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Soup of This Day #240: Going Home

August 29, 2012

Longworth72 in Beverley, Western Australia
Longworth72 at home in Beverley, Western Australia. The yard was our football pitch, the arch over the gate doubling as a goal mouth and the large Cape Lilac tree stood in as a screening defender. Behind, at the end of the street, those trees lining the horizon mark a narrow strip of nature reserve on the banks of the Avon River – Photo: Unknown, 1988. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Where is home?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself the last couple of days and the answer I’m coming up with for me is both predictable and surprising. The predictable part is easy and best summed up by the adage that home is where the heart is.

My wife, The Noah and The Angus have most of my heart and so home for me is mostly where they are. That is pretty cut and dried and mirrors what you see in the world of sport – For a sporting team home is where the heart of that team is and what gives most teams a pulse is their fans and the culture built around them – The club ‘family’.

So for Liverpool FC, home is Anfield, their aged ground located next to Stanley Park and in the heart of Liverpool. Anfield pre-dates the club it now hosts, having 1st been home to Liverpool’s great local rivals Everton. A dispute over the running of Everton and rent saw them leave Anfield in 1892 and the ground’s owner, John Houlding, formerly an Everton FC member, was faced with an international standard venue but no team to play in it.

So he did what anybody would do and formed his own team, calling it Liverpool FC and Athletic Grounds Ltd. They played their 1st match at Anfield on September the 1st, 1892, almost 120 years ago – The anniversary being this Friday, just 2 days away.

For the record the newly-minted Liverpool FC handsomely beat Rotherham Town 7-1.

Just in case there are any Rotherham fans out there feeling a bit slighted by that mention I will point out that on the 2nd of May, 1955, Rotherham United, the spiritual heirs to the then-defunct Rotherham Town, walloped Liverpool 6-1 at their then-home ground of Millmoor. Rotherham United left that centenarian stadia in 2008 following a dispute over rent, mirroring the way Everton left Anfield. They now play at New York Stadium, situated just to the north of the confluence of the River Don with the River Rother, which I’m referencing simply because it’s rather nice to roll River Rother off the tongue. Go on, try it, I’ll wait for you.

Unfortunately attempts to get Liverpool to play the 1st game at Rotherham United’s new home, and thus return the favour of well over a century previous, did not come to fruition – Instead near-neighbours Barnsley FC helped inaugurate New York Stadium in July of this year, with Rotherham United kicking off life in their new digs with a 2-1 win.

As an aside the Merry Millers’ new home was called New York Stadium, in part in a shameless attempt to attract investment from the New York Yankees across the pond. This is despite: a. The gulf in success – The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles while Rotherham United have yet to earn promotion to the top-flight, coming closest in that 1955 campaign when they missed out only on goal average; and b. The gulf in stadia – The capacity of 52,325 for the home of the Yankees dwarfs that of it’s near-namesake New York Stadium (12,021). In spite of those differences this marriage would, if it ever eventuated, have some nice symmetry to it as Liverpool FC and their Anfield home are now owned by Fenway Sports Group (FSG), who are also the owners of the Yankee’s staunch rivals, the Boston Red Sox and their iconic ballpark home, Fenway Park.

Which like Anfield (River Mersey) and New York Stadium (Rivers Don and Rother) is situated adjacent to a river, the Charles. In fact you could make a case that Fenway was actually built in part on the Charles River, having been constructed on reclaimed land from the marshy fens that at the least are fed by the waters of the Charles. That construction was completed in 1912 with the 1st game arriving April 20 of that year against the New York Highlanders. The Sox won 7-6 while the Highlanders went on to become the New York Yankees, playing these days out of Yankee Stadium, a short hop from the Harlem River.

Which isn’t really a river, having neither a source, nor a mouth. It is, for those fond of trivia, a navigable tidal strait.

Unlike the Swan River in Western Australia which, as its name accurately suggests, is very much a river.

Its waters bisect the greater metropolitan area of Perth and divide Western Australia’s capital of 1.74m into northern suburbs people and southern suburbs people. Northerners by-and-large tend to support the West Coast Eagles in the Australian Football League (AFL) while southrons typically favour the Fremantle Dockers. Both teams play their home matches at Subiaco Oval, located just to the north of the Swan but near-enough to the dividing border as makes no difference to either side.

The Dockers spiritual home though is not Subiaco – It is instead Fremantle Oval, located in the port city of Fremantle, around 19km to the south and west of Perth. At that ground Freo house their administration and training facilities – They have played some pre-season matches there but there is no capacity for full AFL games – Subi holds up to 43,500 souls and is regularly sold out, whereas Fremantle Oval has capacity for just 17,500.

Both grounds are over 100 years old – Fremantle Oval hosted its 1st game of footy in 1895, just 3 years after Anfield’s need for a tenant spawned Liverpool FC. Subiaco Oval was a bit later, coming into being in 1908, 4 years before Fenway saw its 1st pitch. So they are of a vintage, Western Australia’s homes of football, and they have another common denominator – Fremantle sits at the mouth of the Swan River. In fact Boston, Fremantle and Liverpool are all port cities and all feature significant rivers – Perhaps that is why I chose them. Maybe I’m a river rat at heart.

Which brings me back to my thoughts on what constitutes home for me and a conclusion that caught me by surprise. I mentioned earlier this post that my wife, The Noah and The Angus hold most of my heart. They don’t hold all of it though. Some of it belongs to my beloved homeland of Western Australia and a key piece in particular can be found if you travel back up the Swan River, through Perth, and into 1 of that beautiful river’s tributaries, the Avon.

The Avon River runs initially from south to north, cutting through a collection of wheat-belt towns before swinging around to join the Swan. 1 of those towns is Beverley and it is where I spent a fair bit of my time growing up. I rafted on that river, cycled around it (And once or twice foolishly through it) and when I played sport it was almost always within cooee of those waters.

In spite of that, it’s not necessarily the Avon that holds a piece of my heart. It might be anywhere in that small town for it is there that my mum died. She is not buried there and nor was her funeral held there but when she died a part of my heart got lost and I figure it must be around there somewhere. Until I find it, and maybe even then, a part of me will call Beverley home.

It truly is where the heart is.

Going Home

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