Just a woman and her club: meet the fan who travels the world solo to see her beloved team play

 
Beryl 3-son

Beryl with her son in Madrid for the 2019 Champions League final Liverpool v Tottenham (Photo © 2019 Beryl Mealand)

Football fan Beryl Mealand discusses the highs and lows of being a life-long Liverpool supporter with Chelsea Harper.

When I ask Beryl Mealand what football means to her, she simply gives me one word: ‘everything’. Coming from a woman who’s worked for her club, played the sport, and travelled across Europe to see her team play, I don’t take her response lightly.

Quite frankly, Mealand has given her heart and soul to Liverpool FC — and in return, she’s been rewarded with a life full of excitement and joy, the chance to meet fellow dedicated fans, and the opportunity to pass her enthusiasm for football onto both her children and her grandchildren.


The Start of Something Special

Mealand has been following the Reds since she was just 10 years old, when she used to take herself to matches alongside her school friends. Despite growing up with five brothers, she was the only one who followed football; unlike many hardcore fans, it wasn’t her family who got her into the sport.

“I just followed the lads at school” Mealand admits. “I remember getting the bus, walking out and seeing the pitch and it was just amazing.” After attending her first match, Mealand was hooked — and her commitment to Liverpool has remained strong ever since.

Speaking of commitment, Mealand has taken on many jobs for the Reds — seizing any opportunity to get closer to her team. As a child, she worked in the sandwich bar at the Kop, selling snacks before kick-off. Once everything was sold, she was able to watch the match from the stand. She then catered at the ground, securing tickets to games through her work for the club.

Beryl at Wembley for the 2019 Community Shield final between Liverpool and Manchester City (Photo 2019 © Beryl Mealand)

As a young girl, Mealand wasn’t allowed to play football with the boys at school, so she would often take her football boots and join in with the lads at a local park. She never had much trouble with her old school friends, but growing up as a female football fan often came with its difficulties…

“It’s a lot easier for girls now” Mealand explains. “They play games, they go to the match. I mean when I got older as a woman with kids, the men just didn’t like you mixing with them — they wouldn’t let you go on a coach with them and wouldn’t let you travel with them, but I always went by myself anyway.”

Considering Mealand’s past frustrations, its promising to see how the attitudes surrounding female fans have now changed. From her point of view, women are more into football than the men these days.


The Highs

Mealand loves travelling to matches by herself, whether that be making a small trip to Anfield or hopping on a plane across Europe. She’s been to Kiev, Barcelona, and Madrid — and even took her granddaughter along to the Champions League final against AC Milan in Athens for her first birthday.

However, one of Mealand’s biggest regrets is missing out on that final in Istanbul two years before. “I could’ve cried” she admits. “I should’ve gone to that, but I hesitated. I had my accommodation and I could’ve gone with people… but I’ve never missed out on another final since.”

This year, Mealand made sure she flew to Barcelona for the first leg of the semi-final, and to Madrid for the final of the Champions League, where she witnessed her team lift the trophy in an unforgettable night of football history.

Liverpool superfan Beryl Mealand

Beryl in Madrid for the 2019 Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham (Photo © 2019 Beryl Mealand)

And although the first leg at Barcelona almost confirmed Liverpool’s departure from the competition, Mealand was fortunate enough to witness their incredible comeback at Anfield a week later, ending 4-3 on aggregate for the Reds.

“At Anfield when we won 4-0, that was just another thing, that was something else” Mealand describes.

As Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner kick assisted Divock Origi’s winning goal, the fans were on cloud nine: “We were just dancing, and you would just grab hold of anybody. It was unbelievable, the atmosphere there was ecstatic” she remembers.

But doesn’t Mealand get lonely travelling to all these games without a trusted friend or companion beside her? “How could I get lonely?” she states. “There’s thousands and thousands of people there.”


The Lows

Although being a Liverpool fan has given her many amazing memories, there’s one tragic moment that Mealand will never forget. She had planned to go to the FA Cup game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989, but instead ended up going to a local pub to watch the match. This was the day of the Hillsborough disaster, which took the lives of 96 fans.

“I remember that day as if it were yesterday” she recalls. “I know if I had gone, I wouldn’t have come back.” During the tragedy, Mealand and other Liverpool supporters waited together in the pub for any news of their loved ones. Some of her friends she knew from school had lost their lives — and everyone was in a state of shock.

“Liverpool was numb. There wasn’t a car, there was nobody on the streets. It was like doomsday” she explains.

Three years ago, the Hillsborough inquest verdict stated an unlawful killing, finally bringing justice to the families that had been affected by the tragedy. Mealand went to the memorial at Anfield to pay her respects, carrying flowers with a message that read ‘Justice for the 96’.

Liverpool superfan Beryl with her granddaughter Grace at Anfield. (Photo © 2019 Beryl Mealand)

After being a fan for nearly sixty years, Mealand’s love for football remains as strong as ever.

“When there’s no football, I just don’t know what to do with myself” she admits. “Football’s always been my life and it always will be.”

Whether it’s five minutes down the road or a thousand miles away, there’s no amount of time or distance that could come between her and the Reds.

Follow Chelsea on Twitter at @chelseajadeft9

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