About one month ago, I was lucky enough to do something that most people have not been able to do since March of ’20: Attend a professional sporting event. Here, I will break down just how different my experience was compared to what a normal game would be like.
The game that I was lucky enough to attend was an MLS match between Inter Miami CF and Toronto FC. The game took place at Rentschler Field, normally the home of UCONN Football, but due to Canada’s travel ban, Toronto had to play at a venue inside the continental United States.
The play on the field was nothing out of the ordinary. Toronto took home a 2-1 victory, with MVP candidate Pozuelo scoring a spot kick in the dying moments of the match. While Inter Miami stars Blaise Matuidi and Gonzalo Higuin showed their class and experience throughout the match.
However, what was out of the ordinary was the atmosphere of the stadium. Unlike some southern states that have allowed fans into games with little social distancing, the state of Connecticut certainly had strict guidelines on social distancing, only allocating a few thousand seats to be sold, for a stadium that sits just about 40,000. According to the MLS website, the official attendance was just about 1,300 (these numbers tend to be inflated).
Just in case these numbers are not clear, the stadium was empty. Other than a few “oh’s” and “ah’s” throughout the game, it felt about as energetic as a junior varsity soccer game.
Despite this lack of energy, the experience itself was wonderful. As someone who plays a lot of soccer, it was interesting to hear the coaches bark orders, and hear what the players would say to each other. Most being said between the players were simple soccer directions — yet — it was shocking to hear these professionals actually bark these orders.
Additionally, something unique about this game was hearing the players interact with the referee. What was surprising to me, was how that most of the interaction/arguing with the referee came from the captain, and not the rest of the team. As a player, I always thought of this a myth, but when you have Micheal Bradley as your captain, you tend to let him do most of the talking with the soccer pedigree he has.
Lastly, one more element of being at an empty stadium, was being able to talk to the players as a fan. For example, I was sitting right by where the Toronto FC subs were warming up, and right after they scored, me and my buddy jokingly chanted a few bench players names following the goal, and we received fist pumps and a few “LFG” chants, something that would never happen with a full crowd.
All in all, I was certainly a lucky sports fan for finally being able to attend a match after an 8 month hiatus. Even though it was two teams I really didn’t care about, it was a fun experience, given the fact so much has been taken away during this pandemic.
Image: UCONN Athletics