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Soccer News

‘It’s like old times again’ – Back to Arsenal after the pandemic with Charles Watts and his father

For the first time in more than 500 days, Charles Watts’ father was able to go to the Emirates and our Arsenal correspondent went with him

I will never forget the moment that the reality of live football during the pandemic was truly at home.

It was July 18, 2020 and I walked just over an hour on Wembley Way before Arsenal’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City.

I reach the top of the famous driveways as I approach the stadium and look around as I prepare to record a video. I could not see another person.

It was the semi-finals of the FA Cup at Wembley, and I stood on my own without anyone else being there. My heart sank.

This was not the first game I attended after ‘Operation Restart’ got into gear; actually it was my 11th. But it was the one that really made me realize how weaker football was without fans.

Maybe during the previous games I was just happy that I could do my job again, or that the surrealistic nature of the situation really took me a while to realize how hollow things are now.

But it became very clear that afternoon at Wembley.

It must have been a great opportunity. Usually, Wembley Way will be overloaded with color. One side red, one side blue as fans stream against the driveways to the stadium.

But it just wasn’t the same; it was not football.

And it was exactly the same feeling when I got into the ground and looked at 90,000 empty seats.

I remember when the referee blew his whistle to get the match going. It was a sound that had to be greeted by a giant roar. This time? Nothing. Silence, apart from the screams of the drivers on the sidelines.

Charles Watts is not

Since then, reporting on football has felt like a very hollow experience to me.

There were some good games and good goals, but it was not football. Not really. Every match feels like a slightly glorified friendship.

Nevertheless, I never lost sight of how lucky I was to still be able to go to the games every week.

I know I was in a privileged position to go up and down the country and watch the matches that I not only report on, but also support.

Millions of Arsenal fans around the world would have given anything to swap positions with me on a game day, including my dad – who has been a season ticket holder since 1990 and has been sitting in the same seat at the Emirates Stadium since moving out of Highbury in 2006 has. .

For years I was used to sitting in the press box before the game and waiting for the same sms. It usually arrives around 2.30pm and always reads ‘Where are you?’

I send one back and then look at the opposite side of the stadium, where I can look at my dad’s phone, then I look to find me, put his arm in the air and start waving.

It was the same routine for years, every game.

I can not tell you how much I missed it during the pandemic.