Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The British Ambassador to the Philippines is a Liverpool fan

With British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif A. Ahmad at the British Embassy

This appears on
The British Ambassador to the Philippines is a Liverpool fan
by rick olivares

Football is a strange teacher. If one can actually call the sport that. But for British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Anwar Ahmad there are profound teachings that the sport can impart.

The Economics graduate from Durham University in England admits to being a die-hard Liverpool fan and that fact in itself will tell anyone that it is an exercise in patience to be a Reds fan. The days when world football (at least for England and Europe) was colored in Merseyside Red are long gone. Like the Beatlemania that exploded out of its stuffy and rustic clubs and caverns and turned Liverpool into the center of the universe are but a memory.

“The drought of a league title has taught me to be appreciative of what I have and to be patient,” smiled Ahmad who is just a year into his service for Her Brittanic Majesty to the Republic of the Philippines. “It has also taught me to be more patient.”

The British Embassy, located in McKinley Hill in Taguig, has many staffers who are also football fans who cheer for different clubs. Mondays or Tuesdays can get sometimes testy during meetings not always because of concerns regarding projects but because of the weekend’s football results. Ambassador Ahmad laughed. “First of all, I am not the only hard-edged Liverpool fan here. There are a couple of others,” he revealed. One other here, the head of chancellery is actually from Liverpool so the team is hard-wired into his veins and blood. We have Everton fans. Lots. There are good days and bad days and you learn to take things on the chin. The only team that sends me slightly over the edge is Manchester United. I have to be composed or else I will lose my ability to be diplomatic.”

Back in the old First Division of English football (before its reformation into the Premier League), Liverpool was king raking in 18 league titles, four FA Cups, four League Cups, 13 Charity Shields, one Super Cup, four European Cups, two UEFA Cups, and one UEFA Super Cup.

Since then, the club has won three FA Cups, four League Cups, two Charity Shields, one European Cup, one UEFA Cup, and two UEFA Super Cups.

“You have to be a serial optimist to be a Liverpool fan,” sighed the Ambassador who played the game as a youngster. “You go through highs and lows.”

Ahmad lists the last game of the 1989 First Division as perhaps his most crushing defeat. For much of that season, Arsenal led the league. However, a late charge by Liverpool, spurred by the Hillsborough Disaster, saw then overtake the Gunners with a game to play. For Arsenal to take home the trophy, they had to win by two goals... in Anfield. And they led, 1-nil, after an Alan Smith goal. With a minute left to play and Arsenal in its last attack of the match, Michael Thomas latched on to a long forward pass then split two Liverpool defenders to fire past a stunned Bruce Grobbelaar for the league winner.

“I saw that game and I was traumatized by how it ended,” admitted the British Ambassador.

Conversely, there have been highs. “Istanbul 2005,” the Ambassador recites like a mantra. “Even the most faithful of fans did not believe that the team was going to come back from three goals down to win. My goodness me when they came back and won – you can never forget that. Even when they lost to Milan two years later in the finals once more, it does not diminish what was accomplished that year.”

During the recently concluded World Cup, Ambassador Ahmad preferred to watch the matches at home. “Sometimes, it’s more fun to watch in the bars where you’re with your mates,” he said. “But since the games are early in the morning, going out with security is like mounting a small operation so it’s in everyone’s best interests to stay at home. But I do follow what I can. I cannot stay up late because there are many things to attend to the following day.”

Ironically, Ahmad is from London, born and raised. “If I went strictly where I was born then I’d be a Chelsea fan because I am from London,” he revealed. “In the days of my youth, I developed an awareness for the Beatles and they were from Liverpool. I didn’t have to go far because in those days, Liverpool was very successful too as a football club. So that is how I became to be a fan.”

This past 2013-14 season, the Reds came within a match of winning their first Premier League title. Losses in the last two weeks – first to Chelsea then to Manchester City ended their hopes. “My expectations were they would consolidate as a team and fight for a spot in the next Champions League. Suddenly when they qualified for Champions League spot, it looked like they would win it all too. I would have loved for them to win it all and why not. But they already achieved the initial club expectations. So in a sense, they had overachieved. So I am not too disheartened. But the next season will be crucial as I imagine every one else will try to get better.”

Watching the matches will only be more meaningful as his one and only grandson is now a certified LFC fan. “I had some minor competition from my son-in-law’s side,” smiled the Ambassador. He could have been a Tottenham fan but I asserted myself. It certainly warmed my heart when one of my grandson’s first phrases was, “C’mon, you Reds!”

That makes it serial optimist times two.

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