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Health & Fitness

Soccer in an Empty Stadium

Empty stadia, echoes of teammates barking instructions to one another, and at times groans of players grimacing in pain after a dangerous tackle has replaced the noise of passionate fans since soccer returned last month.

“Switch on,” Manchester United captain Harry Maguire barked at teammate Luke Show, caught in possession while playing against Sheffield United.

Normally, these are shouts that fans watching soccer on TV could never hear because it was drowned by the deafening cheers and boos of passionate fans as they rally their favourite players and clubs.

Tunacheza matope leo,” read a WhatsApp text from Timothy, one of my work-mates and a fellow die-hard Manchester United fan after Norwich equalised as the match neared the end.

The ban on social gatherings, closure of entertainment joints means that we cannot sit at our bar and catch a live match.

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WhatsApp texts have replaced the shouts that characterised the carnival as the boys cheer on their favourite club from the pub.

With no crowd to cheer on our teams or join hands in bashing the players for poor play, we are sleeping over the emotional joy or pain and turning a muted workplace to discuss last night's game in the morning.

After more than three months of a forced stop to the world's most popular sport, football is back on the screens to cheer up a world desperately seeking solace from the coronavirus tales.

But the return of football has been marked by an odd feeling away from the usual carnival and frenzied atmosphere that characterised the crowds in the stadia before March.

It no longer matters whether a team is playing at home because the twelfth man— the noisy and passionate fans are not in the stadia. They can only cheer their favourite players and clubs from the comfort or lack of it in their living rooms.

On June 21, the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton perhaps exemplified the new and strange conditions of football amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The two clubs played out to a drub goalless draw in an empty Goodison Park in a match devoid of the fiery fans from the red and blue sides of Liverpool.

Hundreds of miles away in Kenya, passionate fans have also been forced to adapt to a weird football stage whose end remains unknown due to state-imposed restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing in efforts to curb the spread of the Covid-19.

Even the celebrations are muted whenever a goal goes as fans who jubilate whenever their team scores have been forced to follow the epic from the comfort of their living rooms.

For a game that is only played in empty stadia whenever a country or club is facing sanctions from continental bodies or the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) mainly due to crowd trouble, soccer players and the ever passionate fans are living in weird times.

“After more than two decades in football, it is hard to say something is new for me but this is new for me. So how the boys are going to react? How they are going to control their feelings, emotions or lack of it? Playing in an empty stadium is the unknown for all of us,” said Jose Mourinho, the Tottenham Hotspurs manager said.

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