Thursday, February 25, 2021
Home COVID-19 The Live and Let Die League: Match report

The Live and Let Die League: Match report

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THE day had begun innocently enough. A hazy sunshine with clouds on the horizon.  A storm on its way, but nothing to ensure anyone pre-emptively grabbed an umbrella or threw on a coat. 

The match kicked off earlier than expected.  Medical staff were playing in the attacking positions, supported in defence by the porters, the radiographers, the carers.  Health managers stayed on the sidelines, blowing whistles and directing the team.  

The crowd began to quickly take their comfortably-padded pitchside chairs, and service commenced for hot dogs and drinks to be brought to them.   

The Government Owners eventually arrived, and took their places in the hospitality box, surrounded by their special guests – the Chief Officers of Science and of Medicine. They were handed buttonholes (resplendent in the corporate rainbow colours) for their suit lapels.   

All were waiting to see the opposition – a team unheard of before this season, but who were quickly coming to international prominence.  They discussed animatedly the tactics that may be employed by the coaches that day, with simmering disagreements on the approach to take. 

The police dutifully watched the crowd continue to saunter in through the turnstiles as the game started. People were jovial and courteous.  However, something in the air eventually gave an added urgency, and the stewards snarled at the crowds to move more quickly.  

There was a chill in the wind.  It was turning dark.  The game began to pick up.  More balls were thrown on to the pitch, and players were being taken off at an increasing pace, whilst stewards shouted protocol to the stretcher bearers. 

The whistles became more frequent.  The game was now in full swing.  The stadium looked nearly full.  The Government Owners turned and nodded at the Chief of Police, who jumped on to his radio. The ground was immediately locked, with strict instructions that no more were to come in. 

Storm clouds threw their shadows long over the city.  The automatic roof began to cover the stadium to protect all those inside.  Refreshments were dispensed at an ever-quickening pace, and large screens lit up with promotions for half-time ice cream.   

The Government Owners were getting upset at the stubbornness of the opposition and frustrated by players kicking the ball out of play. This was not how they had pictured the match proceeding. As they unhappily watched from their hospitality box, they continually sought reassurance from their friends and touched their buttonholes. 

Outside the ground the rabble – with their standing-only tickets, together with those who had no tickets – still tried to get in. But they were too late.  The police held firm and threatened to arrest anyone who moved.   

The rain pelted down hard on those locked outside the ground.  Winds blew the weaker ones down now, and the ferocity of the weather prevented many from being able to stand up again.  The Government Owners continued to watch the game from their insulated hospitality pod, seemingly unaware of the conditions outside.   

Their focus was entirely on the spectacle in front of them. The speed of the game increased as players left the field, leaving others to cover more ground.  Some received treatment and returned.  

The largest cheers from the crowd were for the stewards as they danced down the aisles in their attempt to entertain.  The Government Owners made sure the crowd could see them clapping enthusiastically at the spectacle. 

Outside, the rabble were now loudly screaming as they tried to force their way into the ground. They were cold, wet, frightened, and desperate. Some were becoming seriously ill.  Many fell in the melee and were trampled.   

Others, particularly the elderly, gave up and went home, only to find that the weather had blown their homes away or flooded the roads. A few became trapped and cut off from the world by the rising waters.  They cried out for families to help.   

For some though, their families were in the stadium and would not be hearing them ever again.  Others in the rabble were unable to cope with the knowledge that the Government Owners had excluded them and had now refused to let them enter the stadium.   

These particularly desperate and vulnerable ones eventually stopped making any coherent noise at all. Others tried to find solace for the weakest in hotels or pubs, only to find that the Government Owners had closed them to keep everyone safe.  

Some of the rabble shouted abuse at the police. The police were getting upset, but they had their orders. Few in the rabble now dared to moved, as those that did were arrested.  It was the law.  

Children were crying as mothers tried to push them over the walls, only for zealous stewards to throw them back over the gates.  Those seated inside complained to the stewards about the noise from outside and wondered if the police should be doing more to quieten them.   

One steward ventured to the hospitality box to ask the Government Owners what to do. The Government Owners had a duty first to the club, and then to the players, and then to the season ticket holders. These were the ones that must be protected.   

One friend of a Government Owner suggested giving the rabble gags to wear so as to dull down the noise.  This was met with a general hum of approval.   A missive stating distribution of gags was given with immediate effect.  The steward was then ejected from the ground for disloyalty. 

Eventually, the game ended, after a bruising 90 minutes, when all the substitutes had been used.  The home team had lost by an own goal and the Government Owners were furious and looked to their friends for comfort.  But their friends had left before the game had ended.   

In the post-match interview, the Government Owners indeed blamed the noise of the rabble outside for the result – a view shared by most of the crowd. It had clearly distracted everyone.  A few did whisper that maybe the club could have let more into the ground to prevent the levels of noise, but their voices were so very quiet and so very few.   

The players themselves, however, pointed blame for the result at the persistent ferocity of the opposing side.  They also criticised the coaches for taking too many players off the field – particularly from the defensive positions – which had left them outmanoeuvred.     

The players and Government Owners agreed that they would keep playing this outrageously virulent opposing team until they worked out how to beat them. Whatever the cost.  The money would be recouped from more ticket and refreshment sales. No team would ever get the better of them after all. 

The gates were then unlocked.  The Government Owners took a helicopter straight from the ground, therefore avoiding having to leave through the gates.  

As some who had been in the stadium walked out, they were shocked at the sight of the desperate people who had been stamped on outside and one or two wept at what they had ignored.  Most others walked on however, not seeing what was all around them as they made their way to their cars. 

The media flew overhead and reported that evening on the heroism of the players, whilst speculating on whether the game could have been won if extra time had been played.   

They talked about the inevitable rematches next season and the new players that may be brought in.  The viewers at home yawned, then switched off their tellies and went to bed.  

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Claire Ball
Claire Ball is the mother of small children.

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