Watching the drama of a tense knockout tie unfold in front of an empty stadium is something our Paris Saint-Germain fan reporter still can’t get used to
Paris Saint-Germain versus Barcelona – there’s tension in the air, emotions run high. It’s a battle for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals between two colossal clubs. But there’s no one in the stands, and I’m having to watch from home.
Being at a game at the Parc des Princes among other fans, seeing the play unfold in front of my own two eyes, makes me feel like I’m physically on the pitch. It’s as if my voice is heard by the players. You feel part of it.
The pandemic reinforces just what fans mean to football, especially for a clash as hair-raising as this one. Their voice acts like a twelfth player; you really can sense the impact being without it has on the club and players. Our passion motivates them.
At home all you can do is cry out at the television and hope that a player will telepathically hear you. Last night was a case in point. I believe if fans had been at the Parc des Princes it would have led to another magical Champions League performance. At least at the final whistle, my hands over my face, I was able to breath a huge sigh of relief: “We’re through.”
I wonder if in hindsight we’ll look back at this game as some sort of turning point in the Champions League and even football as a whole. As Barcelona exited the competition before the quarter-finals for the first time in 13 years, so too did Lionel Messi. The night before, Cristiano Ronaldo had bowed out – both superstars now forced to watch the remainder of the competition from the sidelines.
Without the likes of Ronaldo and Messi in the ring, eyes will be drawn elsewhere and perhaps to some younger, emerging talent. Are we seeing the passing of the torch down from the greats of yesterday to the stars of tomorrow? Messi and Kylian Mbappé play on the same field with the same ball, but represent two very different generations. If Mbappé is the figurehead of that next generation, we have plenty to look forward to.