Dublin, IRELAND – The summer of 2020 was supposed to be one filled with sport. Instead, that summer’s sporting activities were majorly curtailed by a certain pandemic.
Many of the sporting events which were due to take place in 2020 are taking place this summer.
The Summer Olympic Games are underway in Tokyo, while Uefa Euro 2020 has just finished, as has the Copa America.
Unfortunately, the athletes taking part in Tokyo are doing so in a way that we’ve become accustomed to over the last 16 months — without spectators. For athletes who have trained for five years for this year’s Games, this is likely a major disappointment.
Thankfully, the European Championships were not forced to endure the same fate. Held across 12 different European cities, attendance levels varied. But there were people there, watching.
I am a major football supporter and despite the Republic of Ireland not qualifying, I was still entranced by the drama unfolding at the tournament.
But what captured my attention most of all was the passion on display from all lucky enough to receive a ticket.
The atmosphere in Budapest, where Hungary had a full stadium, was like a cauldron. A photograph of a Swiss fan displaying raw emotion as he witnessed his country come from 3-1 down to knock tournament favourite France out of the competition was all over the internet, and a photograph of a young German girl in tears after her country was knocked out by England also went viral.
It reminded me what sport is meant to be about and why it is adored the world over.
Closer to home, the club I support, Shamrock Rovers, were permitted to admit 1,000 spectators for the first time last month. As someone who works as an announcer at the matches, I was present throughout lockdown at the games behind closed doors.
The difference at the match with those 1,000 people there was incomparable. When the players ran out to warm-up, the stadium erupted as the fans witnessed their heroes in the flesh for the first time in 469 days.
I was almost overcome with the emotion of the occasion.
It really brought home to me exactly what sports mean to people. It is not just a handful of people chasing a spherical object around a pitch.
It is so much more. It is hundreds and thousands of people with a common goal. It is being part of something much bigger than yourself.
The great Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” I would have to agree.
Daniel Cleary is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.