So yesterday I was watching Borussia Dortmund vs FC Schalke 04 – two teams I have not followed at all since the start of the season…or you can say ever. And I believe I am saying this for the masses who don’t actually follow the Bundesliga that they were anticipating for this match with great fervor. So, why were we so interested in watching a derby that otherwise we would have never cared about. The reason is simple – this was the first major sporting event that resumed after all the activities were halted by the little devil known as coronavirus nearly 2 months ago. Now, by no means I intend to say that everything is all rosy now and from tomorrow the earth you knew will be back. Not one bit. But watching the players on field trying to outmaneuver each other and put the ball in the back of the net just indicated a semblance of normalcy, something we had been missing for months. And this is what I want to talk about.
First let’s address the elephant in the room. Signal Iduna Park (Borussia Dortmund’s home ground) is known to be one of the most difficult grounds to play. The onus lies on the spectators present in the stadium who create an atmosphere that is unparalleled in the world. So the biggest miss yesterday were the fans in stadium. Watching Dortmund play behind closed doors in a vacant arena just felt a little empty. A spectator sport with no audience to cheer leaves a sour taste considering this will be the case for time being. The players however, left no stone unturned in making the match exciting with their gameplay. They even applauded the unoccupied seats in the stadium after the game – a gesture to thank all the fans glued to their television giving their support.
So, this brings me to my point. Afraid of the pandemic’s outbreak, some countries even decided to end their league prematurely as they were not sure whether they could contain the pandemic to finish the league in the next two months. The news we hear on a daily basis (not just related to football) are mostly grim and pretty depressing. People’s life has been dictated by monotony with little to cheer for in the past two months. In that respect, reintroducing football gives out a message that is much bigger than any trophy a team could acquire. A message that states we are winning the war over coronavirus by taking baby steps to reopen the world.
In Jurgen Klopp’s terms, ‘football is the most important thing among the least important things in our lives.’ and when that returns, it indicates that a return of other aspects of our lives won’t be far behind. With the return of Bundesliga, Germany has announced they have halted the pandemic in their country and hope to restore the balance in the weeks to come. Such message will have a huge impact that might make the world believe that the worst is now over. Other sporting events may look at Germany’s lead and start taking steps to bring back the excitement that had been missing in a sporting fan’s life.
Don’t get me wrong. I may be a hopeless romantic that is looking for deeper meaning in present that is devoid of joy. There are chances that this could prove to be a false dawn. But with anything that signals even a small hint towards the return to normalcy, I am going to take it.
Ali Shaan Haider
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