24 Jun The Game is Back
By Daniel Berditchevski
Step by step, little by little, life is going back to what we know it used to be. The Covid-19 pandemic is still part of the picture and the world has started to learn how to live with it. Malls, restaurants, and bars are reopening. People are allowed to dine in. Soon, we will be able to travel again and discover what this beautiful world has to offer.
When it comes to sports, and for the most part, leagues, tournaments and competitions were down across the globe putting millions of fans on hold. Over the last two and half months, we have dug out hundreds of archives to watch again some of the sports’ greatest moments and classic games such as previous Champions League and FIFA World Cup finals.
Then, we heard news from European soccer and Germany to be more specific. Indeed the German professional soccer league known as Bundesliga was the first of Europe’s major soccer leagues to return to action and set a TV ratings record attracting millions in global audience on May 16th. Following a two-month hiatus fans everywhere on the planet were able to see some of the best players in the world play again. It did not take long for mighty FC Bayern Munich to take advantage of the restart as the club won their 8th consecutive championship title only a few weeks after the restart.
Of course the environment changed with all the games played behind-closed-doors and just a total 300 people allowed in the stadium. This number included the players, coaching staff, referees and media. New protocols were implemented with strict rules and anyone entering the venue was subject to a temperature testing, social distancing and wearing face mask requirements.
The German league paved the way for the rest of Europe to resume competitive play. Shortly after, the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga and Italian Serie A, among other European soccer leagues, restarted their season applying the similar new guidelines as what their German counterparts are doing. Fans across the globe are finally going to be able to watch their favorite players with the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mo Salah, Kevin De Bruyne and all the other stars of the game. We missed live football but it is back for good now!
At the continental level, the European soccer body (UEFA) approved to resume their continental competition with the Europa League and Champions League knockout phases in a new format. It was announced the 2020 UEFA Champions League final will not take place at the Atatürk stadium in Istanbul, Turkey as the European authorities adopted Lisbon, Portugal to host the last stages of the biggest club competition. In fact, Istanbul will host the 2021 UEFA Champions League final instead.
The way we consume sports as fans will change until a coronavirus vaccine is found. It will take some time to see people allowed into the stadium. But having the players on the pitch and playing competitive games is the first step towards what we know it used to be.