100,000 seats and nobody in them
One of the only major sports leagues still in action amid the coronavirus pandemic is the Australian Football League, which opened its 124th season on Thursday night (Australian time).
The league’s first game of the year is traditionally between rivals Richmond at Carlton, at the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground. Last year’s game attracted 85,000 fans. More than 90,000 showed up in 2018. This year, attendance was zero.
Bizarrely, the pregame routine went on as if there were fans in the stands. “Welcome to the Jungle” blared from the sound system as Carlton prepared to take the pitch, and the club’s song “We Are the Navy Blues” played as the players ran on to the grass.
The scene was even stranger for Richmond, the home club. The team’s entrance usually involves a group of drummers, the sound of which had to be pumped in instead. The Tigers were also supposed to be unfurling their championship banner at the game but instead will wait until there are fans in the stands.
Compare that with the scene in September when Richmond took the field before the AFL Grand Final (the championship game) at the very same stadium. Tens of thousands of Tigers fans sang along to the club’s song in a packed stadium.
Fans watching along at home made the best of the situation, trying to enhance the atmosphere any way they could.
One guy piped in fake crowd noise from a speaker above his TV.
Another played a trumpet.
A pair of Richmond fans held their own banner-unfurling ceremony.
Hopefully stadiums across the world will be full of cheering fans again soon.
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