On a wall immediately in the shadow of Anfield, Liverpool FC's famous stadium, one piece of graffiti stands out above all others. It proclaims proudly: Liverpool FC, Champions of Europe. Seemingly wherever you go in this football-mad city you cannot escape the fact that on the 25 May, 2005 the Reds defeated Italy's AC Milan 3-2 on penalties to bring the European Cup back to Merseyside for an impressive fifth time.
This is a city that lives, eats, breathes and sleeps football. Many a firm friendship over the past decade or so has been started with the words: 'Did you see the match yesterday?' - a question that was deliriously asked on the day after the UEFA Champions League final when 500,000 Liverpool fans bathed the ancient maritime city with a crimson tide as their heroes returned from Istanbul, the scene of their triumph.
However, whether the Liverpool supporters like it or not those halcyon spring days (and nights) so enthusiastically celebrated six months ago are now a memory.
While it is a historical fact that Rafael Benitez's side were crowned European Champions in the 2004/5 season, the manager and the players are now turning their attentions towards a new challenge and possibly another addition to the club's impressive honours list.
Superstitions and shared aims
The FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup was unveiled in Liverpool's Trophy Room on Wednesday 16 November by Dr. Urs Linsi, FIFA General Secretary and Mr. Geoffrey Thompson, the chairman of the English Football Association and Mr. Benitez hopes that it will return to the same place in little over a month's time.
"It is a beautiful trophy," he smiled. "However, I am not going to touch it as I don't want to tempt fate. I'd rather touch it as a winner in Japan. As a manager, winning every game and every trophy is a challenge for me. We are delighted to have the chance to win the FIFA Club World Championship and we are going to do our best to win it.
"In a lot of interviews people have asked me if I will select the best team and my answer is 'Of course.' We will be going to Japan with the best team and we will try to be as fit as possible for the games over there and the reason is simple: I want to win another trophy for Liverpool Football Club."
Club captain and England international Steven Gerrard told the packed media conference that he shared the same view as his manager.
"From a player's point of view, we have a responsibility to get good results," he said. "Therefore we have a responsibility to go to Japan and bring the trophy home. We have a tremendous fanbase in Japan and I am sure they are looking forward to seeing us win the competition.
"It is also providing the team with the opportunity to get a winner's medal. As a footballer, you want to win every game you play in and this is a unique opportunity for us to become World Champions. All of the players are looking forward to it as we believe that winning could provide a real confidence boost for the rest of the season."
For Mr. Rick Parry, Liverpool's Chief Executive, winning the FIFA Club World Championship is a matter of pride.
"It is a great privilege for us to be taking part in the FIFA Club World Championship as the Champions of Europe," he smiled. "It is certainly a very difficult competition to qualify for and it is one that we will be taking seriously. The message to our friends at FIFA and Japan is that we will be trying our best to win. We would love to bring the trophy back home. We have, of course, taken part in the TOYOTA CUP on two occasions - 1981 and 1984 (losing to Flamengo and Independiente) - and it is the one trophy that we have never succeeded in winning. It would be nice to put the record straight this time."
Something for the fans
However, the afternoon was not just centred on Liverpool's quest for glory. The Liverpool FC SuperFan Contest ( http://www.fifa.com/en/comp/Clubworld/tournament/0,6537,CWC-2005-32,00.html ) was also introduced to the media gathering, which provoked tremendous interest among the local journalists. This gives one lucky fan the unique opportunity to win a free trip to Japan to support the Reds during the competition. One SuperFan and their guest will win a prize package that includes round-trip airfare to Japan, accommodation and match tickets to the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005.
In the spirit of fair play and friendship, FIFA General Secretary, Dr. Urs Linsi travelled from Zurich to be present for the media conference. He was warm in his appraisal of Liverpool FC who he feels should be regarded as one of the world's leading clubs.
"It was a pleasure and honour for me to be at Anfield to officially welcome Liverpool as Champions of Europe into the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005," he said. "If you look at what this club has achieved and its traditions not only in the city but in the world, it is certainly impressive.
"For me, nothing was more impressive than the way they came from three-nil down to draw level with AC Milan and then win the UEFA Champions League on penalties. They were inspired by a passionate support who uplifted them with the words of the club anthem: 'You'll Never Walk Alone.' Their support was amazing. I know that in three years time Liverpool will be the European Capital of Culture and I am glad because know how much football plays a big part in the city's life."
Dr. Linsi's final comment was not an understatement. And perhaps, the piece of graffiti outside Anfield will be lovingly altered on the 18 December to read: 'Liverpool FC, Champions of Europe - and the world.' Certainly the club, its manager, players and fans hope it will be.