Football is back and we are grateful but a crowd is not a sound effect | Jonathan Liew
30-Jun-2020 07:00:06 | The Guardian
We may be adapting to watching games without any crowd present but it is inauthentic: let’s not start getting too used to it
Nothing really prepares you for watching a Premier League game without a crowd for the first time. I was at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night to watch Chelsea v Manchester City and – after completing my temperature check, filling out my health questionnaire and negotiating the dozen or so security checkpoints – what I encountered was something bare and brutal: football stripped to its bones, condensed to its basic raw materials.
Perhaps the most startling thing was not how inauthentic it felt, but how real. You realise how small a stadium really is, how much flesh and longing we pack into these four walls. You realise, too, how much it means to those involved. The normal frames of reference – school football, youth football, training games, Sunday League – do not really apply here. Perhaps this is as much projection as reality, but you feel the freight of the occasion in every pass and barge and aerial duel. You hear Antonio Rüdiger bawling at his team-mates. Kevin De Bruyne barking: “NOW! NOW!” as he seeks a quick pass. Raheem Sterling screaming “OUR BALL, REF!” as if he’s pleading for clemency from the eternal fires of damnation, rather than a throw-in level with the 18-yard box. Continue reading...Read More