Editor's note: The Premier League returns in nine days exactly on June 17, 2020 and in this article, Legit.ng's contributor Arinze Esomnofu has penned an opinion charging fans to take precautionary measures as they step out to watch their favourite stars take to the field again.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Legit.ng.
Now you can breathe. The breath of every English Premier League fan has been held for over 90 days; the last time a league game was played at the highest level of English football, since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. It followed an indefinite suspension of football in the Premier League and all other levels in the English game. There has been a lot of back and forth on whether the season would resume or be canceled, amidst the pandemic.
Meetings were held virtually among the stakeholders of the league, with regular consultation from the government and health authorities. Finally, the Premier League has been given the green light to return. The competition we all love, that sets our hearts raising, takes us through a roller-coaster of emotions - the most lucrative and most competitive football league in the world, will return officially on June 17, 2020. It has been a while, and there is no denying, we have missed it so much. And should our Naija star boy Victor Osimhen make the speculated move to the Premier League, it will definitely add more spice to this amazing league that we all love.
While the Premier League is set to return, there is still a red alert on the pandemic. Regular testing for Coronavirus has been going on for the past two weeks across the Premier League. Players and club staff have been tested at least twice a week, and while there have been some positive results, the numbers have not been deemed high enough to halt preparations of the Premier League "Project Restart". The strictest health measures have been implemented across the Premier League, with wearing of nose masks, social distancing made compulsory (except during training), regular disinfecting of the training areas, and players arriving and returning on their training kits. Although, the latter has been relaxed a little as other parts of the training facilities are being made accessible as the league closes in on a return.
All remaining games in the 2019/2020 Premier League season, will be played behind-closed-doors. This means fans will have to watch the games at home, in pubs, offices or anywhere that is not the stadium. In West Africa, Nigeria, where the Premier League has an enormous fan base, the majority of the games, will be enjoyed at viewing centers. Places that had been deserted since the abrupt break in the season, will come alive again, with people flocking in, to show support for their different teams and unwind.
Considering how long these people have been starved of a live football match, it should not come as a surprise that the number of spectators for the first Premier League game on June 17, a rearranged game between defending champions Manchester City and Arsenal, will attract a large number.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been a good time for viewing center owners to cash out and make up for lost time; when you can give a complete stranger a hug, celebrating a goal, or showing intense emotions. However, we are not in a normal period. In fact, we are past normal and we are only trying to move on with life despite the pandemic.
Like the Instagram saying made popular by Daddy Freeze ‘this year go rugged oh’, no doubt, the year is like one we haven’t seen in almost a lifetime, ranging from the current racism unrest in America and the possible impact it might have on football and black soccer stars, in particular, no doubt 2020 has been one hell of a year, and you reading this won’t have difficulty in agreeing with me on this.
So it's almost important that owners of these viewing centres follow all directives by the appropriate health authorities in Nigeria which would mean; admitting only people with nose masks into the hall, make hand sanitizers accessible and ensure everyone use it at point of entry and set up the sitting arrangements in a way social distancing is observed. They can also find creative ways to ensure they help reduce the contraction of the virus. Individuals that have the means to watch the games from the comfort of their homes, should do so and not bother going to the centers.
The government and health authorities have reluctantly eased the lockdown and provided safety tips. It is paramount these tips are followed by everyone because, the Premier League and the excitement that comes with it may be imminent, we are not out of the woods yet.
Arinze Esomnofu is a Nigerian media professional, journalist and content editor.
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