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Football is still a shot in the arm

OPINION: Matches this twixmas may have been as dull as the constantly encountered Shirley Ballas and Tom Allen, but there is no drama like football

31 December, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Granit Xhaka

IN our worst winter, the fact we can watch football all the time is surely some relief to the locked down SOCCER-MAD nation.

Imagine if all there was to watch was clip shows of the greatest things you’ve already seen hundreds of times before, and “celebrity” versions of popular game shows with the constantly encountered Shirley Ballas and Tom Allen.

Tier 4 inmates can find Ballas on The Great Sewing Bee, Taskmaster and on Family Fortunes, where she was asked to name a British prime minister but couldn’t think of one because Boris Johnson had already been taken. Her partner suggested Neil Kinnock.

If you have not had enough of life locked up in the Ballasdrome, by the way, you can pay £80 and she’ll record a personalised message sent to your phone.

Times are hard, folks.

It’s true that some of the football this twixmas has been equally deadening. If you saw the first half of Brighton versus Arsenal, then by all means, go ahead, feel justified in watching Shirley Ballas on Celebrity Snoop Dogs, the Channel 4 show that goes behind the front doors of the stars…

But the non-stop football vein drip has at least got us through the past few weeks, a glimpse of the normality provided by Alan Shearer’s reliably dull analysis and Granit Xhaka’s clockwork yellow cards.

Covid infections are now showing up, though.

Arsenal were without their defender Gabriel this week after a positive test. Two matches were called off.

You would be a brave gambler to bet on the Premier League continuing without a “circuit breaker” sooner or later.

Shrug your shoulders now but Shirley Ballas hasn’t had a go on The Chase, Mastermind or Question Time yet, so wake up, people, before it’s too late.

Given the tragedies people are suffering due to Covid, it may seem that worrying over whether football can go ahead or not is selfish.

Certainly, who “got it in the goal” more times than somebody else on a cold evening in December isn’t to everybody’s taste – some will prefer Tom Allen on panel shows – and the action will be quickly forgotten when the nation looks back on the painful catastrophes of 2020.

A 1-0 win at Brighton won’t be memorable next week, let alone by the end of the season or next year.

But there is no drama like football, and Arsenal’s performances will have been one of the consuming plots for many. Their losses must have helped millions of rival fans get through the tough times.

Likewise, seeing Jose Mourinho’s bore-off tactics being rumbled at Wolves is a shot in the arm during bad times. The crisis would be even harder without such entertainment.

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