In life everybody talks about that one life-changing moment, a moment where time stands still, everything slows down and in that one moment, you realise your life has completely changed, whether that’s for the better or for the worst everybody has these moments in their life. For me, that moment came on the 25th of May 2005 during the Champions League Final in Istanbul while Liverpool was playing A.C Milan. That game completely changed my life forever and with Liverpool going back to the Ataturk Stadium on Wednesday night for the Super Cup Final against Chelsea I thought I would explore and what that magical night in May 2005 did for me.
Never say die
We all know the story of that game, the “Miracle of Istanbul” will live long in the memory of every Liverpool fan that was lucky enough to witness that incredible night. Inspired by their captain, Steven Gerrard, Liverpool managed to overturn a 3-0 halftime deficit to bring the game back to 3-3 and then to win the final on a penalty shootout which sparked scenes of unbelievable joy not just in the Turkish capital but Liverpool, as well as every Liverpool fan’s household, my house was no exception. I wish I could say I felt sorry for my neighbors on that night but the reality is I honestly didn’t care about them and I don’t think any of my family did as we literally lifted the roof off the house when Shevchenko’s penalty was saved. People will probably think that I’m over exaggerating when I say that game literally changed my life but no word of a lie it actually did and it’s scary to think where I might have been had Liverpool not won that game 14 years ago.
Fighting the “good fight”
Being a disabled person, who has had a disability since birth, one of the first things I was taught by my parents was I would have to fight for everything I felt that I was entitled to, everything from my school placements to getting me the right kind of wheelchair and even making sure I had the best quality of life that I could, my parents fought it all for me. However, in 2005 I was 18 and legally considered as an adult, which meant I would have to start fighting my own battles. Yes, I did have my dad and my sister for their support but having lost my mum I had to pick up the batton from where my parents left off and start fighting for what I believed was right in my life. The Champions League Final that year came at a time when I was seriously having to consider my college options. Because my school, Ashfield, had a 17+ department in order to prepare us for college life I was applying for college a lot later than a normal person would. Whilst considering my options there was one college that stood out head and shoulders above any of the colleges that I visited, Hereward College was a special-needs residential college in Coventry with state of the art facilities in both special-needs education and life skills, I knew that this college would not only give me the best chance of gaining decent grades in my A-levels but it also would help me prepare to live independently so that when I did eventually make it to university it wouldn’t be a big shock to the system. At the time local authorities were changing the dynamics in which they funded disabled people in further education, the idea that your college placement was decided by what was best for your disability was beginning to be faded out as the government wanted to push more and more disabled people into mainstream education without really considering the consequences. This meant that for any disabled person wanting to apply to special-needs college they were going to have to really fight in order to get funding.
Having gone to visit the college roughly about two weeks before the final, me and my fellow classmates, including one of my best friends Kathy who also wanted to apply were told by our teacher that it would be extremely unlikely, if not impossible, for us to get the funding required to get a placement and with all this hanging over my head the players walked out onto the pitch in a game that will go down in history as being the best cup final in modern times. Both Liverpool and Steven Gerrard taught me a very important lesson that night, that was nothing is impossible if you’re willing to fight for it and since then I have carried that motto into almost every aspect of my life. Every one of my family and friends knows what the phrase “Istanbul Baby” means when it was coming out of my mouth and the idea that the battle is never over until the final whistle has gone is one that has inspired and motivated me ever since. Like Liverpool, against the odds I managed to get a place at Hereward College and secure the funding that was needed, all be it I had to write a very convincing cover letter to the local authority explaining why I want to go to the residential college and I’d like to think that I did this with the same amount of passion and determination that Steven Gerrard and the players showed in that second half. However, even beyond college, that game has kept on inspiring me to continue fighting for my rights and needs, and whenever I’m down I just need to think back to that night in May 2005. Even at college, there was a particular lecturer told me that that I would never make it into university and even if I did I wouldn’t last two minutes. Again, “Istanbul Baby” came to mind and four years later not only was I completing university and getting my degree but I was coming out with a First-Class Honors, unfortunately I haven’t been able to go back to the college and show my degree off to this particular lecturer but believe me I would love to.
It seems that nowadays disabled people are having to fight more and more for their needs and for me having a moment like Istanbul to cling onto has been priceless, even now I’m having to fight my local authority in order to hang onto my care, but despite all of this that image of Steven Gerrard lifting old Big Ears is always in the back of my mind and I know whatever further battles I have in my life the phrase “Istanbul Baby” will always ring true.