Simon Critchley: Football will become meaningless without the fans

By Miguel Angel Moreno

Madrid, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- The comeback of professional football after the untimely break due to the coronavirus pandemic will most likely be played behind closed doors.

But for British philosopher Simon Critchley, football without the fans would render the sport “meaningless.”

“It becomes a kind of meaningless television spectacle like a reality TV show or something. I think football without the fans will very quickly become meaningless,” he tells Efe in a video call from New York, where he teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research.

Throughout his career, Critchley has analysed fields as diverse as ethics, humour, suicide, death, David Bowie’s musical career and the relationship between football and thought, which he dissected in his 2018 work ‘What We Think About When We Think About Football?.

The philosopher and Liverpool FC supporter, a team that could have become the Premier League champion for the first time in 30 years had it not been for the pandemic, talks to Efe about this historic moment in the gentleman’s game.

“The 11th of March, or something like that, I was sitting in my local bar around the corner and I just heard that Mikel Arteta had been diagnosed with coronavirus. I thought, What? Arteta’s got coronavirus? And then, I was sitting behind a group of Americans just ahead of me and they just announced that the basketball, the NBA, had been suspended for the whole season,” Critchley recalls.

Since then, the lives of many have rapidly changed.

Despite being a Red (Liverpool supporter) and wanting his team to succeed, Critchley believes the last match his team played, against Atlético de Madrid in the second round of 16 of the Champions League, “shouldn’t have been played” as the pandemic was spreading.

“That was a mistake. It could have been avoided,” he says.

Most competitions plan a comeback when authorised by health authorities, albeit spectators in the terraces.

“If the football were back I’d watch it but it feels inappropriate. It feels like feasting during a plague, feasting during a famine. It would maybe give people happiness, I don’t know, it might not. It’s not going to be the real thing. I think the best thing that could happen would be to choose a stadium, they have hotels and the teams and many teams could play in one stadium or two stadiums over a couple of weeks and finish the league. That could be a spectacle for the fans, but it’s not going to be the same, winning isn’t going to be the same,” Critchley says.

And how should football change after the pandemic? For the British philosopher, the high salaries and payments should be reduced, organisations such as FIFA, which he describes as a corrupt organization, would have to change, and it should be a more humane sport.

“Maybe this will have a good effect on football, it will take some of the money out of the game, it will lead us to question why players are played so much money and why agents are allowed to circulate players like commodities around the world and the way in which the really big clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona are using that system to acquire new players. The constant obsession with sponsorship, television revenue. I think why football is important to us is for none of those reasons,” he says.

Football “is important” to many, but “the coronavirus really puts football in perspective”, Critchley says, who ends his interview with a Jürgen Klopp quote.

“He was very eloquent: football is important but there are more important things, and we have to attend to those, football can wait, we’ll come back to it”. EFE-EPA


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