Far Foreign Land is a memoir that reads like a novel. The author Tony Evans uses a dual narrative of events; the now legendary 2005 UEFA final in Istanbul and the decades of supporting Liverpool that preceded it.
The book like the match contains all the highs and lows, the tension and drama of not only football but life as an away supporter of the reds. The memoir is a great read, and will enlighten those like me, while being from the city, never fitted the image of the football loving scouser. There are three things that stood out in these pages, honesty, sensitivity, and depth.
Honesty in his portrayal of travelling fans, you won’t find the glorification of violence or celebration of ‘top boys’, instead we are shown the bluff and bluster of bullshitters, with violence and stupidity, often in the face of police provocation and society’s contempt.
This truth-telling also extends to actions of Liverpool supporters in the Heysel stadium in 1985 that led to the deaths of 39 Juventus fans. Tony explains the contributing factors of fans experience in an earlier match in Rome, and the poor state of the stadium, but does not absolve those who charged Italian fans of responsibility.
The events of Heysel are probably given more space here than those of Hillsborough, but in dealing with both, Tony shows humanity and sensitivity in relaying the obviously traumatic experience. This is not writing for hyperbole or effect, but a heartrending simplicity of style that says much more.
This book is an important part of Liverpool’s narrative, one that I am glad I was able to read, if not share in life. The depth in this book is the understanding that shines through its pages that working-class people get a raw deal from society, as simple as that sounds, there are far lengthier books that fail to grasp that essential truth. Tony’s view is from the perspective of a Liverpool supporter, and his passion, commitment, and love for his people are clear, and those people are not just reds.