The world of football
generally exists in a bubble, where the game and its players can go
about business without much, if any, consideration to what is happening
outside the borders of the sport.
sense of detachment has helped it endure through tumultuous times,
allowing the sport to remain a near-constant feature of life for many.
as much as football can be separate from the rest of reality, it has
disappeared from public life in times of global crisis.
It hasn’t happened often, but Goal takes a look at times when football was disrupted globally.
global Covid-19 pandemic brought professional football across the world
to a standstill in 2020 with the reverberations of the deadly
coronavirus felt all over the world.
The outbreak occurred
in China in December 2019 and, as the situation deteriorated in the
country, all aspects of public life were ground to a halt, including
football, which was postponed in January.
It soon spread
beyond China’s borders and an increasing number of football competitions
were postponed indefinitely while governments sought to limit the
spread of the virus and mitigate its impact.
Italy’s Serie A was the first of the continent’s top five leagues to
postpone matches, with the first delay happening at the end of
February. The Italian government then mandated that sport – including
Serie A matches – should only take place behind closed doors, before
ordering a full suspension of activity on March 9, as the situation
When footballers and individuals closely
associated with clubs began to test positive for the virus,
decision-makers began to act with more urgency.
on the same night that the Premier League indicated a willingness to
forge ahead with games in line with what was then UK government policy,
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was confirmed to have had the virus,
setting in motion a swift series of events that led to the suspension of
professional football in England.
La Liga, Ligue 1 and the
Bundesliga also postponed fixtures as Spain, France and Germany
contended with increasing numbers of cases.
With so many of
its top leagues forced into suspension, European football’s
confederation UEFA eventually relented and announced that Euro 2020
would be deferred one year until 2021, while its South American
counterpart CONMEBOL did likewise with Copa America 2020.
the end of March 2020, the only football available to watch on UK TV
was A-League action from Australia, as the rest of the world’s top
football competitions were shut down, in some cases for several months.
will come as little surprise to learn that the outbreak of World War 2
meant that football took a back seat in many countries as the people had
their full attention focused on the ‘war effort’, though,
interestingly, the impact was not as widespread as the Covid-19 crisis,
affecting mainly Europe.
In England, most leagues were
suspended mid-way through the 1939-40 season and normal service did not
resume again until 1946-47. Many footballers signed up to fight in the
war and, tragically, many died.
While national leagues were
put on hold during this time in England, regional football matches were
still held. Competitions known as ‘The Wartime League’ and ‘The War Cup’
replaced the on-hold Football League and the FA Cup, with authorities
at the time defending their existence as morale-boosting recreational
outlets for workers.
It was controversial, however, because
it was felt that large-scale gatherings of people, such as those found
at football matches, would be at risk as a potential target for enemies.
National league football was also cancelled in France for the duration of the war, before resuming in 1945-46.
war also, unsurprisingly, had an impact on the World Cup, a competition
then in its infancy, as two editions – 1942 and 1946 – were cancelled.
However, even as dark as things were in the period between 1939 and 1945, some national leagues persevered.
Spain, the Primera Division was suspended during the Spanish Civil War
(1936-1939), but it was uninterrupted by the Second World War, while
Serie A in Italy continued as normal until 1943 before its cancellation
in 1944-45 (normal service resumed in 1945-46).
Gauliga carried on throughout the duration of the war, with Schalke
proving the most successful club in that period as they won three out of
six championships between 1939 and 1944. German football was
subsequently impacted in the aftermath of the war though, with no
national league in operation until 1948.
a sport, football was still very much in its formative stages when
World War 1 broke out in 1914 and the organised game was impacted
significantly during the hostilities.
The national leagues
of England, France, Italy, Germany and more were all suspended while the
fighting took place. La Liga in Spain, of course, was not in operation
as it was not founded until 1929.
As with the Second World
War, many footballers signed up to fight in World War 1 and the British
forces even had a dedicated ‘Football Battalion’, which was led by
former Birmingham City player Frank Buckley. Players from all sorts of
clubs were involved, including some from Manchester United and Chelsea,
The First World War is memorable for the story
of the ‘Christmas Truce’ during which a football match is said to have
been played between German and British soldiers.
While it is
unlikely that an organised match was played, there are many testimonies
of impromptu games happening and the mythos around it has served as a
powerful symbol of common humanity.
Not long after the war
ended, football leagues resumed for the 1919-20 season, but it wouldn’t
be long before they were interrupted forcefully again.