I feel like I’ve been waiting for ages for the football calendar to resume, although it was only back in the middle of March that the decision was made to suspend the football season due to COVID-19. But now, this week, as I’m sure you will have noticed, football is back on TV again! And the excitement and anticipation in our house is incredible.
The first game of the resumed season was a neutral one for me: Aston Villa up against Sheffield United. But my family and I gathered around the TV, plates of lovely, hot poutine on our knees (see the pictutre below), celebrating an indulgent opportunity to ‘veg out’ in front of a game, and we were treated to a steady but intriguing match that resulted in a 0-0 draw.
Binge watching for the evening, we then sat quietly through Man City vs. Arsenal, expecting both teams to be raring to go: two Premier League giants ready for a big face-off. The 3-0 result went some way to suggest how unimaginative and out of practice Arsenal were. Man City were the better team, and it was clear that several weeks without a game had left all the players far from being match-sharp.
The return of top-flight football was marked with support for the Black Lives Matter movement, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Players have had ‘Black Lives Matter’ emblazoned on the backs of their jerseys and everyone on the pitch took a knee in solidarity with the movement and to highlight the importance of this message.
There is no doubting the power and meaning attached to these gestures, nor the impressiveness of many of the young men acting as terrific role models combating the racial prejudice and injustice which is still prevalent in football, across our society, and in many others around the globe. I hope these powerful gestures and eloquent footballers will be heeded, but more importantly that their words will be followed up by action by those with power that makes sport and society more inclusive and more just.
On Sunday, Father’s Day, we made a special dinner, a brazil nut and sage roast and all the trimmings, a bottle of wine, beer, and we gathered around the set for the much-awaited derby game. We expected our team to win: the presenters suggested that Liverpool would beat Everton easily, even though our main man Mo Salah was on the bench. When pundits make comments like that, I always expect things to go wrong.
It was a slow game and it might be fair to say that the 0-0 draw reflected the lack of end-to-end excitement and the match would have been much improved by the excited singing and baying of the crowd. However eerie it is to watch a live game with no supporters, safety comes first.
Everton might even have deserved to win the match. Tom Davies hit the crossbar; Seamus Coleman and Mason Holgate both had a strong game and they very effectively nullified Liverpool’s attacking intent. The only consolation was that we are another point closer to achieving the title, but understandably, after such a long lay-off, and having no crowd presence to raise the players’ game, the tension and excitement of football isn’t quite what it used to be.
Our next games are Crystal Palace, who appear to be in fighting form having handily dispatched relegation-threatened Bournemouth in their first game back, and then Man City who hammered Burnley last night. There will be some twists and turns in the Premier League before this season is over and before we can finally celebrate that long-awaited title. But football is back and we have everything to play for. Bring it on!