You’ll Never Walk Alone

By Henry Church Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/3 16:18:40

Barcelona latest to get on the carousel

Liverpool fans hold up a giant scarf with the phrase "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the Anfield Stadium in Liverpool. Photo: VCG

"La Masia will be a personalized accompaniment to the player, under the slogan of 'You will never walk alone,'" wrote Barcelona presidential candidate in his manifesto to take charge of the Spanish giants at their next election in 2021 last week.

"We want it to become a Center for High Performance and Sport Excellence, but also for personal development, where the treatment of athletes is not generic but one-on-one.

"We will do this with special care for the values that make up strong personalities and that we can be proud of: we want athletes who love Barca."

The La Masia academy is one of the best known in football with the club's shining light Leo Messi among the most famous products of it.

"La Masia" may mean "the farmhouse" but the footballers it has produced are far from agricultural.

This was the same academy that blooded Pep Guardiola, who would go on to coach the club when it became the best in the world. The players that Guardiola made the backbone of his side such as Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta had all come through La Masia. Carles Puyol, the uncompromising central defender, was the captain at the outset of the Guardiola era and of course he was from the academy.

Others came through too: Thiago Alcantara and Pedro among them.

The list of players who began their careers at La Masia and went on to play for Barcelona's first team is illustrious, a generation of whom formed part of the Spain side that won back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012 sandwiching the biggest prize of all, the 2010 World Cup.

Several of those players have been and gone, others came through and left. Cesc Fabregas left La Masia for Arsenal as a teenager and was soon a first-team regular at 16.

Others who are still in the first team include Gerard Pique, the Spain central defender who had his football education there before signing briefly for Manchester United ahead of rejoining the Catalan club. Then there's Sergio Busquets, a Spanish international who has played over 387 times for Barcelona, and Sergi Roberto, the club's vice captain.

There are also signs of a next generation.

This next generation includes one of the highest-rated prospects in world football, Ansu Fati. The Guinea-Bissau-born Spain international was the subject of a mega-money Manchester United bid in the last transfer window but Barcelona did not want to sell their next prize asset. His rise has been rapid and remarkable with the 17-year-old breaking records for club and country.

Carlos Alena, Riqui Puig, and the USA international Konrad De La Fuente who has been at the club since the age of 10 hint that the production line should still be the envy of many clubs.

Despite the positive signs that has not stopped Barcelona and presidential hopeful Laporta wanting to overhaul La Masia.

Laporta was president from 2003 to 2010 when La Masia produced those players who would dominate Europe and the world with Guardiola.

It is interesting that "You'll Never Walk Alone" has become the tagline for it.

If this were a normal week in world football, indeed if it was any Champions League meeting in the past 30-odd years, then "You'll Never Walk Alone" would have rang out from Anfield's Kop before Liverpool kicked off their match with Ajax.

The words are synonymous with the English champions, where the song of the same name was adopted by the club in the 1960s.

Those words will remain indeilbly etched into the minds of the powers that be at the Camp Nou. It was Liverpool, on their way to becoming champions of Europe in 2019, that handed Barcelona their most unforgettable beating in recent years.

Up 3-0 from the first leg, they lost 4-0 at Anfield in the return and missed out on a final against Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

The song is not exclusive to Liverpool as fans of Glasgow Celtic and Borussia Dortmund will tell you, where the refrain rings out around their grounds in much the same way.

How did a song from the Rodgers & Hammerstein film musical Carousel come to define football?

After being covered by some of the biggest stars of the day, including Frank Sinatra, it was recorded and released by the Liverpool band Gerry & The Pacemakers and topping the UK singles chart in 1963.

The story is that the Anfield PA played the hit parade in the run-up to kickoff and the No.1 of the day was played last before the football started. After playing for weeks, the fans then began to sing it themselves even after it dropped down the charts.

"When it went out of the top 10, the Kop were singing, 'Where's our song? Where's our song?'," lead singer Gerry Marsden told The Independent on the 50th anniversary of the song's release.

Anfield legend Tommy Smith wrote in his autobiography that club boss Bill Shankly made it the song after Marsden played it for him. 

Whatever the reason, there is evidence on the BBC's Panorama of it being sung at Anfield in 1964 and it was referenced as the Liverpool song in the 1965 FA Cup final. Notably, in the lead-up to that game Shankly picked it as one of his six songs for the BBC show Desert Island Discs.

It went from Liverpool to Celtic when the clubs met in Europe and it has since spread around the world. "You'll Never Walk Alone" can be heard at football clubs in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium where the fans sing it or the club themselves play it, while it has reached as far afield as Indonesia's Bali United and FC Tokyo in Japan.

Soon Barcelona may be added to that list as football's unoffical anthem continues to walk on.

Posted in: SOCCER

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