The belated success of the Fiver’s STOP FOOTBALL campaign came as a great shock, even to us. The campaign was launched during a seismic meeting in our local, The Failure & Acceptance, in the summer of 2009, and if we’re honest we forgot about it completely at some point during 2011. So imagine our surprise when it actually happened – two months away from football, from effin and jeffin at a television screen and having a dangerously high pulse rate. It was bliss.
The Fiver discovered that, away from live sport on the TV, there’s a whole world in there. Of the arts, self-improvement and haute cuisine; of single-handedly draining a bottle of Good Times Single Malt while watching Premier League Years; of silently cursing the lack of standards throughout modern society every time they use a song that wasn’t released during that particular season; of moving on to 1993-94 the following night.
That’s all changed. The success of the Germans’ START FOOTBALL campaign – damn those efficient clichés – means we are back to watching live games. The Bundesliga resumed this weekend and, while the absence of crowds made it a bit strange, it was enjoyable enough. It certainly wasn’t as apocalyptic as we feared, and the standard of play was higher than we expected immediately after spring break.
They could do with an artificial way of improving the atmosphere – ideally without recourse to bongo dolls – but overall, in the circumstances, the whole thing could barely have run more smoothly. There were, admittedly, a few raised eyebrows when the Hertha Berlin players celebrated a goal against Hoffenheim with the kind of physical intimacy usually reserved for street parties in England at 8pm on a Thursday. Dedryck Boyata put his puckered lips within two micrometres of Marko Grujic’s face, although he said he was giving Grujic tactical advice rather than planting a celebratory smacker on him. The celebrations were generally more restrained, most iconically when Erling Braut Haaland scored Dortmund’s opening goal in their 4-0 win over Schalke and posed at the head of a socially distanced team photo.
God bless the Bundesliga! Despite the temptations of watching Premier League Years 2000-01 for the third time in a month (what about that Danny Tiatto disallowed goal, eh?!?!?!), the Fiver is stoked for tonight’s televised clash between Die Grün-Weißen and Die Werkself at Weserstadion. In fact, after one weekend of intense sitting on the sofa, we’re content that we already have a level of Bundesliga knowledge to match Tim Lovejoy’s Ramones expertise.
The early success of the START FOOTBALL campaign is a boost to Project TV Money, the ongoing attempt to get the Premier League going again while being sure to respect the integrity of the competition. In Scotland, however, football has STOPPED for the foreseeable future. The SPFL announced that the 2019-20 season is over, which means Celtic are champions for the ninth time in a row and Hearts are relegated from the top flight.
The season may be over but the Dignity Olympics are just beginning. Hearts have already threatened to take legal action, while Rangers – who were just 13 points behind Celtic with eight matches to go, AND with a game in hand – are ominously quiet. By the time the Fiver stumbles into your inbox at 11.41pm, they’ll probably have threatened to sue the entire world.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Rob Smyth for piping-hot coverage of an actual live football match – Werder Bremen 1-3 Bayer Leverkusen – from 7.30pm GMT.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My wife went through an awful lot. She’s seen me on life-support machines. She’s seen me in distress and pain. But it’s hard to explain when you can’t reach out to someone. I was a closed book. I still am to a certain extent” – Lee Hendrie, the former Aston Villa and England midfielder, opens up to Donald McRae about his darkest days. Essential reading.
The latest Football Weekly podcast (on Rijkaard, Kluivert and Ajax 1995) is right here while you can also listen to our new Forgotten Stories of Football audio read too.
“In relation to Friday’s prizeless letter o’the day: this is an interesting and positive development. The notion that the Fiver has a load of content that is too interesting to publish explains a lot, no wonder it’s normally so insipid. Is it a watershed issue with the 5pm publication ? How about a later adult themed suppertime football related email that issues at 10pm with juicy stories we actually want to read ? I even have a name in mind … it could be called … are you ready for this … drum roll … The Tenner” – Dexter O’Riordan.
“If we’re widening the field from football in films to football on telly (Friday’s Fiver) my favourite moment is Kevin Whately’s genuine battle with acting versus football, 2:43 into this clip here” – Jon Millard.
“I hadn’t seen anybody mention Mark Renton’s love for Hibernian in “Trainspotting,” or that film’s use of Archie Gemmell scoring for Scotland in the World Cup as each of our protagonists had a root” – Dave Schelles.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Jon Millard.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The next instalment of START FOOTBALL: Premier League training will resume this week after clubs unanimously agreed to a set of medical protocols to keep players safe.
Former football coach Barry Bennell has been charged with nine sexual offences.
Burton manager Nigel Clough is now just Nigel Clough after the 54-year-old left the club in a cost-saving measure.
One hundred and ninety-seven people will attend each match when Spanish football returns, according to a protocol prepared by La Liga and seen by the Guardian.
Callum Hudson-Odoi was reportedly taken into custody on Sunday morning by police officers responding to a report of an unwell woman at his home.
Nick Hancock says he is “appalled” at himself after the former Manchester United player Luke Chadwick opened up on the torment the broadcaster’s TV show caused him.
STILL WANT MORE?
Sixty years to the day after Real Madrid’s famous 7-3 triumph in the Big Cup final, Pepe Santamaría recalls to Sid Lowe how going 1-0 down to Frankfurt led to one of the greatest performances of all time.
Celtic were the finest team in Scotland this season and their ninth title in succession should not be diminished, so says Ewan Murray.
The Bundesliga’s return passed off without any disasters, reports Andy Brassell, but not all the fans are happy. And Sean Ingle has written on why the presence of zero fans at matches could eat into home advantage.
Hannah Jane-Parkinson chooses ‘majestic’ Michael Owen’s FA Cup final takedown of Arsenal as her favourite game.
Everton’s Inessa Kaagman is in Holland for lockdown but tells Suzanne Wrack why she has been calling fans back in Liverpool.
A chance meeting with Kyle Walker launched Aymen Tahar on a footballing odyssey across the globe. Will Unwin has the story.
Quiz! Quiz!! Quiz!!! Test your knowledge of club nicknames from around the world right here.
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