Stadium
Stadium
Twitter/ BCCI

Mumbai: In a welcome move, the Union Government has ignited the possibility for various sports federations to allow matches to be held in stadiums, albeit without spectators. How's that? Last Saturday, the Bundesliga became the first major European league to return since the suspension of football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The games were played under the guidelines issued by the German Football League. A total of 17 matches were played over the weekend, with nary a member of the public present.

Strictly a closed-door affair at a Frankfurt stadium, the eerie atmosphere was a far cry from the lusty shouts of spectators and the rambunctious antics of the players on the grounds in the pre-lockdown days.

The hordes of fans confined to watching it at home on television and football experts privileged to attend it live, both described it as a haunting experience because every sound from the field, including the ball bouncing off the spectator stands and the ubiquitous referee's whistle registered its presence.

The instructions by the coaches and players echoed around the empty stadium. The DJ decided to play the Ghostbusters song shortly before kick-off.

Spectator-free games are usually called 'ghost matches' (Geisterspiele) in Germany. Some frustrated fans had plonked a sofa spray-painted with words that meant they wanted to be in the stadium, not on a couch at home and that they did not like ghost games.

Closer home, the Indian government's announcement has lifted the sagging spirits of some sports associations across the country, who are now awaiting guidelines from the local authorities on opening stadium gates for athletes.

Reactions from various quarters are mixed. While some are waiting for the green signal from the local government, others stare at their empty treasuries and seek monetary support to take this initiative forward.

“Yes, it is a good move and I am sure this will make a big difference to society in general,” said Sunder Iyer, secretary, Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association.

“Now, with the Union government taking note of the importance of sports, we are waiting for the local authorities to share the guidelines and we will take off,” he told The Free Press Journal on Monday.

Uncertainties loom over several topics: Will sports complexes be open for competitions or training and what will be the fate of contact sports like football, hockey, and wrestling? Souter Vaz, secretary of the Mumbai District Football Association, does have his doubts, despite agreeing that this is a good move during the time of the pandemic.

“It is undoubtedly the need of the hour for sports in general, but for a sport like football, we are not a rich association and lack the manpower and money to take this forward.”

“We welcome individuals to come and train, but we are lagging when it comes to conducting matches, as we lack the requisite manpower and to take care of this, we need monetary support,” said Vaz, adding that extra precautions will be required in football to abide by Covid-19 guidelines, as it is a contact sport."

Many athletes have welcomed the move and are waiting for their respective federations and especially the Sports Authority of India, to take this forward.

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