JAKARTA: Like a virgin! Madonna’s 80’s pop culture song ran through my head as I practically had to jostle into the crammed press conference venue overflowing to the door with more than 300 local, regional and global journalists, photographers and cameramen at Hotel Mulia yesterday.
I have practically breathed #lfc and #YNWA since Alan Kennedy was dribbling samba like runs out of his own penalty box and when baggy trousers were still in vogue in the world.
Young Big Reds fans waiting for hours at LFC team official hotel lobby
But at about 2pm yesterday squeezing past Caucasian and Asian bodies, tripods and monopods, DSLRs and video cams, it struck me that even after about 2 decades of reporting, I have never ever covered Liverpool FC as a reporter or an editor.
I jostled through somehow and got a seat a few rows from the front with a polite and cute Kris Diyanti plus Datuk Siti Nurhaliza hybrid looking radio journalist signaling to me the seat is empty, miraculously!
As I smiled my thanks, I was hoping for actually bigger miracles as a hard but fair LFC fan. I was praying that Brendan Rodgers himself as he would be in the flesh in front of me (and others) make the headline of the day by saying that pivotal albeit controversial Luis Suarez will stay at least for another season.
That plus (to put chilly in the Bakso) a big affirmation that one player of `mega’ status as they put it nowadays (say above 20 million pound) will be hounded just like how the `macet’ (traffic jam) hogs seemingly every lane around Senayan every day.
But the journalist in me was already kicking in almost grudgingly. For the first time I have to push the fan in me aside. Easy actually to do as the atmosphere was very strictly PR driven with a heavy dose of pop culture frenzy rather than the blood, sweat and tears approach to a Red Devil duel for example.
Some of the local paparazzi outside PC room
After a bit of fashionable delay, the man himself, the `gaffer’, Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers, walked in but as expected I just got a glimpse of him in between my fellow `papparazzis’ and the PR guys and the sponsors etc.
In a small enclosed space the greatest success of course will be for the `papparazzi’ group. The poor TV camera guys neatly lined at the back had no chance. All their viewfinders could see were swarms of bees, sorry, people with flashing lights apparatus with clicking sounds enveloping Brendan from sight.
A few exasperated controlled shouts and pleas here and there were to no avail.
I tried to take a few shots here and there and felt like a poorly equipped cub trying to vie with season lions in a compressed cage.
My amateur viewfinders (not so smart phone and consumer level camera) were full of bobbing heads and intruding bodies.
We are after all the media and no riots happened, the frenzy abated and the PC (press conference) started with PR/event minders politely but repeatedly reminding us journalists of the you may ask questions as long it fits into the 20 minute slot.
Of course, my fellow journalists from Indonesia fired first salvos with as expected Luis Suarez mentioned in the first lines.
Then it moved to the how does Brendan see the future of Indonesian talents compared to the toughest league of BPL, etc.
Indonesia Team - "Obviously our main focus is defence"
Fast forward 21 minutes later, my hands were not white or brown enough to get noticed somehow and I had to keep my voice for the match day itself.
As for my hopes for miracles, the journalist in me smiles and the fan in me has to keep on hoping.
Yes, Brendan was clear in saying how great Luis is and how he is still a Liverpool player and he is an integral part of the team unless something drastic happens etc. But Brendan also commented on how the bids so far are not even close to where LFC value their prized player.
So I would just like to thank Brendan for being as straight and as clear as he can be. Que sera sera. I like this man, just from the 20 minutes of him saying it as he best could from a few meters away.
I believe he honestly believes the hard work of putting in a new foundation last season has been largely done.
I trust him when he says LFC will this time around challenge seriously (as in be there amongst the top four rather than languish with hope a few slots down) for a Champions league place and fight to win Cup competitions.
So yes some media outlets are more brazen with Luis Suarez going nowhere kind of reports from this PC but for me I am actually past that now.
No miracles of Luis and a mega player answered in this official hotel for LFC Jakarta visit.
But just a few hundred meters away the historic Gelora Bung Karno sits in pregnant silence.
The Indonesian Dream Team hopes for close to a miracle result after a 7-0 drubbing by The Gunners in their previous match.
For them and rightly so, the team’s defending has been mentioned as where the bulk of focus has been fortified.
Brendan Rodgers Shirt - "Indonesia is the biggest LFC fan base in the world"
For Brendan, I will settle for that quiet determination that seem to glare out from his assured look to the frenzied reception everywhere he goes here in Jakarta.
For a player may come and go.
But the club as he puts it magnanimously is bigger than any player.
And for me, no other club can be bigger than LFC in terms of grit, determination, respect, pride and humility balanced.
Boot room culture fused with Brendan’s football philosophy I dare to believe in.
So Brendan, things might not be perfect, but we are the real Red fans.
So together with more than 65 million Big Reds (as the Indonesian LFC supporters are known here – already my brothers and sisters) You Will Never Walk Alone.
Stadium Gelora Bung Karno I am sure will prove this so this Saturday.