The Hushed Spectacle of Soccer Matches In Empty Stadiums

Professional sports around the world ground to a halt last week as the coronavirus pandemic prompted one country after another to ban large public gatherings. Many sports leagues didn’t wait for official guidance, preemptively suspending or postponing seasons—in some cases after players or coaches tested positive for the virus.

But before pulling the plug, some soccer leagues tried to salvage their seasons by playing games in empty stadiums, much like the talk shows that began filming without live audiences. The bizarre and short-lived spectacle of matches played against a backdrop of empty bleachers proved irresistible to the world’s sports photographers. Truly a testament to soccer’s reputation as the world’s game.

Toluca plays Atlas before an empty Nemesio Diez Stadium on March 15 in Toluca, Mexico. Liga MX, Mexico’s top-flight soccer league, was one of the last major sports leagues to postpone its season.Photograph: Angel Castillo/Jam Media/Getty Images
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram and Cologne’s Kingsley Ehizibue fight for the ball during a German Bundesliga match on March 11, the first played behind closed doors without spectators. After an initial period of playing in empty stadiums, the Bundesliga season has now been indefinitely postponed.Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP
A man dressed as a ghost stands in the bleachers prior to the UEFA Europa League match between Linzer ASK and Manchester United in Linz, Austria on March 12. The match was played in an empty stadium. Future Europa League matches have been postponed indefinitely.Photograph: Kerstin Joensson/AP
People sit surrounded by empty seats as they wait for the start of the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Bournemouth at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Saturday, March 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Super)Photograph: Jon Super/AP
Valencia CF and Atalanta battle in the March 10 UEFA Champions League match at an empty Estadio Mestalla in Valencia, Spain. Future Champions League matches have been postponed indefinitely.Photograph: UEFA
A security guard stands in the empty Allianz Stadium in Turin, Italy before a Serie A match between Juventus and FC Internazionale on March 8. The Serie A season has been suspended indefinitely.Photograph: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

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