In protective clothing, service, medical personnel were among the only 300 people admitted to the Etihad Stadium for the match against Arsenal which helped end the Premier League shutdown on Wednesday.
The 55,000 spaces that are normally filled were empty, most often covered by banners. The only fans seen celebrating the goals of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden during the City of 3-0 victory were on giant screens in the stands, streaming live from their homes.
The screens were also used to mourn some of those who died during the pandemic. A picture of Glyn Pardoe, a former City player and coach, was shown three weeks after the virus killed at the age of 73.
“Together, we were faced with a health emergency,” the narrator’s City Stadium said. “Heroes have taken on challenges we have never imagined.”
Premier League players, too, were faced with racism which they pictured from society would not always face by 2020.
Instead of the names on the player’s back of all jerseys, there is the message: “Black Lives Matter”. And before kick-off came to show solidarity against racial injustice in society reinforced by the death of George Floyd, while being arrested in Minnesota.
Standing in the center of the circle, the players took a knee kick – a powerful move unlike anything seen before in the league.
“I see this as a huge step forward for the Premier League to allow something like this,” said Sterling, who has emerged as English football is the figurehead in the fight against racism. “It shows that we are going in the right direction. Gradually we are seeing changes and this is what everyone is hoping for not only the black players but the majority of the country. ”
It was Sterling who scored the Premier League goal with his first goal since March 9, capitalizing on a mistake by David Luiz in the first half of time out. The goal celebration featured a touch of elbow with teammates and a brief embrace of respecting social distance.
Substitutes should remain two meters (6 feet) apart on the sidelines, leaving seated in the stands more closely at the bench press stand. Two of them, Dani Ceballos and Luiz – had to enter the opening 25 minutes after Granit Xhaka and Pablo Mari were injured.
Luiz left the game earlier than expected, sent four minutes into the second half of the intake down to Riyad Mahrez and the concession of a penalty that De Bruyne converted.
There was no hiding place for Luiz or any player in this unique atmosphere for a game in English. Every instruction from the bench and shouting with teammates – tactics for hot flashes of irritation was audible.
It was also the sound when goalkeeper Ederson rushed out of his penalty area to clear the ball only to collide with teammate Eric Garcia. Doctors, some in full suits and a mask, spent 10 minutes in the field, treating Garcia before he was carried on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask.
There was an alarming moment at a stadium where the few present were on medical alert.
The city had already made all five alternates – two more than generally authorized within 90 minutes. It is a temporary measure to allow clubs to cope with match congestion to plan and follow a season which at some points in April looked like it might have to be abandoned.
Ville knows it will be a drop out of the Premier League in Liverpool. The win over ninth place in the Arsenal just delayed the moment of glory at least until next week for a 25-point team ahead of Pep Guardiola of the City.
It was not the imminent loss of Guardiola’s title from the mind after the match, rather it was the discrimination highlighted by his black players.
“It must be said that white people need to apologize, to say sorry for the way we have treated black people in the past 400 years, or for centuries,” Guardiola said. “I am ashamed of what we have done for these wonderful black people in the world.”
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