20 years from now, when my child asks me what was it like to support Liverpool Football Club, I will simply say: “The attack was Sisyphus, and the defence the boulder.”
That’ll teach the runt not to stir up unpleasant memories (and hopefully, about mythology).
Scampering off to our duplex teakwood library (one of those where the ladders need ladders), chip off the old block, the child would leaf through the 30th edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (published in 2030) to find out all about Sisyphus’s story and existentialism.
What is a Sisyphus? He was a who and he was no sissy. But that depends on the kind of philosophy you subscribe to.
“One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” declared Albert Camus in his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus deconstructed from the ancient text, that Sisyphus – a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same thankless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain only to see it roll down again – was happy.
One must imagine Mohamed Salah happy. Poor Mo.
Salah isn’t of the Arabic pleasure’s breed. He had sundome and the night sky and a football. He works hard and it takes a lot to disappoint him. Against Chelsea, he showed the most heroic reserves of patience in answering one simple endlessly-repeated, bruising question: can he play centre-forward?
With his studs planted deep and his back to goal, he is usually tasked to scorch earth with his pace – on the night, he was asked to harrow the salted patch of Chelsea’s penalty box in a 4-1-4-1 formation- a thankless task under the attention of the heel-kicking hell-raisers of Antonio Conte. There was little but no space; the only space that existed was the space Salah created as he went. And when the goal came for Salah in the 65th minute, it was merely a case of reaping what was sown.
Ball at his feet, he charged headlong with the kind of faith that moveth boulders, and exacted an inadvertent chance as a pass from Coutinho met a touch from Bakayoko which the Chelsea man didn’t know much about. A prod from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent Mohamed Salah on his way to deliver the deliverance.
Before that it was Mo Salah, in the 55th minute, who instigated Liverpool’s first effort on target in a home game. And it was him again who set Sturridge up for a squared effort on the 62nd minute. These were the only three real chances Liverpool mustered.
On the other side of the pitch, the cross-eyed Liverpool defence was blowing dandelions as a Chelsea centre-back had enough time to contemplate whether or not to execute a rabona in the box. Another memorable sight was Ragnar Klavan punching the ball flush onto the face of a teammate with an attempted clearance on the 72nd minute.
You could imagine, if you have a vivid imagination, that there was enough time and space for space-time to rupture in the Liverpool box, and for the ghosts of Descartes and Spinoza to step out, pull up deck chairs and settle their philosophical differences.
Eden Hazard left vapour trails in midfield. The Liverpool generals were reduced to a sight of what looked like gleeful, wide-eyed, cattle-herding children from the third world flailing limbs and sticks, chasing an uncustomary steel bird (airplane) in the sky, while startled cattle ran all around them. That was about as far apart Jordan Henderson and James Milner were from the Belgian winger in the 86th minute when the equaliser came.
Keeping to the theme the sequence was just as tragically-comical: Captain Henderson lost sight of Morata in his floodlit shadows. Ragnar Klavan could only offer his back to Willian’s shot/cross from the edge of the box. Simon Mignolet could have saved the errant freaky-dink had he instead of taking three deadly steps forward, stayed on his line to thwart Morata’s farside run (for it was Morata the trajectory was intended for). And with that goal, Liverpool missed the chance to sneak into the top 4 on gameweek 13.
Do his team-mates have no heart? Have they not looked into Salah’s eyes lately?
Behind Mohamed Salah’s eyes are the sparkle of storied jewels and djinns, wild afreets and honeycombed rings (of forgotten kings), with faith in faraway lands. Now, having arrived there, they are starting to have the sheen of derelict marbles, like the disillusionment in the eyes of camels.
Camels are disillusioned, mind. You try hauling all that load. All they want for their trouble are momentary stays in oasis lakes and a mouth full of sparkling water before they set off in their lives of duty with polite determination – and all they get are endless dunes and the monotony of self-fulfilling prophecies.
There’s an unbearable familiarity about Mo Salah when he scores a goal. It’s like remembering the good old days, of Torres and Suarez, when in little ways we still received things of kindness, in the manner of recognising montages from a movie you never saw or reciting the ending lines from a familiar poem you encounter in a strange book. The reason why it’s unbearable is because in the end, they are all forced to leave for oases which aren’t mirages.
What looks like a fruit of labor, ends up being a fistful of sand. You get the drift.
2013/14 – Luis Suarez has 31.6% of Liverpool’s shots on target.
2017/18 – Mohamed Salah has 32.1% of Liverpool’s shots on target.
– A harmless stat
All this is a roundabout way of saying that Mohamed Salah is carrying Liverpool FC this season, and asking how long before the darkness on his brow descends on his soul?
With the goal on Saturday, Mo Salah became the quickest to score 10 Premier League goals for Liverpool since the legendary Robbie Fowler, and is the leading scorer in the 2017-18 edition as this article is being written.
Yet, there looms an unbearable familiarity about all of this. It reminds us of the velveteen-purple patches of form and witching hours, of when the clock struck kick-off and the fear of failure was forgotten, and towering giants of football were left glowering and soured. Liverpool and its players relished being David in the equation against Goliath, especially when the numbers added up and the odds were stacked against them.
That was then, this is now. Now, our captains pull out of a 50-50 challenge.