What do we do now that football’s gone?

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

This iconic quote from Bill Shankly is one we all like to refer to when we are justifying the screaming that we have just directed towards our TV screens. Yet, the recent coronavirus outbreak has brought upon us the harsh reality of just how untrue this is. Football is enthralling – for me, it is the best fans’ sport in the world. However, saving lives must always come first.

Still, no matter how necessary, the absence of our ever-reliable footy has left many of us bored out of our minds. After all, there is only so many times you can re-watch old episodes of Premier League Years, TV gold as they may be.

Usually, when football breaks up for the end of the season, we either wait for an international tournament to begin, or we resort to going outside and having a kickabout ourselves. It is summer, after all. Unfortunately, in the current climate we live in today, this is not possible for those of us that lack pitches in our back gardens.

Where do we turn to next? Fifa? Enjoyable as it is, it is not the same as the real thing; hence the stars engaging in tournaments in an attempt to pique fans’ interest have largely done so to little avail. Plus, even as someone who coughs up £50+ each year to buy a game that is mostly the same, I accept that playing it throughout quarantine is simply unhealthy.

On a positive note though, many footballing stars and pundits – likewise currently with little to do – have gone to some effort to help alleviate our boredom. Take, for example, team-building challenges, such as that issued by Jamie Carragher to create the best possible XI of players who have never played with each other at club or international level.

These players must have played since you were born, but those are the only rules. Seems easy, right? You would be wrong.

Give it a go, before long you will be tearing your hair out that the only right-back of legendary status who has only ever played for Inter Milan happens to also be Argentinian. After many hours of struggling, I did eventually manage to accommodate both Messi and Zidane in my team, and yes, I do mean hours.

Not your cup of tea? That is perfectly ok. Each week, Sky Sports releases a new big quiz that you can participate in. Alternatively, keep up to date in the world of sport by reading articles. After all, the transfer season is fast approaching, and according to some deluded individuals on social media, a new Saudi-led Newcastle United will soon be buying Kylian Mbappé, which really would be quite something for the Toon Army.

On YouTube, Bleacher Report’s ‘The Champions’ series is really worth a watch. Or you could even go so far as to trying to engage with a new sport, such as by looking at the most recent NFL Draft.

Before University, my sporting interest was limited mainly to football and cricket, as well as following anything an England team took part in. Now, I frequently stay up into the early hours to watch James Harden shooting step-back 3s in the NBA and Aaron Rodgers throwing Hail Marys in the NFL. Cliché as it may sound, this lockdown is an opportunity for us all to broaden our horizons and try new things.

Will we all be tuning in to watch Burnley vs Newcastle on Super Sunday in a year’s time? Realistically, despite what many claim, I doubt this. Everything, as it always does, will return to normality.

A festival of football could well be awaiting us a few months down the line, with a touted 5-week period in which they attempt to finish the season. We should look forward to this prospect; I certainly am.

However, we should also try to enjoy ourselves between now and then the best we can, in any way possible. Hopefully, this article goes some way to help fill that football-shaped hole many of us have in our lives right now.

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Luke Saward

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July 2021
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