After Liverpool's Premier League triumph, why Viren Rasquinha won't walk alone

The exploits of Gerrard and Owen made former Indian hockey captain, a staunch Liverpool fan. The title win has come as a relief for Rasquinha.
By Naveen Peter

Liverpool had to wait for 30 years before they could call themselves the champions of England yet again.

And expectedly emotions reached its crescendo on Wednesday evening - Thursday morning in India - when club captain Jordan Henderson lifted the Premier League trophy following their penultimate tie of the season at Anfield.

One among the many celebrating this momentous occasion is the former Indian hockey captain Viren Rasquinha.

For the self-confessed Liverpool fan, it’s a moment of sheer excitement and relief.

“It’s been an incredible few days as a Liverpool fan. I have been exchanging a lot of messages with other Liverpool fans and all of us are excited and relieved. Remember, it’s been a very long wait,” he said in a chat with the Olympic Channel.

“There were moments in the past where we came so close. The one year (Luis) Suarez was in the side, but then the famous (Steven) Gerrard slip derailed us.

“Last season as well, we lost by a point. And then there was a year when (Fernando) Torres was in the side. These three years I remember very well. To come so close, but to still be so far. So, to finally get over the line, it’s a great feeling.”

When banter began at home

The 39-year-old Rasquinha has been following the Merseyside club for about two decades.

While it was Steve McManaman who got him hooked to the club, watching a young Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen rise through the ranks helped him fall in love with the club.

“I think it was around the time the Premier League started its telecast in India, I was hooked on as a Liverpool fan. Coincidentally it was also the time Gerrard and Owen had just gotten into the side,” he shares.

“I don’t know why I chose Liverpool. At home, my dad is a hardcore Manchester United fan. But I think it’s largely down to me liking Gerrard.

“Prior to that, I was a huge McManaman fan. It’s just the passion and the emotion that one talks about and relates to the Kop and Anfield that struck a chord with me.”

It was also a period that saw Liverpool go through a tough phase while Manchester United rode on the tactical acumen of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson to establish them as one of the successful teams in Europe.

While for the Merseyside club this meant heading back to the drawing board and figuring out ways to be successful in the ever-changing world of club football, their fans could never be spared of the banter.

And for Viren Rasquinha, his father made no exception for his son!

“I think I didn’t have to look any further than my house all these years. My dad will always make it a point to rub it in,” says Viren Rasquinha before breaking into laughter. 

“It’s been so much fun watching football along with my dad. Unfortunately, I had to suffer a lot for the last 25-odd years (laughs). But the feeling of seeing your team ahead of United in the league table for the past 5-6 years is simply brilliant.

“But for me, it didn’t end there. If there are a million Liverpool fans in India, there are at least 10 million United fans as well. So, anywhere you go, you would be at the receiving end. But now I am making sure I remind them of the league table daily.”

There’s always time for Liverpool

Over the years, his hockey career might have kept him busy, but Viren Rasquinha admits that it never stopped him from following the club he loves. 

In fact, the former midfielder remembers staying up late to watch the UEFA Champions League fixtures when at the national camp. 

“I think we were in New Delhi when Liverpool took on Chelsea in the semi-final of the (2005) UEFA Champions League and Luis Garcia scored that ghost goal. I was so thrilled with that,” he shared.

The past few years have seen Viren Rasquinha pass down the love for Liverpool to his six-year-old daughter, Maya. Photo: Viren Rasquinha

However, the only regret -- he couldn’t share the moment with a fellow Red.

The past few years have seen Viren Rasquinha pass down the love for the club to his six-year-old daughter, Maya.

“She’s just six, but let me tell you she’s already a massive fan of the club. She has her Gerrard jersey, she will stay up to watch every match, she can name the playing XI for you. She’s a massive football fan, and that’s transpired towards Liverpool,” he says with a sense of pride.

“She loves the front line of Mo (Mohamed Salah), Sadio (Mane) and (Roberto) Firmino. She’s a huge (Virgil) van Dijk and Alisson (Becker) fan.

“Well, one can say that I gave her no choice but to follow Liverpool (laughs), but I am happy that now she’s falling in love with the club,” he signed off.