x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

So little to shout about

Liverpool and Detroit share a dynamic history but their glory years are a thing of the past.

If players like Fernando Torres are lured away from Anfield, it would be nothing less than a oil crisis,says Batchelor.
If players like Fernando Torres are lured away from Anfield, it would be nothing less than a oil crisis,says Batchelor.

"Put your hands up. Put your hands up for Dirk Kuyt." Of all the annoying ditties sung by Liverpool fans - and there are many - I find this one the most irritating. It is a reworking of a worldwide 2006 dance hit called Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit, by Fedde Le Grand. He is from Holland, by the way, but presumably Put Your Hands Up 4 Utrecht did not sound as cool.

For reasons I have yet to fathom, Liverpool fans decided to honour their hard-working but goal-shy Dutchman by replacing the word "Detroit" with the words "Dirk Kuyt". Knowing how the Kopites pride themselves on the ingenuity of their chants, I am convinced there must be more to it than both phrases having two syllables, and starting with D and ending in T. My best guess was that they were having a sly dig at Kuyt via a complex pun. Detroit, Michigan. Dirk Kuyt, Miss Again.

But last week I watched a television documentary which made me think that comparisons between Liverpool FC and Detroit are not so inexplicable. The Motor City and the Motormouths are linked by a shared history and, more worryingly, a shared future. The documentary, called A Requiem For Detroit, depicts in stunning detail the transformation of the world's fourth largest city to a crumbling ghost town. The parallels to LFC were uncanny.

Both were built on the success of charismatic visionaries (Henry Ford in Detroit and Bill Shankly at Liverpool), enjoyed an apparently unstoppable boom (1910s/20s, 1970s/80s), and have since fallen into long-term decline. In both cases, that decline was masked by occasional blips of good fortune. Detroit enjoyed an artificial boom when it switched to arms manufacture during World War Two. Liverpool enjoyed an artificial boom of silverware in the last decade: the "Mickey Mouse treble" of 2001 and a European Cup snatched under freak circumstances in 2005.

In reality the rot had already set in and trouble lay in store. Detroit came unstuck because firms like General Motors invested all their cash in flashy bodywork while sticking with the same old gas-guzzling engines beneath the hood. A couple of oil crises were sufficient to expose this flaw and deliver a fatal blow, as consumers opted for more efficient European models. The golden goose died. Likewise, Liverpool has continued to produce an attractive product - sell-out crowds, occasional silverware and entertaining football, although one might argue that some of the games under Gerard Houllier lacked the aesthetic appeal of, say, a 1956 Cadillac - but they have a problem beneath the hood.

LFC has a rusty old engine which is failing to take them to where they need to go. That is, sustained dominance of the Premier League or the Champions' League. And what if Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard are finally lured away from Anfield by the offers of more money at Manchester City, Chelsea or Europe's big clubs? That sounds like an oil crisis to me. I wonder if that winged creature on the club crest is not a Liver Bird but another ailing goose with no more golden eggs to lay. Manchester United have ongoing success. Chelsea have money. Arsenal have a new stadium. What do Liverpool have? History and pride. Detroit had plenty of history and pride, too. Just ask the people who used to live there.

I have a confession to make. Until Friday, I had never watched an Indian Premier League match. Before you screw up this page in disgust, allow me to defend myself. Firstly, I never claimed to be a cricket expert. As a fair-weather fan of the sport, both literally and figuratively, I only watch if the sun is shining and England are winning. Such a combination happens so infrequently that I tend to lose track of developments in the sport. However, with live IPL games now freely available online, I decided to see what I was missing. Which brings me to my second point: I loved it. Yes, it is an assault on the senses. The ghastly costumes, the bulging muscles, the sweat-drenched celebrations - and that's just the cheerleaders. Throw in a blitz of F1-style corporate logos, baseball-style fanfares, and Chelsea-style supporters' props (flags, horns, foam hands) and this grotesque carnival should be everything I detest about modern "sportertainment". But rising above the plastic pomp is the genuine passion of the crowds. The atmosphere at the Mumbai-Bangalore match sounded more intense than anything I have heard in a long time. It reminded me of an English football match before the game was "improved" by money. My only complaint is the team names. If you are going to use meaningless monikers, at least have some fun with them. Chennai Super Kings? The Madras Kickers would have been better. And while the two new franchises will be based in Pune and Kochi, I believe other cities offer more potential for comic names. The Hyderabad Boys would get my support, for example. How about the Ahmedabad Mistakes, the Patna Heads, the Indore Fireworks, the Mysore Eyes? Or, for a real grudge match, the Agra Phobics versus the Kanpur Vans. OK, now you can screw up this page in disgust. Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan. @Email:sports@thenational.ae