Self-Isolating With Football

by | Mar 21, 2020

We live in extraordinary times, in one of the worst possible ways. An entire nation is planing to hunker down. We don’t even know how long for, but what we do know is that the normality of the football schedule has already disappeared from our lives and that, for all the bullishness on the part of governing bodies, leagues and clubs, we can’t say with any confidence whatsoever when it will be returning.

So, how are we going to fill that void, then? Some have been scratching around trying to find matches that are still being played, but it’s arguable that, in the midst of a global pandemic, we perhaps shouldn’t be encouraging any competitions in any countries to plough on regardless through watching what they’re still showing. The advice from those who deeply understand all of this is very clear – stay at home, limit contact with others as much as is practicable, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face.

From a personal perspective, I have been in semi-self-isolation for the last twelve days. I’m working from home, and have left the house three times in that period, each time to go to the nearest small supermarket, about a five minute walk from my house. It’s likely that – presuming I’m fortunate enough to not get infected, which remains far from guaranteed, no matter what – I’ll be here for the next couple of months, at least. You may well be, as well. And it’s frightening. I’m 47 years old, and my health hasn’t been the greatest over the last couple of years or so. Every time I hear of someone previously healthy succumbing to this awful virus, my own heart runs cold.

But we all have to try to get through this. I have two young children. They need their dad, and I need to be as mentally strong for them as I can. We have a responsibility to do the best that we can for ourselves, those who depend on us, and society in a broader sense. And fortunately, football has such a vast archive that we can, for (at least) a while, find plenty of ways to occupy ourselves while we wait for this to pass. On top of the fear and uncertainty, the entire global economy is on the precipice of a collapse that has never been experienced before on anything like this sort of scale. With that in mind, I’ve tried to put together distractions that are free of charge. This hasn’t been possible in every single case, but I’ve tried to make sure that they are where possible.

Videos

The internet is an amazing archive for old football, and although several bodies – most notably FIFA and UEFA – have been active in getting videos removed from the internet in the apparent belief that forty year-old videos should be theirs and their alone, a huge amount remains available, free of charge. There are also, of course, numerous streaming services from which I’ve had a look to see what is available which would be of interest to you guys. So let’s get started.

– The 200% YouTube Playlists: About nine or ten years ago, I embarked on a project to try and gather together everything of quality from a football perspective in one place. The result was a series of playlists covering the seasons from 1964 to 1992, as well as various other tournaments, some documentaries, Goal Of The Month competitions and the like. Fair warning: these lists were compliled a very long time ago, and I have not had the time to edit and prune them in recent years, so there may be some deleted videos in there. The vast majority are still active (not many of the World Cup ones, sadly), are though, and you can rest assured that I will be getting back to this at the earliest available opportunity.

– 1980s Football Heaven: There are several excellent YouTube channels for old football matches these days, but since this one came into creation after I set up the 200% playlists, I’ve gone with this one, which features many complete episodes of Match Of The Day, including the last day of the 1982/83 season and Manchester City’s dramatic relegation from the First Division, and FA Cup Third Round day 1989, when Sutton United knocked Coventry City out of the tournament.

– Sunderland Til I Die: The behind-the-scenes documentary series has become quite fashionable in recent times, and has correctly been criticised in some respects as little more than marketing exercises on the parts of the clubs involved. Nothing could be further from this than Sunderland Til I Die, though. In some respects, the most surprising aspect of it all that it was allowed to be made in the way that it was in the first place. Indeed, it might even be that we can consider this alone to be proof of the lack of leadship within the club at the time. Sunderland Til I Die concentrates on the season after the club’s relegation from the Premier League in 2016. It is understood that a second series is also to be released. (Netflix subscription required)

– Bobby Robson – More Than A Manager: The hagiographic documentary is another field that has proliferated in recent years, but sometimes a character is deserving of such one treatment. Sir Bobby Robson was undoubtedly such a character. It’s now been more than ten years since he died, yet there is still considerable love for him amongst the supporters of all clubs, and this feature-length documentary tells his story with ease and grace. (Netflix subscription required)

– This Is Football: It’s tempting to get a little too sucked into the idea that all football broadcasting these days is an extended advertisement. There are several points during Amazon Prime’s This Is Football when it feels as though this could be the case, but somehow none of this detracts from the experience of this six part documentary series about the power that the game holds over the modern world. From the Rwandan Liverpool superfans to Iceland, this series ultimately tells us a love story, and perhaps we all need that right now. (Amazon Prime Video subscription required)

