The young footballers starting their careers in empty stadiums

Young players have struggled with motivation, isolation and loneliness this year. Like everyone, they are having to dig deep

By Dani Garavelli for Nutmeg magazine

It is the dream that has sustained you through many a sodden Saturday. Your first senior start. The roar of a crowd. Now, it is one blow of the referee’s whistle from becoming a reality. You are standing in the tunnel, a breeze gusting round your ears, your limbs pulsing like fibre optic cables. Before you lies the pitch. You clench your fists, raise your head and run out into ... silence.

The German word for football played behind closed doors is Geisterspiele or ghost stadiums. Thanks to Covid, cacophonous cathedrals have been transformed into echoey hangars. Gone are the cheering and the jeering; the clamour and the cussing. There is no Fratellis blaring from the Tannoy, or shouts of “ Where’s your guide dog?” at the linesman. No mass rising of fans, like startled birds, as the ball hurtles towards the net; and no gruff threnody as it is skied over the bar. In some grounds, cardboard fans cut spectral figures in desolate stands, while canned oohing and ahh-ing heightens the air of unreality.

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