The week of football and Arsenal’s return is upon us! It has been a long, arduous return, filled with weeks of little news, no end in sight, and then weeks of back and forth while the future of football was called into question. Long days of club meetings, league meetings, meetings with team doctors, hundreds of questions and hours, rounds of COVID-19 testing, and alternate season-ending options explored.
As I mentioned a little bit ago, I live in a place called Minneapolis. It’s in the state of Minnesota in the United States and it well and truly became the epicenter of the movement that currently is gripping many parts of the world. It’s a movement that has caused almost everyone in the world to essentially pick a side, and a movement that football clubs have taken up the call for. Black Lives Matter will be present on Arsenal’s jersey in their return against Manchester City.
In my home city, we had the statue of Christopher Columbus torn down, much like London and other cities have seen their own statues torn down. It’s for the better in my mind. I understand many find it to be a fine line when you start discussing certain people, but statues like Columbus, slave traders, Confederate soldiers on the side of slavery, should be torn down from public display. Place them in a museum if history is your concern, but changes are coming. Changes should come. But these changes hit a little closer to home when they are, in fact, at your home.
Yesterday I passed the location in my neighborhood in which George Floyd worked. I got coffee from a place that it is reported his fiancé used to work. I have driven and walked past the site of his murder and it hits harder when these locations are not things you simply know of, but are things that you are strongly connected to and familiar with. Often, we hear news, see videos online, read social media, or blogs like this and are vaguely aware of places. Or we can picture them, but it is simply the setting of a tragic story. It’s a different feeling when you have a profound, attachment to that setting. When the setting is no longer just part of the story but is something that drives the story closer to you.
A few hours after these thoughts ran through my mind I shifted to football, as I often do, but these feelings stuck with me. It’s not to make light of the global situation, I assure you. Football will be a welcomed distraction, but should not replace the thoughts, time, and efforts being put into real change, but what happens when the changes within football come “home”?
No crowd is not football, was essentially said by Arsene Wenger himself in a brief interview with Amy Lawrence, and yet I have watched bits and pieces without it. I watched games without fans, with 5 subs, players starting off a bit slow and rusty for a few games. Now we have seen fake crowd noise, CGI fans and elements added to the viewer experience in an attempt to add bring some elements of “normalcy” to a game being played in far from normal circumstances.
In general, these tactics and changes have been things I have willingly overlooked. Some have been odd, but it was simply Bundesliga game and I don’t watch the Bundesliga. It was La Liga and I have no attachments to La Liga. It was Serie A and I care very little about Serie A. But I have watched a lot of Arsenal, a lot of Premier League, and have attachments to the Emirates and the Gunners. It made the pause for a moment and try to imagine what it will be like when the changes hit closer to home. When the negative effects of this, affect something I know and love.
I know the sound of Emirates when the announcer welcomes the Arsenal to the stadium, the sound of our away fans that travel well, the look of our stands full of Gunners and Gooners and all at once the mind doubted itself.
The changes didn’t affect me as much when it was at Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund), but I only watch the occasional Champions League match or bits of a games when Bayern and Dortmund faceoff. What will it feel like to see my team walk into an empty stadium? What will it change when fake fans alter the stands I know?
In one moment, changes hit a little bit closer. I may get more time to adjust given Arsenal’s 4 away game to start, but will that help or simply add to the shock? I don’t know. But football is upon us and I am soon to find out.
As always — stay safe, stay well.