Raúl García “Football Without Fans Has No Meaning”
Sunday’s match against Atlético Madrid may be the strangest that Raúl García ever plays. In addition to facing his former club, the game will take place behind closed doors as football returns for the first time in three months. The 33-year-old is eager to be back in action, but isn’t looking forward to seeing the empty stands
“We would like for it to be different and for fans to be able to go to the stadiums, but that’s not the case,” García told Fuera de Juego on Thursday night. “For me, the fans are everything in football. Without that atmosphere, without those fans, football has no sense. It’s not what football really is. Football without fans has no meaning.”
This won’t be the first time García has played behind closed doors. It also happened during his time with Atlético Madrid and he admits it’s much harder to compete without fans.
“It’s difficult to achieve that point of concentration that you need in football that the fans usually give you. Knowing that there are fans that demand more from you, that ask you to do your job as best you can, it makes you feel more connected with the game. Playing behind closed doors isn’t football. Honestly, it’s not football. We want to try to end everything normally, but it’s not the best way. We would never choose to play behind closed doors, it’s a very strange feeling.”
San Mamés has always been a fortress for Athletic, but without fans it just won’t be the same.
“For us, not having fans is a handicap. We rely a lot on our fans in home games. We will have to compete without them but we also have to take advantage of the opposite when we play away from home.
Finishing the season in five weeks will be daunting. Games will already be densely packed, but for some reason Athletic will play four matches in ten days while other teams will have more time in between fixtures.
“The scheduling could have been done differently. It’s not a matter of complaint, it’s data. In ten days we’re going to play four games when other are going to play the same amount in two weeks. We’re going to play a third of the league in five weeks. It’s clear that it will be tough but we are going for seventh place. We know that there is a difference of five points but the confidence is there and if we play well we can get there.”
García is willing to accept the changes in place to finish the season, but doesn’t understand all of the measures. With teams training together all week he can’t see why some of the restrictions are necessary.
“I have the feeling that many of the things we’re going to have to do don’t make much sense. I understand the security protocols have been made so that there are no risks but I don’t understand, for example, what difference there is from going on two buses instead of one when later we will all be together.”
At one point teams were asked not to celebrate goals as a group, but that won’t be the case. However, García says that players will have to be more cautious when trying to talk to officials.
“If everyone is together all week training and being in contact with each other I don’t see much sense in not celebrating a goal. We will try to pay attention to having more security, but it’s another thing that I see as not making much sense. Everyone will also have to be more careful when addressing the referees because when it happens everything can be heard. The situations are are going to be heard and it’s going to happen.”
In the midst of resuming the season there’s also a risk that players will be exposed to the virus. García accepts the danger that comes will playing football again.
“The feeling we have is that we have to go little by little, let the weeks go by and make sure there are no problems, but there is always a bit of uncertainty as to whether it will end. We’re in a closed circle as we have been until now and it’s easier to control everything. Regardless of the fact that we have protocols and they seem to be safe, there are many things we can’t control.”
Looking ahead to next season García is eager to play the Copa del Rey final. Winning a title with Athletic would be very special, but he wishes that Aritz Aduriz would have been able to share the experience with the team.
“Athletic is a special club for me, just like I have always said about Osasuna. They are two clubs that have given me everything. Winning the Cup with Athletic would make me very excited. It would be a different title than the rest. We had in mind that the Cup final could be a very good farewell for Aduriz, but everything has gone wrong. Aduriz will help us from the outside. He’s intelligent and he knows how to adapt to situations. Every day, every training, every game with Aduriz was an apprenticeship. I have learned a lot from him.”
In closing, García was once again asked about the recent renewal of manager Gaizka Garitano. Once again the veteran shared his opinion that it was full deserved.
“Since he arrived Gaizka hit the key that we were missing. I think he’s definitely earned the new contract. It’s not a renewal by chance but one of merits and that why he had to continue.”
Athletic will have the final eleven games to fight for a top seven finish. The Lions currently train Valencia by five points and could begin climbing the table on Sunday with an important victory over Atlético Madrid.