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Football in the time of Covid-19

By Dale Eaton

Life during the coronavirus pandemic has been somewhat peculiar. With people constantly seeking normality in what is an increasingly abnormal world, football is often a go-to. A lot has been made about coronavirus’ impact at the highest level of football but people often forget that it has had a similar if not worse impact further down the pecking order.

With lower leagues, amateur and women’s football facing tough restrictions it has been a real struggle to get players back on to training pitches and preparing for the return of games.

Someone who has really felt these struggles is Dennistoun Thistle manager and amateur referee Chris Irving. He said: “The atmosphere’s just been dead because people don’t know when we’re going be back. I think it’s tough because I have got quite a lot of egos in the team and they need to be playing.”

Irving, a former amateur player himself, is concerned about players motivations with no games in sight. “When the Scottish government allowed us to return to non-contact training my numbers were just non-existent. Trying to encourage guys to come together for a 5k or a 10k run, it’s tough when there’s no goal at the end of it for games.”

The 32-year-old isn’t overly optimistic that Dennistoun will get back to playing competitive games any time soon: “We need that competitive edge. In the friendlies, we played it just wasn’t there and then you finally get a bit of light with the first league game but then its restrictions again. So yeah, it’s going to be tough…  if you’re asking me as a layman do I think we’ll be playing this side of Christmas? No. So what does that mean for our league? I don’t know”

Someone with a much more positive outlook on the circumstances facing them is the head of Glasgow City’s academy, Jamie Beattie. Beattie has been working incredibly hard to get Glasgow City’s youth players back on the training pitches and keeping them safe. He said: “It has been a huge huge challenge over the lockdown, we actually went 113 days from when lockdown started to the 21st of July which was when we were able to return to training.

“There was a lot of work put into that in terms of getting the facilities ready, going through all the protocols we needed to in terms of one-way systems and hand sanitizing and all that sort of stuff. It took a long time to process but the feeling of getting back on that pitch was amazing.”

Glasgow City taking on Celtic in their opening match of the SWPL1 season

There has been a fantastic response to Beattie’s hard work from both players and coaches. Beattie added: “I’m really lucky that I’ve got a great team of coaches in the academy and they give a lot of their time and effort to make our players first of all enjoy their football and second of all develop. They couldn’t wait to get back on the pitch albeit in different scenarios but the response was amazing.”

It’s also not only those involved in sports teams themselves that are feeling the effects of coronavirus on football. Sports journalist Euan McLean, formerly of the Daily Record, said: “I think it’s the toughest time for the newspaper industry in general… for the sports pages this has been horrendous because, simply, for the last six months there’s been very little sport to cover.”

To hear more from Chris Irving, Jamie Beattie and Euan McLean check out this audio package

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