t is, first of all, a great privilege to still be able to attend football matches during the pandemic but, like everything in our lives, it is also a disparate reality to what we’ve known.
Long before kick-off, the first thing you notice is the unusual intimacy. The surrounding streets are all but deserted other than for a few hi-vis security jackets marshalling the absent. The players walk around undisturbed while media scatter the small section behind the dugouts. The pre-match rituals continue belligerently, such as an announcer bellowing into the empty stands, in what rapidly feels like a dress rehearsal rather than a true event.
A matchday now is essentially like seeing the grand illusion stripped back to its bare bones. The sense of show and traces of hysteria all removed until only those 90 minutes remain. Once that first whistle blows, aside from the shouts and pants of players, there is little noise at all. Moments of great drama draw no reaction other than from the protagonists themselves. The feats of genius which would be instantly memorised and laced with emotion are consumed later as highlight packages. There is a huge fortune in still being able to witness those aspects first hand but there is a sense of guilt, too.