Throw-In: The greatest pastime in the world
Champions League matches were a different story altogether: due to the time difference of five or six hours and the scheduling of the games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I had to think twice if I really wanted to get up in the middle of the night when I still had to go to work early in the morning. At the beginning, it wasn’t that much of a problem, but the older I became, the harder it was. Eventually, I didn’t watch Bayern Munich’s games anymore during the Champions League group stage. When they advanced to the knock-out phase, I did watch but handed in a leave request for the next day so I could get enough sleep.
How wonderful it was to return to Germany – at least, in terms of football. Suddenly, I could watch as much football as I wanted to (as long as I had subscribed to the available channels), and at normal hours as well! In an instant, my football world had grown extensively. Obviously, Bayern Munich games remained my priority, but why shouldn’t I watch another derby, observe how the competition was doing, or how other German clubs fared on an international level?
This wide range of football perfectly filled my weekends and evenings for a while, but at some point, I was somewhat suffering from a football overdose. As a result, I selected the games I wanted to watch more carefully and not merely because there was nothing else to do. Now, the coronavirus has taken that decision away from me, and I realize that I am slowly but surely beginning to experience football withdrawals.
Bayern Munich’s last game in the Bundesliga against Augsburg took place on March 8 – which seems light years away now, because afterwards, things changed dramatically very quickly. While officials were initially still discussing the option of matches behind closed doors, it soon became very clear that all football games had to be suspended.
Given the circumstances, it was of course necessary and the only right thing to do to cancel all matches until further notice – that goes without saying. But since football was taken away from me, I realized how much I actually love it. It’s not only my interest in this sport, but everything around it.
For me, football is a family affair. When Bayern Munich plays, my sister and I head over to our parents’ house, and we watch the games together, often followed by the “Sportschau”. Currently, our interaction with our parents is limited to daily phone calls, dropping off shopping bags full of groceries at their doorstep and waving to each other through the window.
In recent years, many fans have complained – and rightfully so – about the commercialisation of football, from the names of the stadiums to the broadcasting rights on TV and the transfer policies for the players. What is often forgotten, however, is the fact that football has the wonderful ability to connect people, be it in the stadium, in the pub next door or at home with friends. It is exactly this feeling that I miss the most.
It looks like we have to be patient and refrain from football as we know and love it for quite some time. Christian Drosten, head of the virology department at Berlin’s hospital Charité, said in an interview that he doesn’t think we can go back to sold out stadiums and business as usual in football for a while. On the contrary, he added, this unusual situation could very well continue until next year.
This is sad news for football fans. Although health and security concerns must come first, I can’t quite imagine how my daily life will look life without football in the longer term. I used to take breaks from football once in a while – but that was different, because these breaks were of my own doing. It’s similar to imposing a curfew: I actually love being at home, but when I’m suddenly not allowed anymore to meet up with friends, visit a museum or hang out in a bookstore for hours, my desire to get moving becomes insatiable.
“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” – this saying has never felt truer than in the last couple of weeks. Of course, football will have to take a backseat now because it is nothing more than a pastime. But I can see it so clearly now: for me, it is the greatest pastime in the world.