Liverpool FC holds practice in Ann Arbor ahead of Saturday's match vs. Manchester United
ANN ARBOR – Early on Friday afternoon, Liverpool FC fans began to gather outside Michigan Stadium to see the club up close and personal in a closed practice session ahead of Saturday's match against Manchester United.
The International Champions Cup game is drawing fans from near and far, but the select few that were invited to the practice are arguably some of the biggest Liverpool FC fans in the nation.
"I've been a Liverpool fan since about 1976," said Nick Kissoff, who lives close by. "My son texted me and said 'They’re coming to Michigan, we’ve got to go.' We figured we’d never get to Anfield so we splurged and got some nice seats. I’ve never seen them. This will be the first time. I can hardly sit still."
Two other fans we spoke to have been to Anfield (the club's home stadium) and lead supporter groups in Ohio.
Linda Howard is one of the founding members of the official Liverpool supporters' club in Columbus, which is how she scored tickets for the closed practice session.
"I’m just obsessed and I think anybody who follows the team knows it’s more than just a team," she said. "And because Liverpool is a lefty sort of city, it has a very specific ethos that a lot of clubs don’t have ... I fell in love with Liverpool because of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ because of Steven Gerrard, because (of) the city of Liverpool and their vibe."
Craig McKnight, from Cincinnati, is also a member of an official Liverpool supporters' club, which received eight passes for the event.
"I just celebrated my 40th year being a fan of Liverpool," said McKnight. "I still remember the first goal I saw when I was five. I heard once that you don’t choose your club; it chooses you. And that’s completely me. We’ve already seen many of the players at the hotel ... It was really good to see Virgil (van Dijk) and see how big he really is in person and see Mo (Salah) and see how small he really is in person!"
Other fans waiting for the club's red bus to arrive told A4 that they had been following the club's Snapchat account all day, trying to track down the team's Ann Arbor location.
The first to arrive at The Big House was the club's manager, Jurgen Klopp. Ahead of the practice session, he told reporters, "It’s a good thing to get 100,000 people to come see a soccer game -- that says a lot. And I don’t think they all flew in from Europe, they came from America … This club is so big that we could go wherever in the world and find Liverpool supporters -- that’s really nice. You cannot force people to love football."
Klopp signed autographs before hitting the pitch, as did a few players. The team ran drills and scrimmaged for about an hour before signing autographs and chatting with fans.
According to organizers, more than 100,000 tickets have already sold for Saturday's match. They hope the attendance will top the 109,318 fans who attended the Manchester United vs. Real Madrid ICC game in 2014, which set a U.S. attendance record.
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