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On Waiting for the Premier League’s Return and Watching Ghost Games

As we wait for the Premier League to resume, I examine my experience watching the Bundesliga over the weekend.

Borussia Dortmund v FC Schalke 04 - Bundesliga Photo by Heinz Buese/Pool via Getty Images

It’s fair to say that I’ve never been as excited to see a Bundesliga match as I was prior to resumption of play behind closed doors last Saturday. Two months without any competitive football (spare the odd Eastern European league) left most of us footy fans with an itch that needed to be scratched.

Now, I’m not as bad as some Premier League Stans; I watch a few Bundesliga matches here and there, but equally I won’t pretend that I’m super invested in the league. More of a vague “I’ll root for Dortmund/against Bayern as a matter of principle, and hope to be entertained” sort of way.

Still, as mid-afternoon on Saturday rolled around, I was bang up for watching Dortmund-Schalke.

And you know what? It felt like I was watching football. Competitive football. It wasn’t the same without the crowd, but I was still invested in the action. Or at least as invested as I would be normally. Which is to say, “vaguely rooting for Dortmund.”

While watching, I started wondering about how this experience would translate to Liverpool. How would I feel watching the boys in Red play in front of no one (if all goes according to plan, and matches can be restarted safely)?

At first, the thought of an empty Anfield was upsetting. The pool hall-esque echoes from Westfalenstadion in Dortmund were in stark contrast to the infamous Yellow Wall. An empty and silent Kop? It will be a sad sight (and sound) to behold.

And then my thoughts turned to the Merseyside Derby. The Blues might actually have a chance this time around, unburdened by the expectation of failure and a demand to get “stuck in” by the Goodison Park faithful. Although there would be some perverse pleasure from seeing Everton finally win one while their fans are unable to attend, I never want to lose to the Bitters. Suddenly, playing behind closed doors feels a lot more competitive. A lot more meaningful.

The one pervasive feeling throughout the experience was the weirdness of it all. It was like watching something from a parallel dimension. Except, that is our dimension now, our reality. Everything was the same, but everything was slightly off. As expected, the players weren’t as sharp. As expected, the players were seemingly a little more cautious. And as expected, there was no atmosphere. The game was the same, but totally different.

On balance, I was glad football was back. I will be excited to watch Liverpool once again take to the pitch, if and when that can happen. It’s not the same, but it’s the best we have.