HomeSoccerFootball post-COVID-19: All you need to know

Football post-COVID-19: All you need to know

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Every football club in the world — irrespective of stature, class, and philosophy — strive to create an unshakable bond with its supporters. To such footballing powerhouses, fans’ unyielding support is the ultimate prize, worth more than shiniest of trophies. 

Out of the five major European leagues, Germany’s Bundesliga arguably values its fans the most, doing what’s necessary to make the games more hospitable, more inclusive. The top-flight clubs, too, are accustomed to putting their faith in the ‘12th man’. They regularly count on the cumulative effort of the fans to give them an edge; especially when the chips are down. 

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Lately, however, they’ve had to make do with 11 men, as the 12th has been forced off due to an untimely crisis.

COVID-19 hasn’t only killed thousands and infected millions, it has also dampened our spirit, aspirations, and hope. At this point, bouncing back seems like a herculean task. Yet, Germany is trying to restore a sense of normalcy, with the spirited Bundesliga clubs showing the way. The rest of Europe is set to follow suit, and we couldn’t be happier seeing our idols jogging back to the silenced battlegrounds. 

The new normal

Bundesliga has become the first major European league to kick-start football in the post-COVID era. Yes, the battle is still far from won, but the world refuses to stand still and let a virus seize its soul.

The German top-flight — commenced from the 16th of May — has already hosted four action-packed game weeks. The headliner, of course, was ‘Der Klassiker,’ which ended in a 1-0 win in favour of the holders, Bayern Munich. Pre-COVID, a match between the two biggest German clubs used to be a thing of beauty; a carnival.
On a regular ‘Klassiker’ afternoon, the Signal Iduna Park would’ve awarded their yellow warriors an electrifying atmosphere; given the Bavarians a spine-chilling welcome. 

Instead, the teams battled it out at an eerily-silenced, echoing stadium, devoid of any positive enforcement from the stands. 

The new rule kept the two teams from coming out of the tunnel at the same time. Handshakes, too, are now a lost etiquette.

Players, wary of unnecessary contact, are now more focused at timing their challenges, instead of lunging in ‘unnecessarily.’ Celebrations, too, are now as muted as you’d expect.

No jumping atop one another, no over-the-top acrobatics — Joshua Kimmich kept to himself and only acknowledged his mates’ excitement after scoring one of the finest chipped-goals of the season.

The clubs are also allowed to use five substitutes for the remainder of the season. This significant change has been made to shield players from serious injuries, which is very much a possibility given the tight scheduling and lack of match fitness. 

Others to join the party

Spain, Italy, and England have been fighting tooth and nail to jump right into the action. There have been a lot of hurdles and reservations, but all three nations have decided to play out the remaining fixtures, adjudging it to be the only fair resolution at this point. 

Spain’s La Liga will be the first to follow Germany’s Bundesliga. The Spanish authorities have confirmed that matchday 28 will kick-off with Sevilla hosting local rivals Betis on the 11th of June.

The most-watched footballing league on the planet, the English Premier League, is set to resume a week later, on the 17th of June. Manchester City will host Arsenal on the day, while Aston Villa will welcome newly-promoted Sheffield United to Villa Park. The second division — Championship — has also received the green light and would spring back to life on the 20th of June.

Italy’s Serie A will be the last to resume, on the 20th of June. Atlanta will take on Sassuolo in the first match following the COVID-19-enforced suspension. The Italian Cup semi-finals and the final, on the other hand, could take place on the 13th and 17th, respectively. 

The casualties

While the likes of Spain, England, and Italy are preparing to return to the pitch, some leagues couldn’t stand the test of the pandemic. 

The French first-division, Ligue 1, was prematurely-concluded in April itself, with 10 rounds still left to play. Runway leaders, Paris Saint-Germain were declared champions, while Toulouse and Amiens were harshly relegated. 

Eredivisie — Netherland’s prestigious top division —  on the other hand, was abandoned on the 24th of April with no relegation and champions.

Similar to Ligue 1, the Belgian Pro League, too, was prematurely concluded with a handful of matches still left to play. Leaders, Club Brugge were crowned champions, and bottom-placed Waasland-Beveren were thrown into the pit. 

A new era

Football, at least for the time being, will feel a bit different. It will be a bit hollow, a little bland, without thousands of fans cheering their lungs out. Yet, the game we love will continue to entice, just the same.

The goals would still be fantastic, the saves just as brilliant. The atmosphere won’t be the same, of course, but the sport will continue to exist, live to fight another day.

So, keep up your chin, dust off your lucky jersey, and prepare to support your club from the safety of your couch.

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