Credit - Conor O'Grady

Football welcomed back fans to stadiums as supporters headed to Wembley for the for Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

The government announced in early April 2021 that they would be allowing spectators into many sporting events across the country. The announcement came as part of its Events Research Programme which measures how venues can reopen safely to crowds when all coronavirus restrictions are eased from as early as June 21.

Eight thousand people were in attendance for the Final the between City and Tottenham on April 25. Four thousand of them were supporters of the two football clubs, with the remainder of those being local residents and key workers.

One of those who was fortunate enough to grab a ticket for this special occasion was Tottenham fan, and board member of the Club’s Supporters’ Trust, Kevin Fitzgerald.

“I think we had incredible wishful thinking that the pandemic would be under control and back to full capacity this season.”
Kevin Fitzgerald – Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust

He had already attended one of the Premier League side’s matches when stadiums started to reopen in December 2020, but when lockdown was reinforced at the start of January, he thought that was be the only game he would go this season.

“I was one of the lucky ones in the ticket ballot for the North London Derby vs Arsenal, there were 2000 fans for that match. I think we had incredible wishful thinking that the pandemic would be under control and back to full capacity this season.

“When the tickets were announced for the final, they did it by loyalty points. These are points you get for attending away matches over a four-year period. I usually go to two thirds of away matches each season, so I was confident I would be able to get a ticket for this match.”

There were many protocols Kevin had to go through. As it was deemed a scientific experiment, he was given a consent form by Spurs for him to fill out.

He was also required to take a coronavirus test a day before. Then when he arrived at Wembley he had to show his ticket and his test result. But eventually Kevin made it into the stadium and for just the second time in 13 months, took his seat.

Unfortunately for the lifelong Spurs fan it was not the result he would have hoped for. An Aymeric Laporte goal with eight minutes to go gave Manchester City a 1-0 victory and their fourth consecutive League Cup triumph.

Despite seeing his side lose the final, Kevin told CBJ Spotlight it was a privilege to be at the match, not just for footballing reasons but because he was able to be around other football fans.

“Football without fans is nothing, and even 2000 fans in attendance is something. When you’re there it does bring back to you the reality of being in stadiums with people.

“The best thing about football is the social interaction. I think about how many friends I’ve made through football, the guys I’ve got on my WhatsApp groups, the guys I go to matches in Europe with.

“I haven’t seen them for a year and a half, except for one who I was with. That social interaction, and the lack of it, over the lockdown, it’s a mental health issue.”

AUDIO: Kevin Fitzgerald on how much he has missed being at a Football Ground

During the third lockdown the main bodies for fan organisations, The Football Supporters’ Association, launched the #TerraceTalk campaign, a fan-led initiative to help people speak out about their mental health. Kevin told CBJ Spotlight that the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust will be getting involved with this campaign.

If you are someone whose mental health is low, head to one of the following websites.

CALMZONE

CALM Homepage

0800 585858

Mind

0300 123 3933

https://www.mind.org.uk

https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/campaigns/mind-and-efl-partnership/

Samaritans

https://www.samaritans.org

116 123

The Football Supporters’ Association

#TerraceTalk

https://thefsa.org.uk/news/terracetalk-fan-led-campaign-mental-health-campaign-launched/

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