It’s an understandable take considering the current Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Sporting events have taken an unprecedented hit.
But it’s naïve to say that football is not that important. For many, the opposite is actually true – it’s a lifeline.
Whilst the Premier League and professional football is absent from our TVs, it’s an inconvenience not having a match to watch in the evening. Looking for alternatives has left my household flummoxed.
But there’s far more serious personal repercussions to the blanket ban by the FA on all football-related activities. How many of us use football as an outlet for battling anxiety, depression and loneliness? Sport is a vital release for many who don’t have other social engagement in their lives. I’ve seen despairing messages from coaches to players to volunteers and fans who feel lost without what they see as a vital lifeline.
Football provides a structure; fixture lists, matchdays, social events… calendars are filled with opportunities to get out and find that release. Now, the lists are bare, the statements are out, and football has been cancelled for the foreseeable future. So what happens to those who rely on it so much?
I’m not being melodramatic. Hendon were applauded for their groundbreaking approach to offering free entry to anyone facing loneliness or battling depression. It was even recognised by HRH Prince William. Hendon understood that their role in the community, holding out an open hand to all, including the mentally-vulnerable.
I remember talking to an elderly steward at a South London club who tearily told me that his volunteering on a matchday was all he had left in life. He had no family, lived alone and the club was his only way of having true social interaction throughout the week. What happens to him?
Further afield, I’ve read desperate tweets from those who feel their outlet has been ripped from them. Many suffer from mental and physical illnesses and football is a massive part of their support-network. They feel cut off from their community. Usually, the end of the week signals the chance to have that release. Now what happens?
I’m not playing down the importance of keeping everyone safe from what is an unprecedented situation and we all need to play our part to ensure minimum casualties from this menacing threat. But let’s not lose focus on how important sport is to good health and wellbeing. To say football is not that important is downright wrong.