Coronavirus. This is a word that has been used constantly over the past few months. Also known as COVID-19, it is a pandemic that has prompted most aspects of everyday life to vanish. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, putting families and loved ones in agony. The highly contagious disease is spread via the air; forcing governments across the world to put mass gatherings to a stop. An agglomeration of countries have been in lockdown for a while, with many people stuck at home and – you guessed it – bored.
Millions of people live and breathe football. Possibly billions. Whether it’s watching your favourite club or playing for your Sunday league team. However, no one has been able to interact with the beautiful game until very recently, when the Bundesliga restarted. Coronavirus has doubtlessly been tough on us all. But what effects has the pandemic had on the beautiful game?
How did it start?
Let’s reverse back in time. Italy was the first European country to be significantly wounded by COVID-19, and its top-flight was the first major footballing league to stop fans from watching their team. In early March, the Italian Serie A was played behind closed doors – something that the Premier League is yet to experience – in efforts to contain the coronavirus. It wasn’t long until authorities deemed it too unsafe for sporting events. Eventually, all major European leagues were postponed until further notice.
Towards the end of March, it was fairly clear that football wasn’t going to resume any time soon. Premier League stars, including Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi and Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta, tested positive for the virus making it unlikely for a resumption of football in April. This was when some important questions were asked about pay towards staff. Finances have been severely damaged in football because of the virus. With some clubs choosing to furlough and others deciding it was best not to, the public swiftly judged teams by their decisions. Most players took some form of a pay cut, to aid the financial difficulties the Coronavirus was providing.
Footballers continually proved that they weren’t cold-hearted, money-making machines, with many players providing food banks with food, properties to NHS workers and donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to Coronavirus charities.
Euro 2020 Postponed
Euro 2020 was postponed until next year, with it seeming extremely unlikely that it would be safe to go ahead with the tournament. In Germany, players returned to their clubs’ training grounds, with a mid-May continuation of the Bundesliga expected. As the month went by, Coronavirus provoked Ligue 1, Eredivisie and Jupiler Pro League’s respective seasons into abandonment.
Now we report back to the present. The Bundesliga is back. And, behind closed doors, it is… eerie. However much it is talked about, there is still no planned return date for the Premier League. Players have returned to training – but not everyone.
Watford – placed 17th in the English top-flight – has drawn the short straw in recent times; 6 Premier League players and staff tested positive for COVID-19, with 3 at Watford. Not only this but their skipper Troy Deeney has refused to return to training because he feared for his family’s safety if he went back to London Colney. The 31-year-old forward said: “My problem was in the meeting, I asked very simple questions.
“For black, Asian and mixed ethnicities, they’re four times more likely to get the illness, they’re twice as likely to have long-lasting illnesses – is there anything extra, additional screening, heart stuff to see if people have got problems with that? No. OK, well I feel that should be addressed.
“I can’t get a haircut until mid-July but I can go and get in a box with 19 people and go and jump for a header and nobody could answer the questions, not because they didn’t want to, just because they don’t know the information. So I said if you don’t know the information, why would I put myself at risk?”
Chelsea midfielder N’golo Kante has reportedly followed the Birmingham-born player is refusing to train. Deeney’s controversial decision was justified after close friend and teammate Adrian Marriapa revealed that he had tested positive for the virus. The Jamaican defender told The Telegraph: “I’ve been scratching my head to try to work out how I might have got coronavirus. It was a big surprise because I haven’t really left the house, apart from some exercise and the odd walk with the kids.”
Coronavirus has undoubtedly impacted the footballing calendar negatively. With cancellation, uncertainty, agony and fear across the world, COVID-19 has decimated our plans. Governments have dealt with this situation controversially. The question is, where do we go from here?