By Oludare Odetoki
It is probably during World War II that football leagues across Europe had been affected in the manner it had been recently in the last 70 years. Even in the thick of World War II, matches were still played in England, albeit, under controlled situations. But at the moment, football matches across Europe’s Major Leagues (the English premier league, Spanish La Liga and the Italian Serie A) have all been suspended till at least April to see how the corona virus will be combated.
The corona virus is taken its toll on Europe and the United States is also taking measures to combat the spread of the virus following the extension of its travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Football is not only the activity affected in Europe but also other socio-economic activities as people’s movements have been restricted to work, hospitals and food stores. Gatherings at museums, restaurants, sports facilities etc. have been suspended at the moment in European countries with major football leagues.
In the late ’30s when it looked inevitable that a war with Germany was coming. On 21 September 1939, the government of the United Kingdom announced that football games would continue but controlled and a fifty-mile traveling limit was established. The English Football association divided the football league into separate regional leagues with reduced attendance numbers in the interests of public safety. During the war, over hundreds of English footballers joined the British war effort.
In May 1940, German troops invaded both France and Great Britain. Bombings on British cities increased and fears began to circulate that the Football Leagues would be suspended. Undeterred by threats of air bombings, more than 40,000 football fans traveled to Wembley Stadium that year to see West Ham United win the Football League War Cup when they defeated Blackburn Rovers 1-0.
The bravery of thousands football fans to congregate in an area, knowing they were a sitting targets for German bombers made the English FA to realize the importance of football for the country’s moral and with that in mind, September 1940 saw the FA allow football be played on Sundays with the aim of providing relief and recreation for wartime workers.
In May 1945 news made its way to all four corners of England. Germany had surrendered. The war was over! People took to the streets to celebrate. For fans of the beautiful game, it meant that real football would soon be returning.
By the time coronavirus is effectively contained and major football leagues resume, it certainly will be a reminiscence of May 1945.