FC Barcelona 2–8 Bayern München; Aston Villa 7–2 Liverpool; Leicester City 5–2 Manchester City. Someone who didn’t see those games would think that they were handball matches; they’re the weirdest match results I’ve seen in my twelve years following football. Having all of them in one football season (the current one) is not a coincidence.
COVID-19: the nightmare that made 2020 an unbearable year for people around the world. During lockdowns, uncertainty, melancholy and sadness were the dominating emotions. Many people suffered from the loss of a job or even the loss of a loved one. In this dark panorama, fans demanded the return of football matches as the only thing that could relieve their pain. The sport was back in May 2020, but its return was really disappointing, since the coronavirus impacted football the same way it impacted other areas of life.
A frantic schedule
After a lockdown of almost four months, professional teams got back to the field, only to face a very demanding schedule. Playing a game every two days had never been common in the history of the sport. For that reason, players’ fatigue made football games far from enjoyable shows for spectators.
In each match, you would have only the first half hour to see beautiful football; after that, players would struggle just to keep the game alive. And if that wasn’t enough, injuries also became a very common occurrence: players are humans, not machines, and their muscles aren’t able to endure so many games in such a short amount of time.
Football without spectators
The COVID-19 crisis has brought home to us the value of many things. One of them is the importance of spectators in football. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the public is the twelfth player on a football pitch. With empty bleachers, games like the Classico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the derby between Manchester United and Manchester City, or even the Champions League final looked like third division–level games.
We genuinely miss Liverpool fans singing “You’ll never walk alone,” Barcelona fans celebrating the impressive goals of Leo Messi, and Borussia Dortmund fans encouraging their players no matter what the result is.
According to FIFA protocol, players are to be tested twice before match day. Two consecutive positive tests result in a player missing that game. This constitutes a great concern for teams. Imagine facing a very difficult game without an important player on the field because of coronavirus infection.
In the UEFA Champions League this season, some teams were obliged to play without eight or nine of their key players because of coronavirus infections. So coaches now have to pray not only that their players don’t get injured but also that they don’t catch the virus.
Like all events involving large gatherings of people, the major football competitions planned for summer 2020 were canceled. Football fans lost the opportunity to enjoy important tournaments like the UEFA European Football Championship and the CONMEBOL Copa América. Those tournaments were rescheduled for summer 2021; however, there is uncertainty as to whether it will be possible to hold them, in view of the major financial loss incurred by doing so without spectators in attendance.
With COVID-19, nothing in this world is like it was before. We’re very close to bidding farewell to 2020, a tough year for all of us, with the hope of saying goodbye to this cursed virus too, so that we can get back to our normal lives and enjoy the kind of football we were used to.