Will Football Ever Feel The Same Again?

Numerous people involved in the world of football have been assigned the quote of football being the most important of the least important things in life. Jürgen Klopp wrote in his recent statement, “I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things”, for example. It’s a good quote because it’s so true. We all know, deep down, that football is a silly thing. It’s a frivolous enterprise; something that really is ‘just a game’ when all is said and done. Yet it inspires such passion in us all that we can’t help but reject that notion of it being ‘just a game’ the second we hear someone say it. It’s only at times like this, when the world feels as though it’s coming apart at the seams, that we’re able to take a step back and realise that football doesn’t matter as much as we spend most of our time thinking it does. We’ve all been guilty of over-egging that particular putting at one point or another.

Personally, I found myself in a very bizarre situation a week or so ago. It looked for all the world like we might win the title if we beat Crystal Palace at Anfield. Having a ticket for the match, I was weighing up whether I’d go or not, in spite of the threat of the Coronavirus. Most people were likely having the same argument with themselves, but for me it was slightly different on account of the fact that three weeks ago I had a course of Lemtrada, which is a type of chemotherapy designed for people with leukaemia but that also works for sufferers of multiple sclerosis. It leaves you with a compromised immune system, meaning that if I get Covid-19 it will likely kill me. Why on earth was I even toying with the idea of going to the match? It was clearly a ludicrous thought, yet it’s the sort of self-imposed madness that all football fans are guilty of from time to time. With football now cancelled, I can’t help wonder whether it will ever feel the same again.

It Will Take Time To Readjust

Some people have decided that they’re too important to follow advice about the Coronavirus. They don’t think they need to practice social distancing because they’re young, healthy or haven’t shown any symptoms of having it. Forget that they might pass it on to other people unwittingly, they simply don’t think the rules apply to them. Most of us, though, aren’t being so stupid and selfish. The majority of people are regularly washing their hands, trying not to go out if they don’t have to and limiting their contact with other people. Choosing, as Jürgen Klopp would say, ‘the good of the wider society’. We currently have no idea how long we’ll have to do that for. We simply don’t know when things will return to anything like normality. It’s more than possible that we have to behave like this for months. Football has been delayed until the thirtieth of April regardless, so we’ve got at least another month and a half without it.

When we are able to return to stadiums, how odd will it feel? We’ll be giddy, of course, but it won’t be easy to shake the feeling of an existential threat that we’ve grown accustomed to now. The idea of jumping around celebrating a goal, hugging the people next to us or putting up with spittle leaving fellow supporters’ mouths as they scream invectives at the referee or opposition players will seem entirely alien. I’m far from convinced that most of us will just settle back in to the age old patterns of behaviour. Even the notion of going to a jam-packed pub before and after the game will be a strange one to comprehend. I’m not entirely sure some people have come to grips with just how weird this whole experience is going to be, how different life will feel for some times. The reality is that ‘normal’ won’t really come back until there’s a vaccine for the virus that we’ll know can keep us safe and that’s about a year and a half away. This won’t be over quickly.

Will Football Use This As A Chance To Change?

The other thing that might well happen is that the footballing authorities decide to use what’s happened as a chance to change the way things are done. Prior to the Coronavirus putting a stop to proceedings, football did what football had always done because it’s a sport of tradition that is difficult to change. Yet now we have no idea when matches will resume, nor how they’ll work when they do. Paul Cope made the point on a recent Anfield Wrap show that the Qatar World Cup means that there needs to be a break in the winter in 2022 anyway, so perhaps the break in the calendar will allow leagues to rejig how they work permanently. What if the season resumes in September, ends in November and then the next season doesn’t start back up until January? They could keep it the same until after the World Cup and during that period the powers that be could think that they actually like playing in the summer rather than the winter.

That’s assuming that intercontinental tournaments are even able to resume any time soon. Certainly the idea of the Euros being hosted all around the continent looks ever-more foolish in a world where a virus has been spread so quickly and, seemingly, easily. There are multiple things that might change about football after this crisis is over, then. It’s also entirely possible that things will just return to normal. Liverpool supporters know more than most the manner in which life can carry on as if nothing has changed, when in reality everything has. Perhaps this time next year we’ll look back at this article and be amazed at the fear I’m displaying. But that’s the sort of thing that comes your way when you have a weakened immune system and could literally die if the bug sweeping around the planet is introduced to your system. I very much hope I’m wrong, but the truth is that right now none of us know what is going to happen. Scary times indeed.

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