Everybody’s COVID story is different. The world changed for us all in 2020. But the day it changed for you might just be the same day it changed for me, writes Christina Trajceska.
The world shifted for all of us on March 15, last year. That was the day COVID restrictions began, and shortly after, took football away. The fallout from a global pandemic caused chaos in multiple ways, but it took away the thing that defines my life more than anything.
It’s hard to define my love of football in eight words or 800. I could tell you all the stories but somehow that still wouldn’t get across how it seeps into a whole life. But then if you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you.
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So you can imagine how lost I was when the world changed. Everything each of us had worked for, planned and prayed for, was either put on hold for what seemed like an eternity, or taken from us completely.
That included football.
Stadium gates were chained shut, the seats left to collect dirt and dust. Our club colours were tucked away in wardrobes for another time – and we didn’t know how long that would be for.
Our TV screens switched from match-day highlights to state emergencies and breaking news. The car parks that were once filled to the brim on game days, turned into COVID testing centres.
And we stopped keeping count of the points on league tables, and started tallying up the numbers of the sick and dying.
It felt bizarre how only two weeks prior, I was covering my face to protect myself from flare smoke on derby day. Now I was covering my face to protect myself from this new deadly virus that had reached every corner of the world.
Everything changed. Well, almost everything. The one thing that didn’t was the way football made me feel.
During the lockdown, online environments became an even larger part of our lives. A video call was our only way to access the outside world. Work meetings, classes, watch parties and workouts were all performed down the barrel of a tiny camera.
The closest to outdoors I would get, most days, was my balcony. That tiny balcony was my space: to take a breather, to work out and kick a football around when mum had lost all her patience and had just about enough of me kicking it indoors.
Normal people would accompany this time with their personal Spotify playlists. I played past fan marches and game day active support clips, at full volume.
I listened to the roar of the Red and Black Bloc through my headphones, closing my eyes and imagining I was there. Every move I made, to the beat of the la banda and to the count of the choreography, mumbling the lyrics under my breath.
In body, I was on my balcony. In spirit and mind, I was in Parramatta again.
I was 14, climbing into the RBB for the first time.
I was 18, reporting my first Sydney Derby as a young, naive, self-taught sideline reporter, jumping into the RBB to celebrate the end of our 1,132-day derby drought, because I just couldn’t contain myself after stunning the “Invincibles”.
I was 21, returning to Wanderland after a heartbreaking three-year displacement to reclaim our old stomping ground at Parramatta Stadium, now clad in new steel. I remember our Capo’s voice booming through the megaphone.
“Welcome home,” he said, to the river of red and black. We responded with cheers that echoed through the city around me. That human river stretched the length of Church Street.
I was 22 and shouting so loud after Duke’s winning header at Jubilee Stadium that I had to pay a visit to my local GP the very next day, after losing my voice and temporarily damaging my vocal cords.
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This game is a sanctuary for many of us. Not only has it given us a space to scream and shout our frustrations, but it’s also given us something to fight for – whether that be points on the table, the bragging rights to the city, our community club which comes from humble beginnings and is full of grit, or the mates we made along the way (as cliched as it sounds, it’s true).
The beauty of those causes is they strengthen us for our everyday lives. The power and confidence that I have grown since being part of the active support, and from football generally, is unbelievable at times.
So when we returned after the first long lockdown but the second came back to haunt us, it made us wonder if the coming season would even happen?.
Yet, the tenacity this game has taught us pulled us through it, yet again.
The 2021/22 season is on the horizon and once again we will line up in the stands on game day and point and sing to each other. We’ll tear up match day magazines to make confetti and celebrate too hard, we’ll tumble on top of one another.
We’ll perform the Poznan, Dale Cavese and Euphoria and have our Capo put one of our young supporters on the stand, having him or her lead us on the megaphone, as we stand tall – shoulder to shoulder.
And the smiles will reach our eyes again as the world returns to colour.