2 December 2020 – Nine months is a long time, particularly in footballing terms. In March this year the footballing world was thrown into turmoil with the postponement and in some cases, cancellation of key leagues and international events around the globe due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was an unprecedented time for the sport and indeed the world at large. Gradually, football returned but is still played under ‘lock and key’ for the most part as health remains a priority with various safety protocols still firmly in place.
Next year is set to be a bumper year in the sport as the footballing world aims to make up for lost time with a bumper calendar already approved. Barring a catastrophic repeat of the beginning of 2020, it is in all likelihood that fans will get to enjoy a return to stadia and a return to normality of sorts.
The 2020/2021 season began in earnest and is going well across most major leagues and various international fixtures, made up of mostly qualifiers for next year’s showpiece tournaments.
However, things get much more interesting within the calendar itself with club competition knockout games and finals, league finales, marquee international events and even the Olympic Games.
Keep your fingers crossed though that the pandemic plays its part and stays away so that proceedings can continue without any hitches while also allowing fans to somehow return in the safest manner possible.
The year will kick-off with some mouth-watering knock games in the Champions and Europa League in February with both finals taking place in May. Supporters will also get to enjoy the conclusion of major leagues around Europe such as the EPL, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1 while not forgetting the Dstv Premiership.
There is also the small matter of the oldest cup competition on earth, the FA Cup, which concludes on 15 May, as well as the Carabao Cup (final on 28 February). Locally, fans will be treated to the Nedbank Cup.
On the international front, the much anticipated but postponed Euro 2020 will take place across the continent in June and July while the Copa America will also run during the same period in Columbia and Argentina. Can Lionel Messi finally win some international silverware? Thereafter, attention turns to the Tokyo Olympics, another postponed event that will see both men and women strutting their stuff on one of the grandest stages.
Teams will also be vying for AFCON (Cameroon) and World Cup (Qatar) 2022 qualification among many other important fixtures across all continents.
Fans have been seriously deprived of their beloved sport but the 2021 calendar offers somewhat of a panacea and will go a long way to healing the pains experienced this past year. As mentioned, let’s all simply keep our fingers crossed.