Football Behind Closed Doors

Up to the present date Covid 19 has taken over a million lives and changed our daily routine drastically.

Life as we know it has gone with social distancing, hand sanitizer, empty pubs and restaurants becoming the new norm.

It has been a long journey for football to return with the last game played on 11th March in the UK. Due to the fast spread of the pandemic just 2 days later the FA suspended all games. It was due to return on April 3rd but Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the country to be in lockdown and on March 23rd nobody could have predicted the weeks of no football.

On 21st August the Welsh Senedd announced that elite football in Wales would return the following month. This was met with excitement by Welsh teams. With the return of football in these uncertain times came feelings of comfort and familiarity.

After 211 days on 27th September Cardiff City women’s team hosted Swansea. It was no ordinary match day with fans not allowed in the stadium and no atmosphere for the players to feed off, especially from a derby game. There is no replacement for the fans on the terrace cheering to push their team forward creating a feeling of somber silence but for the shouting of the players. As a reporter I felt the occasion was less tense and less of a spectacle without them.

But the show must go on and safety must come first. The clubs have to work to the guidelines from the welsh Government and the League association, all wanting to get the games played.

As a photojournalist I had to fill in a Covid 19 health questionnaire before arriving at the ground. On the day I had my temperature checked and a one-off accreditation sanitizer and face mask before entering a deserted press box where keeping the 2m distancing was easy.

Even the substitutes were social distanced in the empty stand

Even changes on the pitch seemed strange as water breaks were frequent due to low fitness levels after not playing for so long and 5 substitutions allowed. No handshakes before the game, just a knuckle touch allowed to decrease the chance spreading the virus.

Water breaks, no cheering fans, more substitutions, this was now the reality of football for the foreseeable future.

How football has changed in 211 days. Its not as I remember it, but it was fantastic to see it back

Words and images by Steffan Clifton

Categories: Feature

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