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This year's dining issue of Desert Companion includes not only the 2022 Restaurant Awards, but also a special section called Street Eats, celebrating both fine dining and everyday eating out in Las Vegas.Read the digital edition

Welcome to the Club

Group picture of members of the Official Liverpool Supporters Club of Las Vegas
Stefan Lovgren
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Stefan Lovgren Photography

Where does a world traveler go to forge new friendships in Vegas? A soccer pub, of course

It's 11:30 a.m. on a Monday, and Shenanigans — the flag-draped inner sanctum of McMullan’s Irish Pub on West Tropicana Avenue that serves as the home to the Official Liverpool Supporters Club of Las Vegas — is already buzzing.

“Big game, this,” says Henry, the Dutchman, as I grab my seat next to him at the bar some 30 minutes before what is the biggest rivalry in the English Premier League kicks off: Manchester United vs. Liverpool.

“Don’t worry,” says Ermias, the Eritrean, who’s a couple of beers in already. “We’ll win 5-0 again.”

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With the room filled up, some out-of-towners are told to find space in the pub’s main area. Quinn, the Elvis impersonator who drives five and a half hours from his Utah home to watch the games at McMullan’s, rips off his clothes to reveal a full match kit (or uniform, in Yankee parlance).

Soon the singing starts, with loving odes to Big Virg and Señor Bobby, followed by “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The latter is the Liverpool anthem of solidarity and belonging that’s sung before every home game and amplified by the tens of millions of fans the club commands around the world.

I became one of those fans back in the late 1970s, at the start of Liverpool’s glory era. To an impressionable kid growing up in Sweden, where one English match a week was televised, the heroics of players such as Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish were mesmerizing. Later, I moved to the United States for college. By then, Liverpool’s dominance was fading, a development I tracked with dismay through newspaper clippings my dad mailed from Sweden (this was long before the days of the internet, let alone televised games in America).

For the past 25 years, I’ve lived on several continents and traveled the globe as a journalist, yet I’ve rarely missed a Liverpool match. I’ve watched games with herders in Mongolia; nomads in Timbuktu; at home with my sons; and with fellow strangers in countless bars around the world.

So when I moved to Las Vegas last fall, after spending the previous nine years back in Sweden, the first thing on my to-do list was to find a place where I could watch Liverpool play. By the time I moved into my house, I had already attended several games at McMullan’s.

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Seeing the same faces at every match — rather than just random people wearing Liverpool red — has satisfied a need I didn’t know I had. It also helped ground me in this most fluid of cities.

Through these gatherings at McMullan’s, I’ve been dispelled of a notion I may have had of Las Vegas as a place lacking in genuineness. Trust me when I tell you, the passion here is real and the commitment serious; no one is fidgeting with their phone during the game (unless it’s to check other Premier League scores). Rather, everyone is focused on the action — and everyone is here on equal terms.

I’ve come to appreciate the early Saturday morning kickoff. With the match finished by 9 a.m., a weekend that would, in a European time zone, have a giant road block placed in its way is suddenly cleared. And if we win, that weekend is filled with worry-free bliss. The problem, of course, is that a loss can wreck that same weekend — or, if the game is played on a Monday, as in the case of this Manchester United clash, an entire week.

And that’s what happens. Right from the kickoff, United are all over us, and a hush settles in the room as they open the scoring a mere 15 minutes into it. The second half starts with Liverpool regaining command, but then United scores again.

As the ball slams into the back of the net, Steve, one of the regulars sitting in front of me, buries his face in his hands. Steve grew up outside of Manchester but became a Liverpool supporter after his dad won tickets and took his 12-year-old son to a match at Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium. To Steve — and, really, all of us in the pub — there’s nothing worse than losing to this wretched lot.

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But lose we do, by a final score of 2-1 after a late consolation goal by Mohamed Salah, aka. “the Egyptian King.” Slowly the faithful trickle out into the Vegas summer heat, knowing the remainder of the workweek is ruined. Saturday morning, and a chance to redeem ourselves, can’t come soon enough.

When it does, my friend Joe, who’s never watched Liverpool before, joins me in Shenanigans for breakfast. Once again the room is packed, even though we’re heavily favored to beat newly promoted Bournemouth. And we do, soundly. At halftime, we’re up 5-0; by the final whistle, order is fully restored with a 9-0 victory, tying the largest victory margin in Premier League history.

It also turns out to be a big day for the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, as it’s our ritual to donate $1 per participating spectator to the organization every time Liverpool scores a goal. Today’s final tally: $283, adding to the more than $10,000 collected in total since the program started about two years ago.

I tell Joe it’s not always gonna be like this, but I’m not sure he believes me. As I say goodbye and head out into what feels like a much more manageable Vegas heat, I see him staying back to sign up for the mailing list.  ✦