Major football competitions across Europe and worldwide have been on suspension since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Football enthusiasts have been waiting earnestly to see if football makes a return as a cure for the virus is being sought for.
The Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Portuguese League, the Bundesliga amongst others were suspended due to the pandemic, and fans have been starved of quality football action since then.
The likes of the French Ligue 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie have already been brought to an abrupt end with plans being put in place for the commencement of a new season.
However, one major good news is that the Bundesliga will be returning to action on May 16. This will provide major respite for fans who want to see some action.
Other leagues are working towards a possible return but the fact is that we’ll never witness football excitement as we know it till a cure for coronavirus is found or at least till the effect and spread are reduced drastically.
Regardless, here are a few ways in which coronavirus will affect and redefine the round leather game as we know it.
1. Games will be played behind closed doors
The electric atmosphere that fans produce in a stadium will not be available for a while as it’s one of the ways to curb the spread of the virus amid footballing action.
Therefore, the impact of the so-called home advantage and away disadvantage may not be heavily felt in this period.
No fan chants, no screams, no fireworks in the stands, no cheers, no boos, no anthem recitation during games. No crowd intimidations for visiting teams, even viewers on the screen won’t find the games very lively as they would expect when fans are in a stadium.
Players will have to stare at empty stands whilst playing football games and must derive motivation from elsewhere. This will apply to both the home sides and the visiting sides.
Just imagine a capacity stadium like Old Trafford being empty when a major game in the Premier League is being played? Not an exciting prospect and one we hope doesn’t persist for long.
The atmosphere that is generated after a goal or big miss will surely be missed in these times.
2. Player communication and celebrations may be subdued
Football is a contact sport. However, although all players will be passed negative for the virus before making the lineup, the stigma of the effects of the virus will affect player interactions and behaviors on the pitch, at least at the start.
Handshakes between opposition may not be allowed, those between opposition managers may also not be allowed. Player celebrations after a goal could be subdued to avoid caution being thrown to the wind.
The practice of hugging, jumping, and clustering together after a goal celebration won’t be advisable for now.
3. Five substitutions per game are on the cards and the good new VAR may not be deployed
Due to how inactive players have been in this lockdown period, five subs per game are being proposed instead of the normal three and this will be adopted by some leagues. La Liga is one league where this proposal could be put into play.
There are also suggestions for the controversial Video Assistant Refereeing systems to be suspended during these post-COVID-19 games.
The Premier League is one league where the system has contributed massively to the outcome of games. It remains to be seen how things will pan out if the system is not utilized for the remaining games of the season.
4. Football betting has taken a major hit
A significant number of football bettors have been forced to suspend their betting activities with almost all the major leagues being suspended.
Folks have had to look towards the Belarusian Premier League, Turkmenistan, Taiwan, and South Korea for their punting adventures.
However, it appears that punters will have a cause to smile as the Bundesliga returns on May 18, while other leagues look forward to June for possible resumption.
More teams to bet on, at least popular teams, as well as more options to select from. Regardless, the practice will be limited with Ligue 1 and Eredivisie already out. Hopefully, other leagues ensure that they finish their seasons.
5. Social distancing will affect the viewing experience
Football fans, most notably in Africa, who rely on viewing centers for games may not be permitted to gather in their numbers to watch games on large screens.
Some fans may have to make do with solitary live streaming which consumes data or better still wait to hear full-time results at the end of games.
Others could make do with radio commentaries and this will be suitable for Premier League fans. For fans of other leagues, not so much.
The viewing center tension, trolling and entertainment will be a thing of the past until the menace of COVID-19 is curbed permanently.