Bray People

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Empty feeling as football returns



Erling Haaland celebrates in front of empty stands after scoring for Borussia Dortmund in their 4-0 win over Schalke on Saturday

Erling Haaland celebrates in front of empty stands after scoring for Borussia Dortmund in their 4-0 win over Schalke on Saturday

Erling Haaland celebrates in front of empty stands after scoring for Borussia Dortmund in their 4-0 win over Schalke on Saturday

It was myself and the good wife's wedding anniversary on Sunday.

Twelve years, plus a considerable dose of VAT, if you include the courting days. Somebody please give that woman a medal.

That said, and without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I guess I'm not the worst as husbands go.

I tend to be pretty agreeable most of the time and try to do my fair share around the house.

With going to a restaurant well and truly off the table for our special occasion, I thought I'd make the effort of whipping up something in the kitchen to show my appreciation to herself for being by my side through good times and bad.

Nothing too fancy mind, more James Corden than cordon bleu - a bit of steak with pepper sauce, a few chips and onions, mushrooms and green beans on the side, of course all washed down with a nice glass of vin rouge.

Throw in a modest starter and a shop-bought dessert to keep the kids onside, and it turned out to be quite a successful evening.

My culinary efforts may be a Michelin star or two short of fine dining quality, but, to my relief, it turns out the times we're living in are a lot tougher than the meat I put on the plate.

They say what's rare is wonderful (and I'm not talking about the striploin here), but live sporting action has certainly been as scarce as airline passengers jetting off to sunnier climes of late.

The word weird also often goes hand in hand with wonderful, and there was plenty of peculiarity on display as the world watched on with interest as the Bundesliga brought a much-needed bit of sport back to our screens over the weekend.

There was almost a sense of eeriness as shouts of coaches and players echoed around empty stadia, like ghost towns from Hollywood westerns of a bygone age.

Substitutes wearing masks, sitting six feet apart on disinfected seats in the stands, gave it more of an end of the world type thriller feel, while on the field players were stifled by having to keep their emotions in check, with muted celebrations the order of the day.

Even watching on television from hundreds of miles away was quite a surreal experience, so it must have been completely alien for players who are used to every touch being greeted by 'oohs and ahs' from fervent fans.

Instead of an almighty joyous roar, the shrieks of players and staff barely drowned out the sound of birds overhead as the ball rippled the back of the net.

The sight of empty seats certainly left an empty feeling inside me, and although I'll be keeping a close eye on the Bundesliga, and other leagues that resume, I won't exactly be on the edge of my seat with anticipation at the thoughts of watching matches devoid of atmosphere.

The game may be in a needs-must situation at present, but one point that the return of football in Germany rammed home was that football is nothing without fans.

I'd take a low-level league game in front of a small, but raucous, band of loyal supporters every day of the week ahead of star-studded teams playing in an empty ground.

While the show goes on in professional sports for obvious reasons, it's abundantly clear that behind closed doors games would be an unmitigated disaster in Gaelic games.

Pretty much every point in a hurling contest is greeted with delirious cheers, with pumped up players feeding off the energy in the crowd and vice-versa.

Without that common bond, games would resemble challenge matches and would lack the intensity and ferocity that makes the championship so special.

Unless there's a miraculous medical breakthrough in the next few months, it's best to just take our medicine and look ahead to more carefree times, whenever that will be.

Back to the so-called beautiful game; football definitely loses a lot of its aesthetics and appeal when there's no supporters to heighten the moments of sublime skill.

However, sometimes you just have to be thankful for small mercies and make the most of the situation you find yourself in, even if it's not how you would have envisaged things panning out a few short months ago.

A bit like the wedding anniversary, the most important thing is just having what we love in our lives.

Bray People