Martin Smith: Ghost football left me feeling empty and unentertained
Call it ghost football, geisterspiele (gegenpressing, geisterspiele, those Germans have the words for stuff don’t they?) or whatever you like.
Of course it will be different when we watch our own teams yelling and yelping in yawningly empty arenas with Sunday League atmospheres and commentators trying their best to pretend everything is normal.
What else are they going to do?
The actual reality is as empty as the seats at the Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion on Saturday.
We will obviously be more engaged when we watch our players in our kit in our stadiums but it’s still as faint a representation of real football as one of their “man-on” (mann-auf) cries echoing into the empty straßen.
At this point we have to acknowledge those who like to point out that previous generations had to live in rat-infested trenches among the dead bodies of their mates or be evacuated as eight-year-olds to be cheap labour (or worse) for some sadistic farmer.
“All we have to do,” they solemnly scold, “is stay (mostly) at home.”
We know, we get it. Thanks.
But all that self-righteousness doesn’t help the quality of the ‘new reality’ football experience does it?
We want to be entertained like we were in the old days, you know, February.
Not entertained as in South Korea where they used sex-dolls to populate their empty (one-night) stands at an FC Seoul game at the weekend.
Entertained as in last minute winners, goal-line clearances, missed sitters, the odd handbags - none of which means anything much without a raucous crowd to register its approval or otherwise.
Whether we start back on June 12, 19 or later we are going to have to get used to an entirely different experience.
Crowds have been the essence of football since the middle ages when they scrapped for three days to get a ‘ball’ from one end of the village to the other.
By the time Hallam FC played Sheffield FC in the first football match at Bramall Lane in 1862 football and fans were inseperable, each forlorn without the other.
That day saw fights between players, between supporters and players, “unseemly brawls” due to extended half-time “refreshments” - taken by players and spectators.
The original Battle of Bramall Lane finished, 0-0, after three hours’ play.
Now that’s proper geisterspiele.