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Champions League

Alisson’s emotional reaction to joyous Liverpool goal said what we needed to hear – Mark Jones

Jose Agostinho Becker died on February 24 near the town of Rincao do Inferno, southern Brazil.

The 57-year-old had gone swimming near his holiday home that afternoon, and was reported missing by early evening. The death was an horrendous accident.

But if all you – you out there with enough to worry about as it is – had available to you were those bare facts, then you might wonder why this death would even register on your radar. Yes it was a tragic event, but surely it was a deeply personal one to those involved and none of our business?

Yet with the clue in the Becker name, it was always going to be more than that.

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And sure enough when the news filtered out from outlets such as ours that Jose was not ‘just’ Jose, but the father of the Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, then the death became a global story and not a local one.

Alisson lost his father Jose in a tragic accident in February
Alisson lost his father Jose in a tragic accident in February

And then we all did what we always do.

We reported what had happened, we waited for Alisson to ‘break his silence’ on social media, we liked the supportive tweets from teammates, and from Raheem Sterling, David de Gea, Tottenham Hotspur, the Premier League and many others – for it was good for their engagement that day – and we got angry with the trolls who reared their ugly heads.

And then we all just sort of got on with our lives.

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Alisson ended up missing Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Sheffield United the weekend after his father’s death after he was taken out of the reckoning by Jurgen Klopp, but he was back in goal at home to Chelsea five days later, eight days after Jose had died.

Timo Werner thought he’d opened the scoring for the Blues at Anfield that night when Alisson raced out of his goal and he easily took it round him, only to be denied by VAR. All of us shook our heads and wondered just what on earth the Liverpool goalkeeper had been thinking.

Alisson played against Chelsea at Anfield just eight days after his father had died
Alisson played against Chelsea at Anfield just eight days after his father had died

In the weeks that followed there was an early moment at Wolves where the Brazilian could have given away a penalty, and then two games in five days in which he should have done better with efforts from Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior and Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins that ended up in the back of the net. Not like him, we all thought. Not like him at all.

Because, at Liverpool anyway, Alisson is a superhero.

He’s the goalkeeper who had arrived after a string of goalkeepers who just weren’t quite at the top level. He’s played for Liverpool for two full seasons and he’s won the Champions League in one and the Premier League in the other. Gary Neville says he’s Liverpool’s most important player.

So as far as we’re concerned then times of deep personal grief don’t matter.

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We’re not to know what is going on in his head, but if he’s there on the pitch then that’s all we care about. He’s almost an avatar, a FIFA character in real life.

Alisson's displays were crucial in Liverpool finally winning the Premier League
Alisson’s displays were crucial in Liverpool finally winning the Premier League

And so as the 28-year-old – twenty-eight, dwell on that for a bit – faces this most difficult moment in his life, we study his positioning, his handling, his shot-stopping and his distribution from the back.

It could well be that Alisson finds being on the pitch to be a helpful distraction from what has happened, but we’re not to know that. The eerie nature of behind-closed-doors football would suggest that would be difficult. Surely the mind wanders.

With those same coronavirus restrictions meaning that he couldn’t go home to his father’s funeral or see his family then Alisson had to stay on Merseyside. It was there that his wife Natalia had the couple’s third child last week. Yeah, pressure.

So take all of this and pour it into the moment that we saw in the 95th minute at The Hawthorns.

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Alisson's brilliant leap won the game for Liverpool in the 95th minute
Alisson’s brilliant leap won the game for Liverpool in the 95th minute

It is well established by now that Liverpool have had a mess of a season, one in which they have underperformed and suffered misfortunes on the scale of Mr Burns’ ringer-filled softball team on The Simpsons.

Here they were with probably their sixth and eight choice centre-backs, down to a last fully functioning attacking midfielder and with another injury announced pre kick-off. Diogo Jota won’t play in the final two matches.

Take all of that, everything and more, and getting into the Champions League this season has every right to sit quite near to the achievements Klopp and his side have managed in the last few years. But fail to beat West Brom and it wasn’t happening.

And then Alisson Becker strides forward.

There will be thousands, millions of people dealing with grief right now who don’t have the opportunities to get their release that a Liverpool goalkeeper does.

You’d like to think that that moment, that header, and that interview was for them.

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The goalkeeper has had an incredibly tough few months
The goalkeeper has had an incredibly tough few months

Sure he’s made saves and done the general goalkeeper things well in a few matches in the past couple of months, but this was on another level.

He soared, he thumped in his header and the tears came almost instantly. They were the release. After 14 months of fairly emotion-free football they were a release for a lot of us too, just as the sight of Leicester’s celebrations were on Saturday.

Here we are feeling football again, feeling a moment and feeling nothing but absolute joy for the man who provided it.

Alisson has gone through hell, he deserves this heaven.

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