David Freezer: Football uncertainty adding to anxiety during distressing times

PUBLISHED: 17:13 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 18:55 05 May 2020

The celebrations at the end of City's last home game, a 1-0 win over Leicester on February 28, already feel like distant memories Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

The celebrations at the end of City's last home game, a 1-0 win over Leicester on February 28, already feel like distant memories Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Project Restart may need a rebrand already. Project Ridiculous may soon be more apt, as the sheer amount of speculation has left my head spinning during football’s lockdown limbo.

From accusations of the bottom six rebelling against a restart and medical staff worrying players on purpose, to talk of relegation being abolished and neutral venues being essential, back to broadcasters insisting relegation must be included and the opinions of everyone and their dog.

Then PFA chief Gordon Taylor decides to clumsily drop in that halves of less than 45 minutes are being considered in a radio interview, just casually mentioned as if no one would really notice the odd comment.

You’ve got the stupid behaviour of former Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou over in Germany, who thought it would be a good idea to go live on Instagram and shake hands with his team-mates to celebrate testing negative for the coronavirus, when so many eyes are fixed on whether the Bundesliga can successfully restart this month.

His mistake swiftly saw him suspended by Hertha Berlin on a day that it had been revealed that over 1,700 tests for Covid-19 had been carried out on players and staff of the 36 clubs in the top two tiers in Germany, with 10 positive results leading to self-isolation.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg though. This infuriating scenario is being reported on with all the vigour and hyperbole of the game itself during normal times, leading to confusion and frustration.

From an anonymous Premier League players seemingly talking in explosive terms to Football365, to reports that games not shown live by a traditional broadcaster will be streamed on YouTube and mega money transfer rumours only slowing very slightly despite the timing and context of the next transfer window being totally unclear. Football gossip never sleeps, it seems.

Now, I appreciate that I’m writing this as a journalist as part of the same media sphere, but I can assure you that here at the EDP and Evening News we are trying our best to cut through the noise and bring Norwich City fans the key information, without adding to the dizzying feeling of blanket coronavirus coverage.

That’s not an easy balance to strike but I’m aware that during these strange times many of us are experiencing various feelings of anxiety, helplessness, confusion and longing for a return to normal life.

Set against a tragic background of over 28,000 lives being claimed by this global pandemic, none of us need football to be adding to the stress.

Within days of the game’s suspension on March 13 I found myself rolling back the years, using my three years of experience as a news reporter to help my colleagues cope with the huge demand for reliable information, advice on how to cope with lockdown and the uplifting community and charity stories which have provided welcome smiles during the last couple of months.

From preparing to cover City’s crucial home clash with Southampton and then an FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United at Carrow Road, I found myself working remotely from my spare room and getting stuck in to an unexpected new job.

While that was testing at times, I kept reminding myself that I was fortunate to be working and not furloughed, with the added inevitable worry for the future that situation brings.

So perhaps we need to ensure we take football’s coronavirus coverage with a pinch of salt, not get bogged down in the details too much and remember that, one way or another, the game we all love - and even depend upon - will return eventually.

There are many difficult health, financial, ethical and sporting dilemmas to be worked through first, so perhaps the Premier League’s influential figures should just stay a little more tight-lipped, rather than the regular leaks to test public opinion which are causing more anxiety.

I’ll finish with a lockdown tip which has brought me some welcome sporting escapism, as I’m actually finding watching highlights of memorable football games to be tinged with sadness, such as the joyous scenes for Canaries fans a year ago as promotion and the title were sealed so brilliantly.

I’m not particularly knowledgeable about basketball but The Last Dance documentary on Netflix, about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, is utterly absorbing.

To see how the man regarded as the greatest to have ever played the game learn that he couldn’t achieve greatness on his own, until he was surrounded by the supporting cast required to triumph over the entirety of a gruelling season, makes for enthralling viewing.

Whatever happens next with lockdown, social distancing and the knock-on effects on football, we know there’s at least a month before there is even a remote chance of us seeing Norwich City back in action - so make sure you keep that anxiety at bay.

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