Football in the Times of Corona

By Soham Mukherjee

There is a weird species of human that is essentially indistinguishable from the rest – yet they are vastly different in their psyche. Most of them walk around in packs having extremely serious conversations about important points and goals. They are often observed as having peculiar conversational rises and falls. A perfectly civil discussion may at any point burst into a loud-mouthed argument, dissolve into banter and finally settle back down to civility. Their signature signs include badges with crests on them, certain people or flags as screensavers and sometimes even full display of allegiance through t-shirts and other apparel.

This peculiar species of human is the football fan. These people love their idols, their favourite clubs and, above all, the game itself. As a member of this species, I feel the need to express some of the anguish we are feeling in the times of corona. We are stuck in a meaningless void. We are walking around like zombies. Not knowing what to talk about, we are simply nodding at people we usually have meaningful conversations with. And that’s just the weekdays.

When the weekend comes around, and I’m dreading this one already, we sit in our chairs, sofas, beds, etc. and stare at a blank screen. You see, there’s no football on. Large gatherings are a bad idea with Covid-19 on the loose. So they’ve cancelled all the football. They were playing in empty stadiums, but with Arsenal manager, Mikel Arteta and Chelsea player Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive, they’ve decided to cancel everything. And that is probably the worst bit of news that any football fan has ever heard.

We have fought through heartbreaking final losses, excruciating humiliations at the hands of rivals and cried through moments of high emotion. But none of that compares to the sadness of there being no football. It is not even a feeling or an emotion. It is simply a numbness slowly spreading out from our hearts.

This is not to say we don’t understand the reasoning. But football is our life-force. I’m sure you all have something that melts your stress away. Well, don’t you? For us, it’s football. It has always been football. Everything always takes the back seat with football. Yet, now, we are helpless. We cannot possibly demand our regular entertainers to risk their lives just for our sake. We know they want to. But it would be stupid. Really, really stupid.

However, even without any on-pitch action, our beloved clubs have been inspiring us. Everton FC is calling up elderly club members to see if they need assistance. Aston Villa and most other clubs donated the food that had been prepared for last weekend’s matches. They know how to take care of their fans which, frankly, makes us miss them even more.

It would seem that we have no option but to hunker down and see out this month or so, even if there is no football to keep us going. We have to find the courage. Watch highlights, relive old glories, these are the gifts that our beloved clubs give us to enjoy, to cherish, to bring hope, not just in those moments of glory, but for times when everything is crumbling around us.

Football, bloody hell.

Soham Mukherjee is an amateur writer who loves football more than most things. His first book, a collection of short stories, was published last year. 

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