The Federal Head of the Hillsborough 96: Liverpool F.C.

17 Apr

On April 15, 1989, tragedy struck at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England.  On the cusp of an FA Cup Semi-final tie between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, police allowed fans to flood standing room areas at the Leppings Lane end of the stadium.  This rapid influx of fans, combined with the lack of police control, led to a human crush.  Chaos ensued. Fans screamed and did everything they could to escape the area, climbing over the side fences and clambering up to the sections above.  As the pressure was relieved, the bodies of the injured and dying were strewn about the pitch, many of them awaiting emergency care that never came.

Ninety-six people died that day.  Seventy-nine of them were 30 years old and younger.  It remains to this day the worst stadium-related disaster in the history of Britain.

As a Liverpool football fan, I cannot help but grieve for the families of those who lost loved ones.  That is part of what is means to become part of a sports family.  You become a part of the history; the successes, the failures, the triumphs, the tragedies.  Though fans are found around the world–myself in the United States–we are united together around this football team.

And this leads me to a video I found yesterday when I was perusing Youtube:

It is a very powerful video.  Emotionally charged.  A roller coaster of pain and frustration, culminating in triumph and determination, looking ahead to a match with title competitors, Manchester City, on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary.

But whether knowingly or unknowingly, the video presents us with something more.  It reveals the power of sports, the hope it creates for people, and the way in which a team can unite them around itself and represent them.

In this case, Liverpool F.C. serves as the federal head of all kinds of Liverpudlians, bringing them together under the red banner and emboldened Liverbird.  Even the motto, You’ll Never Walk Alone, conveys the unity and bond between club and community.  And did you catch the language? The video connects religious language to the tragedies of the past and the present hope in the form of the current squad.  The team takes on a messianic role, to represent the community–and especially the 96–and bring justice in the form of realized hope: a Premier League Title.

And yet, the hope a team brings is fleeting.  For every success, every victory, and every title, there are countless failures and losses.  The pain of  loss and the questions of justice will remain even after championship parades and celebrations ushering in the good days at Anfield again.  But there is a greater hope that does not fade, a more perfect representative who stands at the ready–to bring true justice, victory over death and despair, and loving kindness–for all those who might find Him as their head: Jesus Christ.

And so, I hope along with all my fellow Reds supporters that we can bring the title back to Anfield.  I desire to see joy and happiness return–if only for a summer–to many of those whose life is football, and many who have lived with the pain and trials of the past 25 years in the wake of Hillsborough.  Yet, as a servant of Christ, I yearn that their eyes, like mine, would be opened to the glorious grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For surely, with Him, we may never walk alone.  Amen.

 

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