As we begin the month of May, once set to be the final month of the 2019-20 season, we’re seeing some hopeful signs of football being able to return soon.
There’s of course plenty of pushback, just as there is in all walks of life. Some are calling for lockdowns to be extended indefinitely. Some are wanting everything open again. Voices in the more reasoned middle are drowned out, as usual.
But the harsh reality is that lockdowns cannot go on forever. Our society isn’t built to handle that. At some point, the risk will no longer outweigh the
reward necessity — hopefully that decision, when it’s made, will be made based on good science. Things won’t be “normal” for a while, if ever again, certainly not without a vaccine, which may not eradicate COVID-19 completely either, but just as in the previous paragraph, the extreme ends of the range of possible decisions are not the answer.
If we are to resume soon, Germany will most likely lead the way. The Bundesliga have drawn up clear and theoretically feasible plans for games behind closed doors, with regular testing, and other preventative measures. They cannot eliminate the risk — that’s not possible, for anyone — but they can reduce it to a manageable, reasonable level. At least that’s what they’re advocating.
The German authorities were expected to decide on the efficacy of that proposal this week, and give the green light for a May 9 restart, but that decision and thus potential restart has been delayed by a week after a one-day spike in cases throughout the country following the relaxing of lockdown measures. The issue will be revisited next week, when a green light would mean a May 16 restart.
Meanwhile, in Italy, where the situation is also slowly improving after disaster that was March, Serie A chiefs have voted to hold promotion and relegation as normal, regardless of the how the season ends. They’re so committed to that idea, that they would even be willing to extend the current season past August (if allowed by UEFA) — but either way, promotion and relegation will go ahead as usual.
This is similar to what French football decided yesterday, awarding the title, European places, and relegation/promotion based on the last available standings before canceling the rest of the games. This hasn’t sat well with at least one team, Lyon, who thus miss out on Europe. At the time of the break, they were nine points behind fourth place Lille, but that isn’t stopping them from considering their legal options, and suing the league for denying them the chance to make up that difference in the remaining 10 games of the season.
Breaking | Lyon confirm in statement that they are considering taking legal action against the league governing body, the LFP, including but not limited to suing for damages, after the decision to end the 2019/20 season on current placement led to OL not qualifying for Europe.— Get French Football News (@GFFN) April 30, 2020
(Not that the other option is without such problems either, since SC Cambuur, who were denied promotion to the Eredivisie when their season was voided, are also threatening to sue the league.)
UPDATE: Amiens, who were thusly relegated from Ligue 1, have also confirmed similar intentions.
Regardless of what happens, not everyone will be satisfied, not everyone will be happy. Some will be angry, even. There is no perfect solution.
And let’s not forget about the players either of course — they’re human, too! — some of whom are just as scared to emerge out of isolation as you or I might be when we have to go to the grocery store, or, in many cases, to work as an “essential” worker.
Football isn’t essential in the same way healthcare, public utilities, the food industry, or delivery services are, but where do you draw the line?
Willian and Antonio Rüdiger are just two of the players who have shared their concerns recently about pushing for a return too quickly; now here’s Sergio Agüero with similar sentiments that are making the rounds today.
“The majority of players are scared because they have family, they have children, they have babies. When we go back, I imagine that we will be very tense, we will be very careful and the moment someone feels ill, you will think: ‘What’s gone on there?” It does scare me.’”
-Sergio Agüero; source: El Chiringuito via Guardian
(Someone should tell Sergio that he probably won’t be able to see his family anyway if the restart does happen in the expected “tournament-style” closer doors format.)
The fear is real, but life must go on. Unless you’re a Bene Gesserit, fear will affect you. How you deal with it is up to you at the end of the day, but eventually, we all (as a global society) need a better solution to all of this (and I don’t mean just football) than isolation.