This persistence occasionally drifts into the realms of the absurd, but football has a remarkable ability to tolerate it too. As mentioned last week, Denmark played against Sweden despite the fact that the managers of both teams were self-isolating and that a number of players had been withheld from both teams. England considered playing Iceland in Albania. Norway cobbled together a last-minute team.
Indeed, Norway’s case was an anomaly: a rare example of reality intrusion. Norway had to take immediate action because the country’s government insisted it couldn’t make an exception to its strict quarantine rules even for the country’s national team.
This is unusual: football usually receives a pass. Players push boundaries without having to isolate themselves upon arrival. Rules are changed and Allowances made So the game – that great cultural phenomenon that so many of us so often engage in – can continue.
The problem in almost all other areas of life is that there is too little: too little culture, too little business, too little pedestrian traffic, too little social contact, too little hope. Only in football do managers, players, executives and fans worry about whether there is too much.
Sometimes everything feels a little bold, a touch of gauche. It’s easy to see why some fell in love with the game. It’s even easier to understand why those who never had much time feel vindicated by the insanity, the chutzpah of football during the pandemic.
There are moments in empty stadiums and in empty controversies when it looks as if his mask has slipped and his inner workings are exposed: a grinding, gripping and money robbery machine, a sports-industrial complex that runs in a spiral of “abusive selfishness“As the writer Jonathan Liew put it.
Despite all of the fact that football was determined to move on because of an inflated sense of its own importance and an immediate understanding of its own financial model, its decision was only tolerated because of something else. We accept it in all of its absurdity and gall because none of it completely tarnishes its value.