Empty stadiums not silent
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Abhijit Tembhekar. CC BY 2.0.
High-level football upon Europe has now been postponed until April 4th at the earliest. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc. The powers-that-be have finally laid down the law and made the tough-but-correct decision; not before a handful of Europa League fixtures would be played, largely behind closed doors.
In my two-decades watching Manchester United play association football, I've never seen anything like last night. Less than 500 were in attendance at the Linzer Stadion, in what was supposed to be LASK's most memorable game in their history. An electric atmosphere was expected beforehand, the night, on the whole, was anything-but.
As the Red Devils made it five thanks to Andreas Pereira, I had to force myself to get excited. There was no aura or ambience about the place. Simply put, it didn't feel like football, albeit it did offer an entirely different view on the beautiful game. For the purists and the superfans amongst us, it was certainly intriguing...
Unless you're down in the local park watching Sunday pub teams in action, you're seldom expecting to hear the goalkeeper barking orders at his teammates. Sergio Romero was super-vocal when it came to directing United's outfield players during free-kicks and the dead-ball situation. Captain Harry Maguire was doing the armband full justice, too, as he vented his frustration back at the Argentine, telling his shot-stopper to 'speak to him' while trying to set up a wall. It's the sort of stuff that happens multiple times a game, though when you've got passionate, beered-up fans shouting from the bottom of their lungs, 99.9% of the time it all gets drowned out. Watching the sport from a completely different perspective was all a tad weird, but refreshing nonetheless.
It reminds us all of the small margins that make the difference at the top. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his coaches were roaring on more than one occasion, telling their players to sit that little bit deeper, or hug that touchline a tad tighter. Again, it's not something you're used to hearing, but they wouldn't be bellowing orders at their players just for the sake of it. That extra yard or two can make all the difference as an opponent tries to blaze past you, nor can they go down your outside. It's the nitty-gritty part of football that us, as fans, are rarely exposed to. This wouldn't be audible at a jam-packed Old Trafford on your typical matchday.
When a goal is scored for your team, nothing beats, for want of a better phrase, going absolutely mental. This was taken away from us all last night. The players didn't know what to do, they were somewhat subdued. 'Do I run to this empty corner or that one?' The typical stadium eruption, or lack of, certainly hit home. The euphoria and excitement of the moment was replaced with that feeling of treading carefully while walking through a library as to not disturb anyone. It's why I wholly believe the decision-makers are absolutely correct to postpone games as opposed to continuing with this behind-closed-doors nonsense, however intriguing it may be to hear all the goings-on that take place in the heat of battle.
Without question, my moment of the match was when one solitary United supporter (see below), was heard singing 'we love United, we do' at the top of his lungs. This is what football is all about. This is the core, the heartbeat of this sport we all adore so much. Its football in its rawest form, with hundreds-upon-thousands of people going through every emotion possible under the sun every single weekend. Full stadium or empty stadium, this game, without those adoring supporters in attendance, is completely rendered void. In the end, we'll always make our voices heard, which epitomises exactly why we love our beautiful game...