With there being no sport on at the moment for obvious reasons, I’ve been watching old matches and great moments back and it’s brought to mind the emotions, the highs and lows that sport can bring. It can take you from the highest of highs to the lowest depths. That’s why we love it, that’s why we are willing to pay big money to go to sporting events, watch them on TV, to buy merchandise with the badge and sponsors splattered all over. We come back time and time and time again because the pure rush of adreneline that we feel watching live professional sport.
There have been so many incredible sporting moments over the years, far too many for me to start listing them here. But that is the magic of professional sport, especially team sports. Because it can take you on such an journey of high emotion, particularly when you are at the stadium. In November of last year, I went with my dad to watch Chelsea play Ajax in the group stage of the Champions League. This was an important game for sure, because we wanted to qualify for the knockout stage, but it wasn’t a cup final for example. I have never felt such masssive fluxuations in emotions as I did that night, as the Blues came from 4-1 down to draw 4-4, with two penalties, two Ajax players sent off and a disallowed goal that would have put Chelsea in front. I came out of that stadium into the chilly November night in south west London sweating. And I hadn’t even been doing anything!
Well, that’s not entirely true. I had been standing up for over two hours, and for about 25 minutes, had been bouncing on the balls of my feet non-stop. I’d hugged people I didn’t know and my heart was beating faster than it had done for a long time. It was brilliant and I loved every second of it. Now, that game would have been good to watch on TV, but watching on your sofa at home simply does not compare to being in the stadium. That’s why I try and go to as many Chelsea games a season as I can. Quite apart from the fact that they are my team, I just enjoy going to live football matches. The journey to the ground, going for something to eat beforehand, the excitement when you get to the ground, when the teams walk out. I love every single bit of it.
In fact there was a study done not too long ago that indicated that devoted fans experience such intense physical levels of stress during matches that they may be putting themselves at risk of suffering a heart attack. But as long as we keep ourselves on the right side of that equation, there are few other things that cause adreneline to rush around our systems like it. Holding events behind closed doors has been discussed as a possible way for professional sport to return in England, in particular the English football season as that was the closest to finishing. UEFA have set a deadline of early August for European nations to conclude their seasons, so the Premier League and the other domestic cups need to get going again by eary June or else they miss that deadline.
Now many people have raised the point that it may be irresponsible to try and get professional sport going again, even if the remaining 92 games have to be played at neutral venues, until there is a vaccine for coronavirus available. And that is a more than fair point. Even when spectators are not allowed in, it takes 150+ people to have a stadium able to host an event. They will need police there as well as NHS staff and an ambulance. Is it fair to be taking healthcare workers away from hospitals and patients? Probably not.
Sport is nothing without the fans to sustain it. We buy into it, invest our money, our passion and sometimes our own hard work into it. Any sport can bring the country together, as cricket did last summer as Ben Stokes and co. scrapped through to win the World Cup. Football has brought the country together in hurt so many times, but also in pride when England made it to the World Cup semi-final two years ago. Rugby has had its moments as well. Sport is an empty spectacle when there is no-one there to see it. But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be right back at Stamford Bridge when the time is right. And I’ll willingly pay the price of a ticket for the rest of my life. A lot of people say there is too much money is sport today, and I can agree with that. But the reason why people are willing to pay for the price of a ticket, a team jersey, a TV subscription is for the levels of excitement and emotion that sport can take you on. And that is priceless.