By TTT Subscriber Anthony Stanley.
‘Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing… monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium’
– WB Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium.
Allow me a brief sojourn into the annals of history.
Byzantium – glorious and golden, seat of the Byzantine emperor. Following the split of the Roman Empire into a western and eastern sphere, the city was renamed Constantinople by Constantine I. Because of its unique location, straddling two continents, it would become the cultural and economic hub between Europe and Asia and was a site of significant strategic importance. In 1453, the city fell to the Ottoman Empire and the Turks renamed it from the Greek for ‘to-the-city’.
A chequered and glorious history, one rife with tales of triumph, despair, sieges, heroism, and glory. Glory.
You probably see where this is going.
Istanbul and glory. The name of the city has entered the lexicon of Liverpool fans to describe, what was not just a night but an exorcism for the previous two decades of our collective frustrations.
We all have different memories and just breathing the word ‘Istanbul’ conjures up fantastical images in all of our minds. No one even calls it the Champions League win or the European Cup final; we simply breathe ‘Istanbul’. Two cities met that night, both steeped in rich tradition and history. The name of one became synonymous with perhaps the greatest night of the fans’ of the other one.
Say the words to yourself as they invoke pictures of splendour and of majesty and of magic and of poetry: Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul.
To Liverpool fans all over the world, the grandeur and splendid legacy of the ancient and medieval cities is completely overshadowed by one game of football in a stadium in the middle of nowhere. It has become part of our mythology.
Who would have foreseen the denouement as the season kicked off? We had absolutely no idea what awaited us, did we?
It began with hope; not that we would etch our name on ‘Ol Big Ears’ again – that could not have been further from our minds – but hope that, after stagnation, things were moving in the right direction. The Spanish manager Rafa Benitez, usurper of the La Liga duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona, took over from a floundering Houllier. Kopites greeted his appointment with huge optimism; we remembered his monolithic Valencia wiping the floor with us in recent seasons and we theoretically juxtaposed his achievements in Spain with what he could do to the heavy hitters of our league.
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