Like an addict needing a fix, I miss football but COVID-19 is bigger than football


Sport goes on, it’s what it does. Even when all else is off and life has lost its normalcy, sport refuses to kowtow and there is no sport that stands as defiant as football.

And when things get darkest of all, its prevalence gives hope, it’s pure and simple escapism. But right now, there is no football and little in the way of escape.

At its core, football is a simple game that can be condensed down to one person trying to kick an object into/at a target. You don’t need the plushest carpeted regulation-sized pitch, nor do you need the fanciest ball with Nike’s Aerowtrac technology, an empty can or rolled up pair of socks would do… And because football is so simple, so graspable, it’s not just highly playable but highly watchable.

Each country has their own ways of approaching the game, cultural idiosyncrasies that dictate who they become on the pitch as some even find their own identity though the game – I’m looking at you, Uruguay. No matter who you are, no matter your abilities, or where you come from, football is there for you to watch and to play, as much a constant as an obsession.

So long, farewell

So now, when all leagues and federations have finally said, “No.” and shut their doors for an indefinite amount of time due to the Coronavirus outbreak, we find ourselves as junkies without dealers. The W-League grand final on Saturday morning was the last of the women’s matches for who knows how long and the women’s football world did all they could to make sure they were watching. Alarms on phones were set, coffee was drunk and collectively we tuned in – streams permitting – to watch the 4.30am (GMT) kick-off.

It wasn’t a bad last match and with just one goal scored it remained open and poised throughout, but the implications of the empty stadium and coach coughing in the dugout were heavy, changing 90 minutes into so much more. From Melbourne to California, New York and Stockholm we watched on. The regular season had passed us by, time zones and other leagues our reasons but with nothing else left, we all reached out to pick up the scraps from the buffet as the manager called time.

And then it was over, City victors, and everyone individually going up to a table to collect their medals as to not touch. Irony and farce melded as one of the last few lights on the street went out, football was going home to be folded into a cupboard for an undisclosed amount of time.

Socially distanced media

The landscape has already shifted, football adapting the second the FA announced all professional football in England would be halted. Now you can watch your favourite footballer try and do keepie-uppies with loo roll or get corralled into learning a dance for a TikTok video. Current football is no more so fans and broadcasters have opted for the ease of replaying old matches with the internet soldiering on, live-tweeting history almost as if living out a mass delusion. I can’t believe it, Wolfgang Weber has just struck an equaliser in the 89th minute, I don’t know if I can last extra time: no one tell me what happens next..!

If dipping into the past isn’t you thing, there’s always the noughts and crosses being played by teams on Twitter, Football Manager or watching other people play virtual/esports. Like methadone to an addict, it’s something but it’s not what you crave.

Even during times of war there have been staggered levels of sport and socialising still taking place, something to help you forget the bleak reality you reside in. But this time there is no socialising. The rhetoric from elected officials to the man on the street is of a world at war, there is talk of Blitz spirit but COVID-19 isn’t a malicious enemy hell bent on your destruction, but just a virus, spread person to person that takes up home in your respiratory system. It wants a host, not a target.

Stay in

Socialising, going to the pub, crowding into a football stadium to watch a match: the things we are so desperate to do when told we have to stay at home for our own safety as well as the safety of others. This is a time when we all have to come together METAPHORICALLY to stop the spread of the virus, we all have to make sacrifices but it’s not about storming no man’s land and taking flak. It’s about staying home, accepting there’s no normalcy, not crowding supermarkets and panic buying but acting for each other to protect everyone.

There is no football and we all bloody miss it, and even if watching two teams play draughts on Twitter isn’t your thing, you can still do your bit to stop the spread and help football [as well as everything else]return sooner rather than later. Just don’t be a dick.


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