As the COVID-19 virus continues to ravage societies in Europe, many have gone into renewed lockdowns. Although football continues to take place under protocols without spectators, the increasing reports of infections among players have led to discussions as to whether football should be suspended, just as it was last spring.
The discussion is one about what football is for: is it sufficiently important for society so that it should continue?
As lockdowns pushed people's mental stability, the argument goes, football represents an escape from the reality of quarantines and fear of disease. I find this a strange argument: football has always and will always be an escape for the millions and millions around the world who struggle every day, but who love football. In this regard, football resembles more a religion than the entertainment sport it really is. So if Churches remain open, perhaps football should too?
Football is a mirror of wider society, but at the same time footballers are entertainers, and people see them (right- or wrongfully, mostly the latter), as examples; in this regard football has failed: they take measures not to shake hands at the start of matches, but they, when goals are scored, one sees them hug and kiss, and at the end of the matches hugs and handshakes are exchanged freely. While this does not mean that young strong men will get COVID-19, the example for a society struggling to contain the virus is not the right one. Furthermore, as more reports of sick players appear, one has to wonder whether many of these young men ignore protocols both inside and outside the pitch, and this represents not only a bad example, but a societal risk.
Football has many societal costs; this should not be another one to add to the list.