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16th May 2022

Liverpool fans were right to boo the national anthem

Reuben Pinder

These days, if you say you’re Scouse, not English, you get locked up and thrown in jail

In late May 2015, almost 100,000 people filled the Camp Nou to the brim for the Copa del Rey final. An entire stadium full of Catalan and Basque nationalists, supporting Barcelona and Athletic Club, in pursuit of Spanish football’s second most prestigious domestic prize. The atmosphere was, predictably, tense.

As the national anthem was played ahead of kick-off, deafening boos and whistles rang around the ground, such is the historic relationship between the two regions and the Spanish state.

Attempts to eradicate their respective cultures, and languages, are not easily forgiven, or forgotten. And so it should have come as no surprise to anyone that those supporters might take a dim view of the Spanish state.

If we are able to get our heads around this, there is no reason why anyone in the UK with the most basic knowledge of the country’s history should be shocked or appalled that Liverpool fans might want to do the same thing with ‘God Save The Queen’ ahead of an FA Cup final at Wembley.

The outrage that followed a peaceful expression of political discontent – often from those who proclaim to be passionate defenders of free speech – was depressingly predictable. It is a sad indictment on the UK, more specifically England, that so many people wilfully choose to ignore the reasons behind this phenomenon, and instead march into the online battlefield to defend their beloved monarchy.

As was the case in Spain, the situation behind the weekend’s boos are both historical and political. There is a reason so many people on Merseyside identify as ‘Scouse not English.’

The city of Liverpool has been systematically neglected by the state and and patronised by vast sections of its citizens for decades. During Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister, her government had planned to put the city into what they called ‘managed decline.’ In layman’s terms: “they’re not going to vote for us anyway, so fuck ’em.”

Then of course there is the Hillsborough disaster and the cover-up that followed, which shifted the failings of the state and the police onto innocent Liverpool fans, 97 of whom lost their lives as a result of the crush. The long-term impact of this cover-up can still be seen, felt and heard at football matches and across the city of Liverpool now.

Regional rivalry is a big part of football fandom, but anti-Liverpool chants from rival fanbases carry that extra bit of venom. ‘Always the victims’ is a popular jibe among those who continue to propagate the myths surrounding Hillsborough, while classist insults – often including the term ‘bin dippers’ – further demonise the working class at a time when more than one in five Brits are living below the poverty line.

Thankfully, Liverpool are blessed with a manager who is not only elite in his field of work, but also understands the area, its regional identity, and has the courage to back his fans in such a divisive debate.

This is also why so many Liverpool fans do not identify as closely with the England team as other club fans around the country. While the national team does unify many other fanbases, can you really blame Liverpool fans for not wanting to join forces with the same people who mock the economic plight of their city?

If you want to sing the national anthem, sing it. If Liverpool fans want to boo it, let them. It’s a shit song anyway.