Liverpool FC is one of only a handful of clubs that can truly claim to have a global following and in the first of a new series, Liverpoolfc.com will be celebrating the supporters who are proud to be part of the greatest football family in the world.
We kick off the new weekly series by looking at South Africa but make sure you visit the website every Wednesday to find out which country we'll be turning the spotlight on.
Name: Melissa Reddy Age: 26 City / Country: Johannesburg, South Africa Job: Deputy Editor, KICK OFF Magazine, analyst on SuperSport and 5fm weekend breakfast's football guru
Why did you pick Liverpool as your team?
I think more than anything, Liverpool picked me. There was an instant attraction, a sense of belonging, and a club that just screamed 'home' as soon as I started watching football. My family is divided between Manchester United and Tottenham (bless their poor souls) and when I was very young, both factions always tried to influence me. But as soon as I started to love, understand and appreciate football, I started to love, understand and appreciate LFC.
What's your earliest LFC memory?
In the 90s, all we managed to watch in South Africa was the FA Cup live, or a highlights package of the best games every so often. There are four minutes and 32 seconds that stick vividly in my memory, though - Robbie Fowler scoring the league's fastest hat-trick against Arsenal just four days after my eighth birthday on August 28, 1994. The action was frenzied, the commentary frenzied, and there was this young guy who seemed to have the whole world revolving around him on a football pitch - it was magical.
Who was your first LFC hero and why?
I had two early heroes - John Barnes and Fowler. The former because everything he did was effortless, and he made football look poetic. Robbie was just something else: passionate, fiery, fast and a phenomenal finisher. When he got the ball in the box, I expected a goal and I was rarely ever disappointed. I'm exceptionally lucky since I have had the chance to interview, and casually chat to both of them.
What is your favourite LFC memory?
It is impossible to look past that final as I can still remember every second of the 'Miracle of Istanbul'. From the shock and numbness of AC Milan's treble of goals in the fast half, all the texts I received during the interval as well as my father looking at the TV screen and laughing at me, to the sheer will and belief that saw us level matters at 3-3... from then, I knew 'Big Ears' was ours to lose. We didn't just defy the odds; we defied Milan's confidence in themselves. I sat, screamed, jumped, danced and cried for like three hours after we won the 2004-05 Champions League final and that game just summed up Liverpool for me. Impossible really is just a word to us, even in the most difficult situations.
Who has been your favourite Liverpool manager and why?
Kenny Dalglish simply embodies the Reds. His attitude; humble, witty, determined and a winner is really a mirror of the club. His press conferences were always a treat, but most importantly, he brought a sense of unity and strength when we were at our lowest ebb - twice. Rafa will forever hold a special place in my football heart - he loves Liverpool, and it still shows today. There were also unforgettable moments under Gerard Houllier.
What has been your lowest point supporting Liverpool?
I was too young to understand the Hillsborough disaster when it occurred, but the aftermath of the tragedy and the way it was so atrociously handled, still hurts so much today. Finally, after 23 years, justice for the 96 is not just a cry amongst Reds, it will be realised. It was also painful having to stomach the Hicks and Gillett debacle - it stung daily to know that the club you love so much was in such uncaring hands. The sacking of Rafa was also a bitter pill to swallow, more so as he was replaced by Roy Hodgson, who's football never did capture the imagination. I should perhaps embarrassingly mention that I cried for three days after Fernando Torres departed for Chelsea. That cut deep. But the bad times just make the good ones even better.
Do Liverpool have a passionate fan base where you're from?
South African Reds are fiercely passionate. From not missing any of the games, to the tattoos, to regular visits to Anfield, we love our club and are proud to be part of the Liverpool family. It's a shame that the team haven't been down to our shores in years - they would revel in the love and incredible support.
Which team are considered Liverpool's biggest rivals in your country?
In South Africa, like most places in the world I imagine, Liverpool's rivalry with Man United is the biggest plot, closely followed by the Merseyside derby with Everton. For those 90+ minutes, I can assure you Bill Shankly was spot on when he said football is more important that a matter of life and death!
Where do you go online to follow news about LFC?
The club's official website is my first port of call. The constant interviews, unbelievable football coverage and social media angles make Liverpool's online portal an absolute must visit. The Kop forum was a brilliant idea, too. Otherwise, Rory Smith writes brilliant pieces about the club, while the Liverpool Echo is always on the ball.
Do you also support a local team?
There's only one club for me the world over, and that's Liverpool. My allegiance could never be shared.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
This is a hard question to answer, because I appreciate so many members of the current squad. Obviously, in terms of service and what they've done throughout their respective careers for LFC, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher stand out. For sheer viewing pleasure and the way he wears his Red heart on his sleeve, you can't look past Luis Suarez. There's also the determination of Lucas, the bouncebackability of Pepe Reina... some brilliant players are blessed to pull on that iconic shirt and I'm honoured to support them all.
If you could meet anyone connected to Liverpool FC - past or present - who would it be and why?
I'd love to meet Kenny Dalglish as he's been through and seen so much of Liverpool that the storytelling would never end. I've also spoken to Fowler plenty of times without actually meeting him, so it would be quite something to high five the King and God! If we could turn back the hands of time, imagine sharing a chat with Shanks and Bob Paisley together - words just wouldn't do that justice!
What makes you most proud to be a Liverpool supporter?
I don't just support a football club, I support a family, and that is no exaggeration. There's such a great sense of belonging amongst the Liverpool faithful, that we've created our own worldwide household - when a new Red is born, there's congratulations on Twitter, or even when I'm sick, there are dozens of 'get well soon, YNWA' messages which stream in. Regardless of where we are in the world, we speak the same language and we're all massively in love with the same bird. It is simply extraordinary.
Finally, what does 'the Liverpool way' mean to you?
Through wins or defeats, through tragedy or triumph, in golden skies or cloudy ones, we are privileged to be part of a historic institution and as such, our faith, love and support will always remain strong. We are a family, and our way is to stick together, to grow together and to build together. We never walk alone.