Live football has been in limbo across the globe for over two months due to the rampaging effects of the coronavisus pandemic currently devastating many parts of the world. Major competitions have been postponed or cancelled while running events were halted abruptly.
Football leagues in top European countries, Africa, Asia and other parts of the world were stopped to curb the spread of the deadly virus tagged COVID-19. There was also a stay-at-home directive by governments and the lockdown kept athletes in various sports disciplines indoors for about 10 weeks or more. As governments at various levels in different countries attempt to ease the lockdown to gradually bring back normalcy, it is crucial to examine the effects in the past week.
German Bundesliga against all odds came back on May 15. Many thought the restart plan was a joke until the first kick of the ball. The restart in Germany was dramatic and a testimony of much more drama to come in future. It was obvious that the fans were happy with the return of live football games after two-month forced break, but they also observed that there are new rules which made few things looked different in Saturday’s games.
All of this weekend’s matches will be played behind closed doors, and players are embracing the new rules by enjoying social distancing goal celebrations. Five substitutions can now be made in a match while players are forbidden from spitting on the pitch.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland wasted no time getting back to his old ways when he onetimed it home from the center of the box in the 28th minute against rivals Schalke. Erling Haaland celebrated Dortmund’s first restart goal with a dance in the corner while his teammates stood yards away and clapped for him.
As if that was not enough, Raphael Guerreiro scored also for Dortmund and his teammates safely showed him some love with elbow bumps. Also on the opening restart day, Hertha Berlin defender Dedryck Boyata kissed Marko Grujic on the cheek after one goal, but German Football League says he won’t face any sanctions for breaking social distancing guidelines on goal celebration. In South Korea, professional football league imposed a record fine on one of its clubs for placing 24 sex dolls in empty seats during a recent match played without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. FC Seoul was forced to apologise afterwards after the club’s 1-0 win over Gwangju FC last Sunday.
The glamorous English League is also facing confusion even as June 20 was agreed as the restart date. Tottenham and Bournemouth are currently investigating Serge Aurier and Jordon Ibe after they appeared to have breached coronavirus socialdistancing rules.
Spurs right-back Aurier posted a photo on social media of himself and a barber after getting a haircut even though saloons are expected to reopen on July 4. Aurier apologised for posting a video of himself and a friend jogging during lockdown. Another interesting pre-restart tale also in the EPL is that some players have vowed not to resume training. Raheem Sterling and Danny Rose have publicly criticized the restart.
Skipper Troy Deeney was one of the Watford players who have vowed not to join the team in training as at Wednesday, the day after three members of the club’s playing and coaching staff, including the centre-back Adrian Mariappa, were found to have tested positive for Covid-19.
This weekend more matches will take place in Germany under strange circumstances of playing behind closed doors and other new rules made to curb the spread of coronavirus. Since all the players have been tested before the games, the rule of no celebration is not necessary.
If we are to enjoy the beautiful game, it is actually better to wait for normalcy to return rather than cutting corners to bring the game into disrepute. No doubt, managers of the game are thinking about the financial losses they have incurred in the past weeks on sponsorship, TV rights and general merchandising, but human lives are much more important especially as not less than 20,000 COVID-19 deaths were recorded in England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany – where major football leagues take place in Europe.
The EPL can still advance on the dramatic tales recorded in Germany while it is expected that sports authorities in Nigeria at various levels will learn from the restart drama across Europe. Football and other sports must not be rushed to restart in the country.