A friend recently described herself as “COVID Fine,” the condition where you’re relatively safe and secure, but also in a state of emotional and psychological malaise because of the current state of the pandemic-stricken world.
A lot of us are COVID Fine these days.
Along the way, we’ve had to find joy where we can. And yet even those moments come with an undercurrent of bittersweet sadness.
We watched our Reds become league champions for the first time in three decades. In front of no fans.
We saw a few fans return, hearing two-thousand Scousers singing in unison, capped off by a dramatic late-game winner. But it was a false dawn, and it only reminded us of what we were missing so desperately.
Personally, I felt the bittersweet joy of watching my hometown club—FC Midtjylland—not only qualify for the Champions League, but draw Liverpool and Ajax. I imagined Dutch, Italian, and Scouse fans swarming Østergade, flying banners and singing songs. And I felt sorrow that I wouldn’t get to see it. Not this year. Maybe never.
Jurgen Klopp likes to tell us that football is the most important of the least important things. Is this more true or less true during the pandemic? There are times when I want nothing more than to watch Liverpool play. There are others when I really do question the whole enterprise.
Of course, Liverpool’s form greatly influences my feelings on the subject. I can’t help it, I’m a fan.
Liverpool—against all odds—somehow managed to find themselves at the top of the table at Christmas.
There was a feeling, for awhile, that these Reds really were as relentless and invincible as advertised. It’s understandable. For more than two years these Reds were in the conversation for best Liverpool team ever. Quite the feat. They literally conquered the world.
They were always going to come back down to Earth at some point. A couple of violent acts in the Derby was all that it took to start the chain reaction of injuries upon injuries. And of a greater sense of injustice against the Premier League and their incompetent referees.
Jurgen Klopp managed to get the remaining healthy players to rally around the flag, but that only kept the wheels spinning for so long.
January seemed like it would never end. Liverpool came crashing down after Christmas, and stayed down. And yet, a couple of unexpected wins against Spurs and West Ham gave us a glimmer of hope. If we could win at home against Brighton, we could play our selves back into title contention. A couple of deadline day signings only helped brighten the mood around the club.
Obviously that “banker” win that we were counting on didn’t happen. We find ourselves 7 points behind City, having played a game more. Even a win over City tomorrow would leave us with a big task to chase down the Sky Blues, considering their recent return to form.
Indeed, this season seems like it’s going to end up being a scrap for Top 4 again. And that really feels like a slog after the past few years of riding high. It feels even more daunting because of the state of the world.
A slog is the last thing we need.
But what about a run in the Champions League? Again, even that optimism is tempered by the thought of a quarter or semi-final in front of an empty Anfield. What is a European night without the songs, the banners, the scarves, flares, and pageantry?
COVID is a lot to take. And it’s even ruining the things we love: Liverpool specifically, and football generally.
At the best of times, Liverpool are a welcome distraction. However, the swings and roundabouts of the season—of this season—are tough to take.
Maybe the new signings will come in and do a job. Maybe we’ll secure Top 4 and have a decent Champions League run. Maybe vaccination rates will be high enough—and the new strains will not be resistant—so that we can sort of resume “normal” life next season. A season with center backs, can you imagine?
For now, we have to find a way to get through these darkest days. With hope in our hearts.