TOO EARLY?

It’s fair to say the success of the Fiver’s STOP FOOTBALL campaign has proved something of a Pyrrhic victory. We had long assumed a world without soccer would be an excuse to throw our tatty old boots up on to the desk and crack open a couple of metal cylinders of Tin, every afternoon for the next 12 refreshing, cool-fermented, craft-brewed months. But no, The Man insists the show must go on. Bah. Well, this is only our fourth edition since the shutters came crashing down and already we’ve totally run out of ideas on how to fill this space. A sum total of three, we had. Gah! If this was the music hall, the orchestra would start vamping now, allowing The Fiver to break into a soft-shoe shuffle before briskly exiting stage left, high-kicking while waggling a boater and wearing a toothy grin. Curtain down, lights on, please do drive home safely.

But there is no music hall any more. And so here we are, exclusively reporting that FOOTBALL remains STOPped. Some days it appears more inert than others, mind you. On Tuesday we had the big news that Uefa was rebranding its flagship international tournament as Euro 2020+1, while on Thursday representatives of all Premier League clubs are due to meet, after which they’ll announce, we’ll be bound, that they’ve decided absolutely nothing. Though that at least will sort of be something. But today? Nix. Nada. Zilch. Unless you count Crystal Palace chief suit Steve Parish committing to pay all of the club’s employees in full during the crisis, and Roman Abramovich covering the costs of accommodation for NHS staff at Chelsea’s Millennium Hotel, heroic community-minded responses that aren’t really football stories in and of themselves. Wah!

It’s no good. This can’t go on. We’ll have to do something. But what? We’d try to get things moving again by launching a much-needed START FOOTBALL campaign, but bearing in mind how the sport developed first time round we might have to come up with an alternative strategy if we’re to successfully sell this mission to the masses at this particular moment in history. We probably need you to give us a little time to think this through.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I count on the generosity of my colleagues, of all professional athletes and of those who want to make a small or large donation according to their possibilities, to kick this virus away. Together we can really help hospitals and doctors and nurses who selflessly work every day to save our lives. Because today we are the ones cheering for them! Let’s together kick the coronavirus away and win this match! And remember: if the virus don’t go to Zlatan, Zlatan goes to the virus!” – a certain Swedish striker invites us all to join his team, dig deep and karate-kick the virus away. Well done big man.



Imagine getting kicked by Zlatan. Photograph: Daniele Mascolo/Reuters

FIVER LETTERS

“Has anyone checked the welfare of Weird Uncle Fiver since this Coronavirus hit? I assume that $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver has been bringing him round warm Tin and cucumber sandwiches along with plenty of VHS tapes of glorious England campaigns from the 70s and 80s? Here in O’Ireland, The Fiver’s knobbly stick-waving, green felt hat-wearing, Irish cousin Theme Pub O’Fiver felt awful lonely wandering up and down an empty O’Connell Street telling a couple of stranded tourists from the USA! USA!! USA!!! that you’ll never beat the Irish — at least not this March and April you won’t, mark me words!” – Justin Kavanagh.

“In a bygone age of fun and football, I was watching the Manchester derby in a pub in Cork with six friends on a weekend break. As the camera spanned the stands myself and friend Mr McCall’s eyes were both drawn to a banner for Dickens Reds behind the goal. This prompted a literary tennis match where we batted back the favourite titles of these learned fans from the Victorian age. Coming soon to a bookshop near you: The Old Trafford Curiosity Shop, Nicky Butt Nickleby, A Chris Smalling Carol, The Mystery of Edwin van der Sar etc, etc. The last match I saw was the eerily silent 5-0 win against LASK which surely left the fans with Great Expectations but sadly, within 24 hours, they faced nothing but Hard Times” – Matt Horn.

“I wonder if the upturn in number and length of letters to The Fiver is in anyway linked to working at home?” – Rob Worsfold.

“Tuesday’s last line was jam hot” – Darren Leathley.

“Now is the ideal time to revive the Tonight’s TV & Radio section” – Paul Freeman (and no others).

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Rob Worsfold.

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

It’s the Football Weekly podcast!

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Shutdowns, Fifa and dealing with a lack of games

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Roman Abramovich will accommodate NHS staff working in London hospitals at the Millennium hotel on Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium site as the club do their bit to help the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Cardiff and Aston Villa midfielder Peter Whittingham is in hospital with head injuries. The 35-year-old had what South Wales police have described as “an accidental fall” in a Barry pub 11 days ago.

John Obi Mikel has left Trabzonspor days after the former Chelsea midfielder said he did not feel comfortable with top-flight games in Turkey being played despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The FA is working with the Premier League, EFL and the government to consider how help can be provided to clubs who face financial turmoil now football has stopped.

Good eggs Real Valladolid have formally rejected La Liga’s offer of coronavirus test kits for their players on ethical and medical grounds. “We believe that there are people out there who are much less well off than we are who need them far more than we do. It is those [people] who should have priority,” said the club.

And Championship clubs have given Liverpool fans hope that title No 19 is not going to be wrestled away by coronavirus after they unanimously supported finishing the season, which would mean the Premier League campaign must also be completed to relegate teams who would be replaced by promoted ones.

STILL WANT MORE?

Our My Favourite Game series continues to fill in for football. Here’s John Brewin with a belter: Uruguay v Ghana, in the World Cup 2010 quarter-final and that Luis Suárez handball.

Oh Luis! How could you?



Oh Luis! How could you? Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

‘This could be the end for a few clubs’: football fans give their views on the coronavirus.

Football is struggling to pivot to its new position of immense irrelevance, writes Marina Hyde.

It’s Nicky Bandini on why the suspension of Serie A brought back some painful memories for Lazio.

The winners and losers from Euro 2020 being postponed. By Nick Ames.

What are the highest fees paid by football clubs for others’ managers? The Knowledge knows this and loads of other stuff.

Quiz! Quiz! Quiz! Quiz! How much do you remember about La Liga in the 1990s?

Today’s archive offering is a Joy of Six on great Championship/Football Manager players. You’re welcome.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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