residential to Bath, Mr. Cooper thought it too important to go and do “evening activities” instead of letting us gather round the old television set in the youth hostel to enjoy one of the most dramatic sporting occasions that the world has ever seen.
I argued passionately with nearly all the other students on the trip that we should be able to watch the game, stressing that my beloved Liverpool were unlikely to feature in a match of this magnitude for quite some time, that being able to watch the game meant everything to me.
We shouldn’t have had to fight so vehemently. If Mr. Cooper had had any idea of what we were going on about, if he had just watched one news programme during the previous few days, then he surely would have known the importance of the event taking place that evening. It was a European final but a worldwide spectacle.
We may have been in Year Seven but we knew what was going on, we knew what a massive occasion the final was. Even the non-football devotees wanted to watch it. Even the other teachers wanted to watch it. The whole year was chanting “LIVERPOOL LIVERPOOL LIVERPOOL!” at the top of their voices but Mr. Cooper wasn’t listening.
He should have been. Mr. Cooper may have been a history teacher but on that night he missed the whole historical point. It was four-time European Cup winners Liverpool against six-time winners AC Milan. A contest steeped in tradition was ignored by a historian. Criminal.
Instead, we all had to trot off glumly to a local playing field where we kicked a football about and had a few games of rounders. A teacher less senior than Mr. Cooper kept us informed of the latest happenings from Istanbul via texts from her husband at home, but it was not the same. Not by a mile.
We were not living every moment of the final like we should have been, not watching great players score magnificent goals like Hernan Crespo and Vladimir Smicir did. But most importantly, we were not able to view Liverpool’s extraordinary showing of courage, determination and belief.
Pity, a lot of the students on the trip could have learnt a good lesson from Liverpool that night. Particularly from Steven Gerrard, who inspired his comrades to a battling victory that had appeared impossible.
3-0 down to a rampant Milan at half-time, there seemed no way back for Liverpool. Chastened by the sensational talents of Kaka, Pirlo and Crespo, Liverpool’s dressing room must have resembled a funeral at the break. All dejection and heartbreak.
But somehow belief rose through. Liverpool’s fans were magnificent, chanting ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ like never before. Pride in the red shirt took over the negative thoughts and Liverpool turned the tables extraordinarily in the second half to square things up at 3-3, before triumphing dramtically on penalties. Liverpool showed that passion-players can overcome skilful souls. But only if you believe. Only if you give 100%.
As Steven Gerrard roared his team on, as Jamie Carragher stretched every cramping muscle to clear balls, we were mucking about on a playing field. The young sportsman in our year were not watching what would have been a perfect example of why you should never give up, of why players should never throw in the towel and resort to dirty tactics like is so often the case. Liverpool’s win was an education in belief and courage. Mr. Cooper seemed to forget his academic principles that night.
Those students who were in Year Seven in 2005 will never forget that night and will never forget Mr. Cooper. A European Cup final brimming with drama showed off virtues that could not be presented so strongly anywhere else. For all the DVD’s of Liverpool’s momentous win, nothing could have replicated experiencing one of the greatest football matches of all time live.