Opinion: An especially difficult lockdown
I am having an especially difficult lockdown. Why, you might ask. Well, in addition to being an academic, a sociologist, who has an expertise in research on sport – so, nothing to look at right now - I am also a sports fan.
In fact, I was present at the last major football match played in this country and pretty much anywhere in Europe before lockdown. It was on 11 March, when Liverpool FC took on, and lost to, Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. It seems remarkable – and foolhardy – now to think that 3,000 Madrid fans were allowed to travel to Merseyside for that football match. Just a few days later we were all social distancing and would soon be in the situation we find ourselves now. And both Liverpool and Madrid would show Covid-19 spikes attributed to foolishly staging that fixture.
It is something of a truism, of course, that men from certain backgrounds can find it difficult to show their emotions, to physically connect with other heterosexual men. In a society in which much emotional expression has been effectively privatised, sport, especially football, stands out as one of those arenas in which hugging and celebrating with same-sex, perfect strangers becomes both acceptable and indeed expected. In fact, losing oneself in the crowd, passionately sharing something meaningful with people one may never otherwise share anything with, is one of the great democratising features of late-modern sport. In a fast-moving globalised world, being at one with a sporting crowd can also affirm an important connection to both place and ‘home.’
So, now you can see why I, and millions like me, are having a particularly difficult lockdown. The football season charts our year, offers a collective emotional outlet, and a connection with ‘home.’ All I currently have is a WhatsApp group with other Liverpool fans to keep our hopes alive that we will be able, ever, to enjoy the sporting crowd experience again. I miss it.