The much-awaited return of live football saw the light of day on May 16th with Bundesliga picking up from where they left off before the Coronavirus disrupted proceedings across the world.
All eyes turned towards the first league to resume, with the Revierderby experiencing a spike in viewership. Borussia Dortmund eased to a 4-0 win over their rivals Schalke and fans all over the world rejoiced the return of football.
However, much like the 2019-20 Indian Super League (ISL) final, the games were played behind closed doors. The absence of fans created a strong void in the atmosphere.
Goal caught up with football fans from some of the fan clubs of ISL sides to hear their opinion on resuming football behind closed doors. Football unites, and this was most obvious when the fans unanimously opined that although games without fans is incomplete, closed-door matches are the way forward for the immediate future.
“We are football fans and this is a difficult time for us. But we need to accept the reality that it is not right to play football at a time like this. We are disappointed to not play or watch football but as responsible citizens, we need to adhere to the protocols for the sake of the society,” said Somu Joseph, a Kerala Blasters fan and a member of the famous Manjappada fan club.
“Bundesliga was a refreshing experience for us. It also gave us belief that regular football will start soon. These are positive things to look forward to.
“Bundesliga is one of the biggest leagues with high attendance. We can’t imagine how this will be at Kochi. Football is incomplete without the fans cheering from the stands.”
“Stands can wait, but football cannot,” stated KK Sai Prashanth, a familiar face with Bengaluru FC’s West Block Blues.
“Given the situation that the world is in right now, football has quite rightly taken a back seat. It’s only fair to restart the game once things come back to normalcy. Playing in front of empty stands might mean that we’ll miss out on the match-day experience at the stands. But it also fastens the return of football all over the world.
“I think the Bundesliga officials have taken the right decision to resume the league with no fans."
The lack of football is painful, more so for a Liverpool fan who was eager to watch his side lift their first Premier League title. But FC Goa fan Conrad Barreto is aware that football in an empty stadium can be a blessing in times like these.
“Last two months without live football as a fan has been very hard, even more when you’re a Liverpool watching your team just six points away from their 19th league title. When the Bundesliga set a much earlier date of return compared to other leagues, it was overwhelming. Every football fan must have missed watching live football.
“They say football is nothing without its fans, but I think during a deadly pandemic like this, football in an empty stadium is everything for us fans,” he explained.
Football fans all over the world found solace in the return of the Bundesliga and Jamshedpur FC fan SK Imran was no exception. Although he is excited at the prospect of seeing packed stadiums soon, Imran believes that playing behind closed doors is an absolute necessity at the moment.
“Football without fans is like a body without a soul. Many great players have already said football is nothing without fans. But at the same time, it is necessary to play without fans for the health of players, officials, other ground staff and fans. And I hope very soon we will see jam-packed stadiums and fans chanting for their favourite clubs and players,” he said.
At this point, the fans will take what they can get out of the sport even if it means following a league they are not entirely familiar with. Adarsh Singh from the West Coast Brigade spoke about how we need to adjust to the new normal.
"For someone who never really had much interest in Bundesliga, its return has been a ray of sunshine in the gloomy clouds of Coronavirus.
"The Bundesliga, even though being played behind closed doors, has set an example in front of all of us, of how football is the most essential of the lesser essential things in life.
"It stirred a feeling of belief, that the way forward is to learn to live this new way of life," he concluded.
Clearly, the diverse set of fans of the ISL clubs agreed upon how football is incomplete without the fans. However, the logical voice in their head was vocal on how closed-door games must be the norm for a while now.