Football in a Covid-19 World
Writing this in August, the start of the 2019/20 season feels an age away, with the pre-season trips to Cardiff & Oslo now over a year ago. The first competitive fixture against Chelsea in the league was August 11th – 370 days ago from the final games of the 2019/20 season against Sevilla.
That’s because Covid-19 came along and put a stop to everything worldwide, football becoming insignificant really as travel and the economy in general all ground to a halt. After a 3 month hiatus we were back in a sense, but football looks very different now and for the foreseeable future.
The 2019/20 European Season In Review
Another season spent in the Europa League for United but with games from the middle of March onwards being played behind closed doors I’ve less than usual to share about my 2019/20 season.
Trips Missed: 2 (Alkmaar, Astana)
Games Played Behind Closed Doors: 3 (Linz [LASK], Cologne [Copenhagen, Sevilla])
Miles Travelled: 3,509
Furthest Trip: Belgrade – 2,566 miles
Shortest Trip: Bruges – 943 miles
Cheapest Match Ticket: Belgrade – £16
Most Expensive Match Ticket: Bruges – £27
Cheapest Pint: Belgrade – £1.80
Most Expensive Pint: Bruges – £4.20
Average Travel Cost: £215
Over the past 5 years of recording my trips I’ve averaged five European matches attended and one missed each season. That was heavily reduced this season with just 2 matches attended, and the 3,500 miles travelled well down on the 9,000 mile average.
A total of two away goals seen in those two games; one win and a draw, but both trips were, as ever, about much more than the match. Bruges, though a shorter trip across the North sea, was unsurprisingly pricier in all aspects but flights, with the 2,500 mile trip to Belgrade rewarded with cheaper pints and great Eastern European food.
Both trips also brought reflective moments. Returning for the first time since our 2015 game in Bruges, a trip which truly was all that, as I left my dad behind in intensive care after a fall down a flight of stairs. We’ll blame the Belgian beer. Meanwhile, the poignant trip to Belgrade was filled with history and celebration of the great Busby Babes, who played at the same ground in 1958 before their fateful return journey through Munich.
Two very different cities; whilst the small cobbled streets of Bruges are filled with historic buildings, Belgrade is an even older city which has seen so much, Nazi occupation and a civil war, all overseen by a fortress on top of the hill. Both quite amazing places to visit.
With Bruges brushed aside it was onto Austria and Linz, at least it should have been. With Covid-19 cases popping up all over Europe, our game was forced to be played behind closed doors. We’d already made the decision not to travel, but United compensated all those who did. The hope was that things would clear up and we’d make the next few games however instead we were faced with a 3 month break with the whole world coming to a stop.
Football did return, but without the fans, meaning no more trips for the season. One of the few interesting things to come from the 2019/20 was the enforced mini-tournament for the knock out rounds of both European competitions – even if we couldn’t actually attend.
This saw the last 16 ties settled in Germany before 10 days of quarters, semis and the final itself. Whilst United looked all set up to face Inter in the final we succumbed to our third semi final defeat of the season, at the hands of Sevilla, the eventual winners.
The one-legged final rounds in a single host city seems to have excited UEFA who are constantly looking at ways to “revamp” the European competitions. Who knows what 2020/21 will look like and in what capacity we can attend. Hopefully we’ll be able to travel safely and actually see United go far, especially being back once again in the Champions League.