On Saturday I watched my favourite football team Leeds United beat promotion rivals Fulham three-nil and boosting their efforts to reach the Premier League next season. I have supported Leeds United since I was a young kid and stayed loyal to my team through the few ups and the many downs but I have never witnessed a game like the one I watched this weekend. Let me explain, due to lockdown rules the 40,000 capacity stadium was empty but--It wasn't, human supporters had been replaced by life-size supporters made from cardboard giving the stands a surreal impressionistic, Vincent Van Gough feel, about the whole thing, see below.
Now, as you well know, cardboard cannot move, talk, shout, scream or chant, so to create an atmosphere, Leeds United taped crowd audio through the stadium's speaker system creating a plastic-type atmosphere. The chanting and the OOH'S and AAH'S of near misses and the YESSS! when a goal was scored often came a little later than the action. The whole game had a bizarre feel about it and even though my team won and will probably be in the Premier League next season the whole experience left me a little sad.
Football, as we know it today, is a virus which began infecting people in a city called Sheffield in 1855. Sheffield is about 30 miles, (50km) South of Leeds in South Yorkshire. This virus called football then went on to infect Nottingham, Preston, Blackburn, Accrington, the rest of England, Scotland and Wales, Europe and then the whole world and is now known as "the beautiful game," so romantic. Watched by billions of people worldwide football, is itself now in danger of being killed by another virus, Covid-19, so you can understand my sadness if Leeds do win promotion to the Premier League, will there even be the next season, I ask myself? Or will the beautiful game be watched by thousands of cardboard supporters united in silence and taped crowd noise blasted through speakers? Hmmm, not such a beautiful prospect for the world's beautiful game.
Below a short glimpse of the unique and incredible atmosphere at a Leeds United game, an atmosphere which will make the hair on your neck stand up but sadly is in danger of being lost forever.