– G’olé: All of the official films of World Cups gone by from 1954 on are available on Prime Video (and there will be plenty of you reading this and wondering why I haven’t specifically chosen Hero, the story of the 1986 tournament), but G’olé, the official film of the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, is my personal stand-out. Narrated by an appropriately sardonic Sean Connery, this is a film that really does get under the fingernails of this fondly remembered tournament, travelling with the Cameroon team to their first ever World Cup finals match, dancing with Brazilian supporters unaware of their team’s upcoming failure, and even rolling its eyes at English thugs who sought to soil it all with their beer-fuelled jingoism and hate. They’re all well worth watching.  (Amazon Prime Video subscription required)

– Hey Duggee – The Football Badge: Look, it doesn’t have to all be “emotion”, “drama”, and generally taking it all a bit too seriously, does it? Hey Duggee, the Cbeebies series for small children, is one of the finest programmes currently on the television in any genre, and each episode packs so much charm and good humour in that it’s impossible to say that this is for the kids only. I strongly recommend watching every single episode, all of which are available on Iplayer. (Non-UK readers will be unable to access Iplayer without a VPN, as these are only available in Britain. The Opera browser comes with one built in.)

– Brian Clough – The Frost Interview: First broadcast in November 1974, shortly after his sacking after just 44 days in charge of Leeds United, Brian Clough is on predictably dazzling form in this interview with David Frost. Those of you who prefer your Clough with a little more edge might wish to check out Clough Comes To Leeds, a Yorkshire TV new broadcast in which the then-departed manager is quizzed about his failings by some football journalists, whilst Goodbye Mr Clough famously pitted Clough against his predecessor Don Revie, with Austin Mitchell refereeing. (Non-UK readers will be unable to access Iplayer without a VPN, as these are only available in Britain. The Opera browser comes with one built in.)

– The 2020 SheBelieves Cup: With the men’s game hogging the headlines, you may have missed the recent SheBelieves Cup, in which four of the biggest teams in international women’s football – the USA, England, Spain and Japan – did battle against each other. For those of you that did miss it, every match is available in full on Iplayer for another couple of weeks from today (the 21st March). (Non-UK readers will be unable to access Iplayer without a VPN, as these are only available in Britain. The Opera browser comes with one built in.)

Games

With it being likely that there will be issues with delivery for some considerable time, I’m not talking about Subbuteo, here. Much as I’d like to be. This is about video games, and several classics are available free-of-charge for you to download and play.

– Sensible Soccer: There remains a committed community around this game, which was first released in 1992, and it’s easy to see why. Sensible Soccer was one of the first video games to truly capture that indefinable something that makes our game so unique. You can download it from the link above, and there are even details on how you can join in with playing against others online.

– Championship Manager 2001/02 Edition: There are many who argue that the 01/02 edition of Championship Manager, the game that would later become Football Manager, is the greatest edition of this long-running series, and you can download it legally and free of charge to test yourself in this pre-Mourinho football world. CM 01/02 hits the sweet spot of being as instantly accessible as earlier editions of the game, whilst starting to move towards the more complex game that we know today.

– Football Manager 2020: Talking of which… We’re a little late to all of this, but until the 25th of March the latest iteration of Football Manager is free to play on Steam, and we wouldn’t be that surprised if this turned out to be extended, either. Even if not, it’s a good chance to waste a few hours playing a game which is best described as… exhaustive.

Magazines

There are many independent football magazines worthy of your attention, such as Mundial and Stand, bith the real stand-out in this particular market is, of course, When Saturday Comes. There may be issues with getting post to us over the next few weeks or so, but a WSC subscription also comes with free access to their entire online archive, an extraordinary resource which now stretches back almost three and half decades.

Podcasts

There are plenty of free podcasts with vast archives available, and a couple of months ago I wrote an article with some choice independent football podcasts, which you can find right here. Now is the perfect time to catch up with them all.

So, I think that’s enough to be getting on with now. I’m just putting the finishing touched to tomorrow (Sunday) night’s podcast , and I’m hoping to keep going on here with whatever bits and pieces I can think of. Please stay isolated, please keep your hands clean, and please be safe. The best of luck, if such a thing can apply, to all of us.