Reset. The word has been used a lot in footballing circles of late as the ramifications of coronavirus continue to impact it and our daily lives. Still, no one could have imagined how a routine post-match match Premier League press conference following Arsenal’s 1-0 win over West Ham in early March would have changed the immediate footballing landscape. Mikel Arteta addressed the written media, sounding happy having seen his side prevail for a third consecutive win courtesy of Alexandre Lacazette’s VAR assisted winner.
Arteta has recovered from coronavirus following two weeks in self isolation
Up next was the game against Manchester City to focus on, where Arsenal would gauge a real idea of their post Unai Emery progression against the side where Arteta spent over three years as assistant to Pep Guardiola. It was at that press conference to preview the midweek City fixture where Arteta developed symptoms of Covid-19, with a later test confirming he had caught coronavirus. West Ham manager David Moyes subsequently self-isolated as would eight of his players.
Moyes self isolated after West Ham’s 1-0 loss at Emirates
Football reacted swiftly. Having initially dithered, the FA and the Premier League called an immediate halt to the season, Arteta went into self- isolation and now more than two weeks later, the Arsenal head coach, having fully recovered, turned his thoughts to those affected in this unprecedented time.
“ First of all I would like to send a message to all the people who have lost their loved ones, those who are suffering in hospitals, having difficult moments and are sick – we have a massive gratitude to everyone who is involved in healthcare, in hospitals, people in services, people trying to provide food, transportation, everything that is so relevant to us.
“ I am feeling completely recovered, it’s true I started having some symptoms when we got the phone call from the club to let us know that we might be exposed to the virus because of the owner of Olympiacos and in that moment… I don’t know, I felt something within me, that I had it.”
London in lockdown as the public is told to remain at home
As football takes a back seat to an invisible opponent, players are having to train at home alone. It is a situation they are not accustomed to. They train, they play, repeat. Not knowing at this juncture in the year, where effectively a pre-end of season break has been enforced since early March, will have physical and psychological effects on players who need to know what is coming next.
But no-body knows what is coming next, and when the 2019/20 season will be concluded. In the mean time, football has gathered momentum for the greater good.
It has had to reset. Roman Abramovich has opened his Stamford Bridge hotels to NHS staff. Likewise, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have put their two hotels in the northwest at the disposal of the NHS, while Wilfried Zaha has done likewise with his portfolio of fifty London properties. A Premier League manager has gone out delivering food packages to those elderly and vulnerable in the community, while Everton and Watford are amongst the clubs whose players have manned the phones for calls to elderly and vulnerable fans. Many clubs have stated that their match day employees will continue to be paid, as football begins to take stock for the greater good. Multi-millionaires giving back. It has to be just the start.
Neville has offered his hotels to NHS staff
With his side 25 points clear at the Premier League summit and on course to claim their first title in three decades, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp described football as “ the most important of the least important things.” One can understand the clamour for Klopp to go into German politics at a future date. For now, Premier League clubs’ will meet on Friday to decide what measures will be needed to re-start the current season with every indication that the season will be completed when it is safe for everyone to do so. April 30th seems very optimistic, and no one knows how promotion and relegation issues will be addressed.
Football is “the most important of the least important things,” said Klopp
From the unfortunate catalyst who galvanised football to take a reality check and dispel the mooted, games behind closed doors proposition, the ongoing safety of everyone was paramount on Arteta’s mind as he urged everyone to follow the government’s guidelines.
“I encourage everybody please to be responsible and stay at home as much as possible. That is all we can do from our position, we don’t have the ability to help others in other circumstances, so please at least stay at home and do what is required. We have to try to help the NHS as much as possible and we have to give the opportunity to the elderly people who needs this more than anybody else to get the treatment they require. We have to slow the process down and the virus down, so please stay at home,” he continued on the club’s official site.
Arteta and Moyes at Emirates stadium in early March
The reset of all our daily lives is well in effect. Football, much maligned in current times might re-emerge a stronger, newer more caring identity. Arteta and his contemporaries will have played an unwitting but vital part in that change.