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Last chance to earn a run-out at Anfield

Published on Feb 15, 2014 5:50 PM
 
The Singapore Everton Supporters Club wishes to participate in the ST Sports Contest to play at Anfield (Liverpool's stadium), despite the great rivalry between the Merseyside clubs. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

THEY are ardent fans of a club that, since the 19th century, have been the arch-rivals of Liverpool.

Yet, it has not deterred members of the Singapore Everton Supporters Club (SESC) to sign up for a contest by The Straits Times to select teams to take part in the Standard Chartered Trophy futsal tournament on March 1.

Should they be chosen to participate in the competition, and subsequently win it, they will earn themselves an all-expenses-paid trip to Liverpool, and play on their rivals' home turf, Anfield.

It is a ground that has seen plenty of fierce battles between the two Merseyside clubs.

While Liverpool have held the upper hand in recent years, having not lost to Everton at Anfield since 1999, the Evertonians still feel that it is a dream to step foot on a pitch that has often brought them heartbreak.

Said their team manager Lez Famigo, 36: "It is a place of disappointment, but you can look at it this way: Anfield belonged to Everton in the past, so we'll simply be going back to our old stadium."

Indeed, Everton moved to Goodison Park across Stanley Park in 1892, following a dispute over rental of the Anfield ground.

While the rivalry between the two clubs is intense on the football pitch, there is a deep sense of solidarity among the fans off it.

"An Everton fan (11-year-old Rhys Jones) was shot on the streets in 2007, and Liverpool played Everton's theme song at Anfield as a tribute. We were very moved by that," defender Momhammad Rizal Sidek, 39, recalled.

The Toffees themselves also stood united with their city rivals after the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, in which 96 Liverpool supporters died after being crushed in the stands.

In fact, should the SESC team earn their Anfield trip, Famigo's first act would be to raise a banner bearing the numbers "96" at Anfield.

Said team member Miki Khoo, 43: "First and foremost, we are fans of football before we are club fans. It is friendship and sportsmanship above results."

Maliki Ismail of the Red Geleks, a group of Liverpool fans who also formed a team to take part in the ST contest, agrees.

He said: "I believe there are close bonds and relations between the two clubs besides animosity. They come from the same place, they are like family."

Still, all teams will be playing like their dreams depend on winning - because they do.

"If we face the Everton supporters, we will certainly want to win it for Liverpool," Maliki said.

Football fans from all clubs are welcome to participate in this contest, in which they have to form a seven-man futsal team and explain why they should be chosen for the StanChart Trophy.

Contest deadline is on Monday. Visit www.straitstimes.com/epl-2013-2014 for details.

chingyl@sph.com.sg