lockdown fanatical football fans
Football undoubtedly brings out the fanatic in the fan. Terrfified parents pull a team shirt over their newborn in the hope they won't choose blue over red. Fortunes have been spent following a team, lifetime grudges have developed, relationships have failed.
A match day starts months before the alarm goes off the morning of the game. When fixtures are released, fans plot their route through the season with Field Marshall Montgomery precision: how will they get there, what will they wear, what will they eat and drink and with whom? Dates of matches are rapidly cross checked with work and family commitments, the relief palpable when a meeting or christening doesn't clash with a must watch derby.
When lockdown was initiated, fans were abruptly severed from their team. Lifetime traditions and habits suspended, maybe gone forever. Regular outlets for emotional release were denied. The advice was to stay away from football stadiums. Police were on patrol to disperse potential groups. Signs advised supporters to leave the area and watch from home. Not every fan complied, the temptation to be close to their idols, too much. What would the new match day look like and how far would fanatical fans go to create a match day experience?
As project restart kicked off, lockdown restrictions were stringent. Pubs and bars remained closed, strict social distancing was in place. When Tottenham Hotspur played Manchester United on a gloomy Friday night in north London, united fans Michael, Michael and Gaz drove 200 miles to watch the game on an iPad opposite the stadium. 83 year old Joyce, broke her 93 day confinement and got on a bus from her home in east London for a trip around the ground with her son, John.
Unable to access BT Sport to watch the game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, Aston Villa fans Jordan and Jess drove six miles to Villa Park to listen to commentary on their phone within ear shot of their team. Siobahn walked her dog Cleo around the ground as she does every match day, waving a hurling stick in tribute to Villa midfielder, Jack Grealish, who played the game as a kid. Swansea fan Lloyd, cycled from his home in east London to The Den, home of Millwall, hoping to glimpse his team through a gap in the stands before being escorted away by security.
As pubs reopened on Super Saturday, a flavour of the terraces returned, 24 year old Chelse fan, Nicholas, watched the match on TV with friends in a private function room at The Chelsea Pensioner pub a few hundred metres from Stamford Bridge stadium. The Park pub opposite Anfield, home of Liverpool, was rammed with socially distanced fans watching the game alongside cardboard cutouts of their heroes.
Amidst the horros of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for the return of football fans inside stadiums may seem trivial but for many it brings a crucial dimension to their lives.
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