Friday February 28 2020
Football is more than the fans

Football Italia Chief Correspondent Richard Hall reflects on Inter’s game behind closed doors with Ludogorets and how we define passion.

Football will always have a raw intensity and a unique ability to make anyone that steps over that white line feel the need to win. We see this is in the parks, recreational grounds and in any amateur version of the game. Inter’s Europa League fixture took place at an eerily empty San Siro due to the Coronavirus outbreak, a situation that engulfs Italy and may soon do the same to the rest of Europe. It only served to prove that this sport is still beautiful, even without the fans.

There are two obvious issues that need to be clarified. The Coronavirus needs more discussion and football without fans is much, much worse. Personally, as I write, my trips to Venice (then Hellas Verona), Genoa and Milan look to be cancelled. The frustration is felt, just as the huge effects of a virus that is beyond control is also felt. Medical personnel will be better placed to talk about this, after all, one is only missing football. When all is said and done, public safety is as important as fear-mongering.

As the creator of the niche website ‘The Gentleman Ultra’ I spend time on the Curva, especially with Inter. The reason I went to Italy in the first place, back in 2006, was to satisfy a craving I’d felt since 1990.

So how do we view the game behind closed doors? After all, this will also be case for the Derby D’Italia on Sunday, along with another four Serie A fixtures this weekend.

Inter played Ludogorets at San Siro with only the shouts of their teammates to be heard. It felt at first like a house party without music, yet the participants were dancing anyway. So, what did we learn?

What we learned in this game is that players care. They want to win, they still put in 100%. The Bulgarians were not over-awed and the Italians played with intensity. What was different about this to the first leg? Inter won the game, the players celebrated and it mattered. Was it as intense as with the crowd? No, but it was not far off. The issues with Daniele Padelli remained, Romelu Lukaku still performed, would this be that much different with the Curva in view? In fairness, the players who didn’t perform under less pressure have to answer.

Instead, we realised that football isn’t just about the fans, the city and the real heart of the game. We need to realise that the crowd do not make the team up their game 50%, but just maybe they can 5%. That is why home advantage matters. The Europa League game still mattered to the players and if anything, the quality was a little better, as there was less pressure.

Inter versus Ludogorets was raw, it was certainly with pressure, but it was not gladiatorial. What it showed was the basics of football, the beautiful game just played between two teams without the baying crowds, just like in any park this weekend. Maybe you expected a tactical analysis. I think this is more important. Do not ask if the players care anymore.

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £9.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit:

Have your say...
and directors. According to Mirabelli, Raoila took €100m in commission from Milan under Galliani. That explains all of the transfers. It's bad at Milan but it's the same everywhere. We're all being taken for mugs by these people. A team does not need to buy 10 new players. Sure it has worked for Leicester and A Madrid but those are the exceptions not the rule. And most importantly it undermines the players. Players will never reach their potential if they keep moving.
on the 1st March, 2020 at 11:31pm
@ I MISS MARCO BRANCA AT INTER Obviously I have Milan in mind but it's not just Milan. This season just 20 Serie A teams signed 356 players and there were 860 departures. That's an average of nearly 18 arrivals and 43 departures from each club. Premier League clubs had 369 arrivals and 367 departures and La Liga had 409 arrivals and 422 departures. That's chaos. People treat the transfer market as some sort of sport in its own right. A overwhelmingly the transfer activity is being lead by agents
on the 1st March, 2020 at 11:26pm
@ Maldini's Heir: Teams should be restricted to three transfers in the summer and one in January....why ? so that Milan can stop wasting money and going broke? If I sell 4 players for 200 million (ex. Leichester City) and buy let's say 20 players for 10 mill each i shouldn't be allowed to because milan was dumb enough to trust fassone and Mirabelli with 200 million euros? To me, If a team is losing money year after year FIFA should appoint someone to liquidate assets or cut costs to break even!
on the 28th February, 2020 at 5:24pm
Maldini's Heir,, On behalf of your transfer market issue you're inspiring sport as a finance which is just flipside of a coin that support extremity on spenditure!. Regarding JANUARY transfer window; its a matter of understanding as its even impossible for arab sheikhs to lure a player who is in the middle of scoring 50 goals!. In where there is not a safety cache? Bad vibes sould'nt be control good vibes.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 12:20pm
This game was already decided before the game started in fairness. Ludogorets FC were always up against it. The Chinese owned club were always red hot favorites to advance, fans or no fans.
Fans can make a difference. If the home fans are vocal and supportive they can give the home team an extra 5% (as you say). However, if the fans are like the Drughi Ultras and create a toxic atmosphere this I believe over a period of time can take away far more than 5% from the home teams performance.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 9:52am
action FIFA is taking on loans. Hopefully they can start clamping down on all transfers. Teams should be restricted to three transfers in the summer and one in January, squad sizes should be capped at 25 and loans restricted so that a player can only be loaned at a maximum of two times in their careers. This would cut down on the disruption we're seeing each transfer window.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 6:56am
One thing that I often talk about on here is how the transfer market is so disruptive to players. Part of the reason they under-perform is because they switch jobs more than bar staff. Anyone who has worked in bars will know how tricky the first few nights can be when you're trying to work the till and figure out where the drinks are. Try being parachuted into top flight football midway through the season on the last day of the January transfer window. In this regard I am delighted with the
on the 28th February, 2020 at 6:53am
on the pitch. In this respect it must have been interesting seeing these players play in empty stadiums and seeing their level of drive and determination up close.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 6:51am
Ultimately if you support a "team" then you need to support the players who make up that "team". Saying this or that player does not "deserve" to play for this "team" is nonsense given that the player is part of the "team". You can't separate the two. Fans, particularly in Italy, have put unnecessary pressure on players. I did not have an issue when Calabria celebrated his birthday after Milan lost to Atalanta. I didn't think it was inappropriate since I see Calabria give his all for the shirt
on the 28th February, 2020 at 6:48am
The fact is top players don't get to where they are without their own drive and determination. We're looking at the top 0.000001% of footballers on the planet and the difference between them and the others that make up the top 1% are minute. Sure some have had issues as Acerbi recently admitted to. But ability alone does not get you to the top. That is why I find it very unhelpful when fans turn on players so easily. Sure they now earn a lot of money but it shouldn't make a difference.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 6:45am
And what about the derby d'italia? What about taking the biggest game of the year to somewhere with a big ex-pat community like Australia or the U.S?
on the 28th February, 2020 at 4:09am
Why haven't these games been shifted to Southern Italy. While it would be a neutral venue, I assume the players would prefer to play in front of a crowd rather than an eerie empty stadium. Surely the FIGC could see the potential and allow the teams to earn some sort of revenue.
on the 28th February, 2020 at 4:05am

Post new comment

Your email address is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here.
Maximum 500 characters.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Your responses will be moderated, and sometimes edited, by Football Italia before appearing on the site. Your data may be made public and you accept our Privacy Policy. Please keep your comments clean and try to keep them relevant to the blog above. We reserve the right to reject views that we deem unsuitable for publication.