Football, Life, and Coronavirus

2020 feels like 1918, but without the war. This may beg the question, “what do they have in common?”, because it seems obvious the world has evolved. After all, it takes only an eye test to see that life in 1918 isn’t the same as life in 2020 with coronavirus. In case you’re wondering how I arrived at that conclusion hastily, I computed this with my phone and I’m pretty much sure this piece would be read via a phone, tablet, laptop, or what have you. That wouldn’t be possible in 1918.

Away from tablets and phones, the similarities stare us in the face; a virus pandemic. In addition, a similar approach to clip the wings of the deadly coronavirus, as in 1918. A “lockdown” or what we could call “stay-at-home”.  Either way, the world has grown backwards to the dark old days of the 19th century both in the nature of the problem (virus pandemic) and the approach to solving it (a lockdown).

Wondering why we’re talking about viruses, lockdowns, phones and football?  Here’s the intersection; we are where we are because of coronavirus. With that equation solved, there remains the tiny matter of football. How does football feature in all of these?

Quite easy, football, like every other social activity, has taken the back seat in recent weeks and rightly so. After all, what’s football if lives are on the edge? On the scale of importance, it’s the least thing to worry about… right now. But as we have come to see or have to grudgingly accept in life, multiple things can matter at the same time, maybe not equally, but simultaneously.

Life matters, football matters too. Of course, not on the same scale, for we live to play— in that order. Live first and then play. Perhaps, stating that football matters would be considered asinine in this period. But it isn’t, is it? Life takes precedence (no doubt) but life isn’t just about “merely existing”. It’s about who we are, what we do, the games we play, our friends and family.  From this perspective, football matters despite how little that may appear in the bigger picture.

So, why does it matter that we’re talking about a sport where people chase a round-leather object? Well, that’s not all this is about, is it? It goes beyond the gymnastics. It’s about the passion, the emotions, the atmosphere, and the chills of normalcy it gives. The latter part is why it’s almost inevitable not to talk about it right now.  The world needs that sense of normality and merely speaking about football may offer just that— normality.

It may be trivial but it’s important. In a time where uncertainty has dominated almost every facet of our activities causing panic, unrest, and fear, it may seem ridiculous to suggest talking about football as the antidote. Quite frankly, it isn’t. But it’s a step in the right direction. The semblance of normalcy it evokes; the memories and a form of escapism it offers are a welcome distraction from all the chaos in the air.

Football as a means of escapism isn’t new in history. One prominent story comes to mind. The Christmas Truce in 1914 between British and German soldiers. A remarkable story where men at war decided to bury their hatchets of hostility for a kickabout in a mud-filled with shell holes. “A couple of Britons brought a ball along from their trenches and a lively game began.  How fantastically wonderful and strange. The English officers experienced it like that too— that thanks to soccer and Christmas, the feast of love, deadly enemies briefly came together as ‘friends’ ” as wonderfully described in the diary of ex-German lieutenant, Kurt Zehmisch, which was discovered by his son Rudolf in 1999.

The moment, however short-lived, still remains one of the biggest reference points of how football remains the most important of the non-important things. Today, we draw reference points from the spirit— not action— of unison of these soldiers as we fight to outlast the mess the coronavirus pandemic has plunged us into.

The Christmas Truce in No Mans Land is a gentle reminder that in the darkest of times, football— whichever forms of it we can hold on to— can be the needed distraction. As the event in 1914 proved, war is war, and football is something much better. In these trying times, we need what is better— football.

Follow Tolu on Twitter: @AkoredeNate

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tolu Kadiri

Writer & Blogger

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