Can you not just picture it now? Anticipation before the game, the team line-up announcement, and the pre-match chips. And then, just as a Covid-free world couldn’t get any better, you get to enjoy our beloved beautiful game in a sun-kissed stadium to the harmonious renditions of your club’s favourite chants. It’s bliss. Undoubtedly so.
However, as the country slowly eases its way towards a post-pandemic world, it feels only right to take stock and appreciate the best football pyramid in the world and its dependable, infallible and unwavering commitment to providing us all with the creature comforts we didn’t realise we needed.
I’ve always been an organised individual, I make lists for absolutely everything, my life is colour-coded, alphabetised and structured to every degree possible. The impact of Covid has been felt by us all and nobody is alone in that. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs recently but one constant that has helped me has been the consistency of my football fix.
While at times I’ve not been entirely comfortable with football taking precedence over other industries during a pandemic, I’ve come to realise how important regular football has been, providing fans across the country with a semblance of familiarity amongst the chaos.
Routine and structure are part of us all and so the on-going match day schedule has provided a welcome respite during testing times. Although it may be easier for me to say when the team I support has been winning relentlessly, the frenzied shouts of score lines from Jeff Stelling or the new-found bromance between Roy Keane and Micah Richards have helped me considerably to making weekends feel meaningful and exciting again.
Like so many who have cherished and treasured the unlikely companionship of radio throughout lockdown, I’ve found comfort and value in how football acts as a beacon of normalcy in the modern world.
It doesn’t just give me something to distract myself from my anxieties and low moods, but it’s a talking point, a gateway and a conversation starter to friends, family and other like-minded fans. We’ve probably all found it a struggle to find things to talk about over the past year with the stock response of “yeah, I’m alright, I’ve not got much to tell you really” becoming so commonplace that I could probably stick the same recorded conversation on repeat when someone calls for a catch up.
And it’s not just football, but it’s off-shoots too. Take the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) for example. If it wasn’t for FPL, the Premier League and other live sport, I wouldn’t have had the conversations and discussions with my little brother over WhatsApp like we have done during lockdown, and which have arguably made us become closer as a result.
“What transfers have you made this week?”, “Why did I put him on the bench?!”, or a random 4.18pm “KELECHIIIIII” WhatsApp message seem to have become the key social touchpoints of my entire week when I’m able to engage with family and friends over something so trivial but that’s become meaningful.
Amidst the uncertainty of the outside world, the normality of footy has provided a Roy Keane rambling and VAR-filled safe haven within the perimeter of my little terraced house. While it may not be the way we will want to consume football forever, I have enjoyed the respite from having to wait for line-ups on the shared stadium Wi-Fi or the midweek frostbite during the hectic Christmas schedule.
But fear not friends, we’re over the worst of it, and things are looking up. Some of us lucky few might even get into a stadium before the season ends and who thought we would be saying that just a few weeks ago.
Before going to football becomes the norm for us again (I can’t wait to be back in my seat!), let’s take a moment to appreciate the importance that football has played in our lives. Because whether we’re Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, we’re all in this together, and football is coming back.