24 May Worriers of Athens
All is done now, the final ball kicked and the whistle long blown. What can I say? Fairy tales are rare enough in life—what chance the fantastic and outright miraculous repeating itself in the Champions League?
In a reverse of the“Miracle of Istanbul” of 2005—a come from behind football victory so preposterous it could only have been scripted in heaven—and this scribe certainly wrote it so (Formality Warped into an Epic), Liverpool made all of the running against AC Milan in Athens today, had all of the chances and most of the possession. They played with heart and with passion, and fully deserved to have won. But sadly, it wasn’t to be so.
The resolute but barely deserving Italians, in a fashion similar to last year’s World Cup, made the best of only a handful of chances, scoring twice against the run of play. Whatever the scorecard might say, money, corruption and negativity were at the final whistle, winners on the day.
While admittedly Milan scored one worthy goal—the other a hand ball if not offside as far as this red-hearted, red-eyed fan is concerned, it is controversial that the champions elect were even in the title race. Convicted of match fixing and corruption last season, they were initially barred from participation, a punishment only overturned on appeal. Money and power so often talk louder than justice it does seem; miracles were always against the run of this particular play.
Coach Rafael Benitez of Liverpool, all dignity in the face of near conspiratorial adversity, questioned the questionable long and loud; his final substitution delayed for more than four minutes, extra time cut mysteriously short, almost every close decision going against him and his players when the going got tight.
When all is said, protested and done, he can be proud of his team, however unpalatable the final result, as can the legion of red fans. Liverpool played with a stature far above their individual ability, and just for a moment, a goal in the 86th minute drawing the score back to 1-2, it seemed a glimmer of the miraculous might shine forth again.
Perhaps the problem was that Benitez, so poised in the face of a semi-final penalty shoot-out two weeks before that he appeared to be meditating—literally, like a yogi, seated in semi-lotus position as his team slotted home the winning goals—put his faith in protestations of injustice, official incompetence at best in the dying minutes, instead of concentrating on the beneficence of some hidden, inner power.
Concentration gives us victory,
But we need meditation
To maintain our victory-joy
When fear and doubt
Threaten to take it away.
Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 19.