You have done something great or quite incredibly stupid to see your name trending on the social media platform Twitter. After all, it’s not always that an ordinary man’s name trend on this immensely popular platform. On a day when the media was abuzz with the final chapter of the hunt of a fugitive spanning 15 years long, another piece of news which was not going amiss for the football lovers was the decision of a certain 37 year old defender announcing his retirement. In Twitter, people across boundaries and club allegiances were paying tribute to him trending Sami Hyypia.
The Bayern Leverkusen defender and one of the Kop’s all-time favourite Sami Hyypia announced his retirement at the age of 37 yesterday. Expected to take up the coaching role with the German club come next season along with helping the Finnish national side as well, the immensely popular Finn has indeed come a long way from his playing days for the Finnish side, Pallo-Peikot. Surprisingly enough, during his playing days in Palla-Peikot, he played in every role except that of a defender!
Despite playing for various leagues, Sami Hyypia will be best known for his playing days for Liverpool FC in the English Premier League. How Hyypia came to the club he supported as a boy is a story in itself. At a time when Gerard Houllier and his team were desperately seeking a defender to plug in the hole in the defence that was leaking goals, a TV cameraman’s tip-off to the then Liverpool Executive Vice-Chairman Peter Robinson started an era that went on to define Liverpool’s success for the next decade. Not that, everyone knew who this 6ft 4 inches giant was anyway. As he recollected later on,
“Some people didn’t have a clue who I was. Maybe they thought someone had lost their way and walked into the training ground by accident.”
Playing in Lesser Leagues!
Hyypia was signed from the Dutch club Willem II, a club trading in the Eredivisie league, in the year 1999 for £2.6 million. By then he had already played for My-Pa in the Veikkausliiga side and helped his team win the Finnish Cup in the years 1992 and 1995. From My-Pa, he was signed by the Dutch club where he played for four more years before his big move to the English side. He did give an early indication of how immensely popular he was when he won the player of the year award in his final year at the Dutch side after helping them qualify for the Champions League.
After having played 464 games, scoring 35 goals and helping Liverpool win the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and two FA Cups, Hyypia moved to his final club Bayern Leverkusen in 2009. A decade long dedicated service to the English side finally coming to an end in the summer, during which he also wore the captain’s arm band. In his time at Liverpool, he formed two lethal defensive partnerships – first with Stephane Henchoz and then with Jamie Carragher. As per Henchoz,
“If I think of all the central defensive partners I have played alongside in my career, I would definitely say that Sami would probably have to be the best.”
It was this partnership with Henchoz that is regarded to have played a massive role in the treble winning season of 2000-01. In 184 games together, clean sheet was achieved in 84 of them.
Life at Liverpool F.C
He had a disciplinary record for a defender which was extraordinary for a league which is considered one of the most physical and at the same time, the fastest in the world. He got only one red card during his entire stint in Liverpool and has got the record of going 87 games between January of 2000 and October of 2001 without being booked – feats which any defender will be proud of. All these were duly appreciated by the coaches and the fans alike and no wonder, the immensely popular Finn was ranked 38th in Liverpool’s “100 Players Who Shook the Kop” survey.
Sami – A true gentleman!
Popularity was another key aspect that helped the Finn whichever club he played for alongside his defensive talent. A true gentleman and an immense team player, he was always the fans’ favourite and a delight on the field for any manager. The dignity which he showed on handling over the captainship band to a young Steven Gerrard was well summed up by the legendary Kenny Dalglish,
“He was made captain of the club and even when the decision was taken to make a change and give the armband to Steven Gerrard, the dignity he showed was brilliant and reflected tremendously well on him as a person.”
To be revered alongside Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson amongst the greatest defenders that Liverpool ever had is an achievement a few can ever dream of playing in its Reds. If that was not enough, Hyypia has been named the footballer of the year in Finland 9 times, was voted in 19th place in Sky Sports “Top 50 Premier League Foreign Players” and 45th in FourFourTwo magazine’s “100 Greatest Foreign Players”. No wonder the Kop stood in salute to a tearful Sami Hyypia when he played his final game for Liverpool at Anfield but not before leading the club one final time when he came on a substitute when Gerrard passed on to him the captainship arm-band. A moment forever etched in the memory of millions of Liverpool supporters all over the world.
Finally after playing 2 seasons for Bayern Leverkusen and winning the defender of the year accolade twice, Hyypia finally walked away from the game yesterday afternoon. But not before giving his fans, and the general football fans as much, a display of passion, love and performances for which he will be remembered and revered to as a legend forever.
Take a bow, Sami Hyypia. You have been a great servant and you’ll never walk alone!
By Guest Author – Kaushik Saikia – Follow him on Twitter @KpsychsS
Follow the Website on Twitter @TheHardTackle