Some say football is just a game but we know better, and after more than 17 months we got the sport we love back in its truest form over the weekend.
The deafening silence that greeted one match to another was gruelling as it was brutal, with the vibrant and colourful backdrop turning black and white overnight.
Decade-old matchday traditions were put on ice and the form of escapism we all crave instead became an echo chamber for our thoughts and the bellow of the voices of players and coaches.
The reason for it is not lost on anyone, a needed measure to keep people safe but the show had to go on.
It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear the words “I’m falling out of love with football” or “what’s the point” uttered from fans up and down the country as football fatigue struck and struck hard.
But that all changed over the weekend as an injection of passion from full-capacity stadiums across the country saw football shocked back into being the rhythm of our lives.
It was as emotional as it was eventful.
And to see clubs welcome back their lifeblood and restore the very essence of what makes football so great, from Brentford‘s electric debut in the Premier League to the travelling Kop and Tottenham toppling Man City in front of 58,262 fans, was captivating.
Our game was back and I don’t think I’ve ever greeted the ironic sound of “Your support is fucking shit” with a wry smile before as it made its return en masse.
We’d had a taste with 2,000 and 10,000 fans, but nothing could compare to the real deal as footage played over and over of jubilant faces marking their return and that of the game’s soul – and I can safely say that it will never be taken for granted.
I mean, if you look at just one moment for what it is to be back at the game then the one at Brentford with Thomas Frank and a young fan is it. The sheer joy could warm the coldest of hearts.
What a gorgeous pic. pic.twitter.com/ASGEoe2osi
— Gary Lineker ? (@GaryLineker) August 14, 2021
“Football is the most important of the least important things” and the relief of the opening weekend was the light at the end of the tunnel that we all needed.
The return of the 3pm blackout, lack of VAR drama and debate and games played well above the level of a glorified pre-season friendly restored a sacred part of all our lives.
Fans have long been considered to see their club as an extension of themselves, a source of identity and for many it will still be the case and now dad and lad, mother and daughter, grandparent and grandchild can restore that part of their lives with traditions that have long been passed from one generation to the next.
What a feeling.
And it was a special weekend for all of us, whether watching at home, in the pub or as one of tens of thousands in a packed stadium.
I got a taste of it at Liverpool’s penultimate pre-season friendly and it was a sight to behold with 40,000 at Anfield, a real moment to treasure and it’ll be an emotion many experience for the first time all over again throughout the season.
We get to be part of the orchestra once more, or in our case Klopp’s heavy metal ensemble, and one can’t help but be flooded by a wide array of feelings after so long of going without, and it is just as emotional for the players.
“I remember the first few times I stepped out when there was nobody there and coming out of the tunnel it was the first time it really hit you because normally when you step out of the tunnel you either get the roar or booed or something, anything would have done, but it was just quiet and that’s what really hit you,” James Milner told the club’s official website.
“But having our fans here today singing all the way through and seeing them at the end, amazing to have them back and obviously it will be special next week at Anfield as well.”
Anfield will get its turn this week and it’ll be a surreal yet incredible experience, more so when you consider Diogo Jota, Thiago and Kostas Tsimikas have not yet played on home soil in front of a full-capacity stadium.
Real fans with real emotion, what a relief it was to feel the joy of matchday again. We have got the football we know and love back.
Some say football is just a game, but it’s much more than that.