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How Europe’s football media keeps fans occupied during virus

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The lack of games prompted Europe’s football media to devise ways to keep the minds of fans occupied. AFP

AFP – From impassioned debates around the kitchen table to detailed reports about matches that never happened, Europe’s football media are working overtime to give fans a welcome distraction during the coronavirus crisis.

Former Tottenham, Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker, a keen amateur chef, even opened up his home in a bid to satisfy the British football public’s appetite for sports talk.

As the presenter of long-running English top-flight highlights show Match of the Day, Lineker, ignoring social distancing guidelines, played host to regular studio guests Alan Shearer and Ian Wright around his kitchen table last week.

Match of the Day was screened as a panel show rather than highlights on Saturday, with Lineker, Shearer and Wright debating the greatest captains of the Premier League era.

For once there was no talk of VAR as ex-Newcastle and Blackburn star Shearer detailed his memorable battles with Manchester United’s Roy Keane and former Arsenal striker Wright described his use of “Franglais” to make conversation with team-mate Patrick Vieira.

In what was due to be FA Cup quarter-final weekend, the BBC also filled the void of what would have been live games with classic last eight matches from the competition’s past.

Linker, 59, has since gone into self-isolation after his 28-year-old son George told him he may have contracted the virus.

In Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, the football media have been focused on boosting national pride.

Sky Sports have already broadcast Italy’s matches on their way to victory in the 2006 World Cup.

The schedule for Monday was “a whole day spend together with Italian coaches who have left their mark in England”.

There were segments on Claudio Ranieri, who masterminded Leicester’s fairytale Premier League title triumph, Roberto Mancini, who won the title at Manchester City, and Carlo Ancelotti, a double winner at Chelsea.

In Spain, La Liga club Leganes live tweeted their game that wasn’t against Valladolid and newspaper AS did a match report on it, while Cadena Ser also broadcast commentary of the “goal”.

Manolo Lama from Cadena Copa, Miguel Angel Roman from Movistar and Antoni Daimiel from Cadena Ser — three of Spain’s most famous commentators — all commentated on La Liga’s playstation tournament over the weekend, which was won by Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio and drew over 170,000 online fans while raising money for charity.

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