After a week when I got talking to a guy from Northfield, Birmingham – he asked me “What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison ?” (A) “You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo” – the football famine for Mallorquinistas is over and after three months away due to coronavirus, tonight at 10 pm in the new Visit Mallorca Estadi, league leaders Barcelona are the visitors – behind closed doors.
That means with all the restrictions in place there’ll be barely 200 people in the ground.
The last time they played us here in La Liga was in November 2012 when we lost 2-4.
La Liga’s slogan for the restart is “Volver es ganar” (To return is to win) and there is a lot of excitement around football’s return, to go with the relief in recent weeks that the number of deaths and infections have fallen. There are going to be 110 games played in 39 days, with clubs playing every three days for five and a half weeks.
The Son Moix (or Visit Mallorca Estadi) stands will be empty except for officials and substitutes who will be sitting two metres apart so as to adhere to social distancing. For us fans we’ll have to watch proceedings on the telly with a fake crowd and noises taken from the computer game FIFA 2020, ebbing and flowing according to the action. I thought these innovations were brilliant in Thursday night’s Sevilla/Real Betis game.
All players tomorrow tonight will arrive wearing masks and gloves and have their temperatures checked before entering the stadium. The last time Real Mallorca played behind closed doors was December 2011 in Granada.
That day a linesman was felled by an empty plastic water bottle (honest) resulting in the game being abandoned on the hour mark with Granada ahead 2-1.Three weeks later we had to go all the way back and play the last 32 minutes. Tomer Hemed converted an equaliser from the penalty spot to earn a point.
There’s precious little wriggle-room for Real Mallorca as we play these 11 games in a short space of time and it’s going to be very difficult for our limited squad. Our task is to stay in La Liga but our chances aren’t helped by having to go to Real Madrid, At. Madrid, Sevilla and At. Bilbao, all difficult places to get any kind of result. A major worry for most clubs will be players picking up muscle injuries after just a few short preparation weeks. Tonight a troubled Barcelona (with huge boardroom upheavals going on) welcome back Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Even they will find circumstances strange but the Catalan giants must start favourites.
The restart has come at the wrong time for us. We chalked up our only away win at Eibar on March 8 and looked to have found a bit of form. Coach Vicente Moreno’s team have to hit the ground running with so many games being crammed together. Football now looks like a lottery and we have the perfect opportunity to state our intent to the rest of La Liga.
The health authorities in Spain are weighing up whether or not to allow a limited amount of fans back into grounds before the end of this season. It looks likely that if fans do get the green light to go back all grounds will have to be in unison together. Son Moix (or Visit Mallorca Estadi) has a capacity of 20,500 with 16,000 season ticket holders. If we were allowed, say, 30% back in, who would be allowed and who wouldn’t, and what system would they use to decide?
My spies tell me one system could be that fans who’ve held a season ticket the longest, would have the first option (by ticket number from 1 to 5,000, for example). I’d be bang on the money if that was the case as my ticket number is 1,460.
A lot of people are not happy about football getting the nod to return in Spain, but in my opinion it’s vital it’s come back. The wait has been long enough and restart lifts the mood of the nation. Football is an integral part of Spain’s national culture – just look and see how many bars/restaurants will have it on the “box” over the next few weeks. It brings a lot of joy to people’s lives.
This Covid-19 pandemic has turned the 2019/20 season into something of a landmark in sporting and societal history – football has entered the unknown (spooky, eh?). La Liga is back but not as we knew it.
The German Bundesliga restarted three weeks ago and a lot of what went on there looked like a cartoon version of apocalyptic football. There is of course no textbook way the return can be handled because nothing like this has happened before in our lifetimes.
And finally, a little girl asks her mother “Mummy, how was I born?” Her mother smiles and replies “Good question, sweetie, once upon a time your Daddy and I decided to plant a wonderful tiny seed. Daddy planted it in the earth and I took care of it every single day. After a while the seed germinated and grew tall with many leaves until it became a lovely healthy plant. Then we dried it, smoked it, and got so high we forgot to use a condom!!”