Category: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors #6

Manchester City v Arsenal 17062020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Raheem Sterling distracted by the sound of my wheelie bin
Manchester City v Arsenal in the Garage

Working from home has generally involved me sitting at a desk in the garage. I caught up with Manchester City v Arsenal as I was taking the wheelie bins out in advance of bin day. There was a light drizzle and David Luiz was having a nightmare.

Behind Closed Doors #5

Göztepe v Trabzonspor 12062020 : Napoli v Inter 13062020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Listening to Göztepe v Trabzonspor from the Gürzel Aksel Stadium in the Süper Lig was like taking a step back to a more innocent time, just a few short days ago, to a time when broadcasters hadn’t yet felt compelled to provide us with an audio carpet of simulated crowd noise to sooth our frayed nerves as we suddenly began to find the exalted spectacle of top class football a little – well – boring. It turns out that Apollo without Dionysus might not be quite what we are looking for. In trying to correct Simon Critchley’s ‘category mistake’ broadcasters have rushed to replace the living, breathing, sound making rush of stadium activity with a wafer thin simulacrum compressing the complexity and rich sounding beauty of the stadium into a stereo mix – the illusion of depth.

Göztepe v Trabzonspor

The following evening as the light faded I caught up with the Semi-Final of the Coppa Italia – Napoli v Inter – at the Stadio San Paolo. I sat outside the back door listening to late night gardening mingling with the intense verbal energy of Gattuso and Conte trying to physically wrestle their players into position weaponising their vocal chords, shaping the air with their gestures. There is no audio carpet here, the sound of traffic outside the stadium on Via Giambattista Marino becoming indistinguishable from the sound of the High Road and Syres Hill in Brightwell.

Napoli v Inter in the garden

As the dusk ebbed away I retreated to the kitchen to watch the closing stages of the match listening to the struggle between Gattuso and Conte, each crackling with energy and intensity energising the action. This is no audio carpet this is the power of desire, a force of nature echoing across the empty terraces of the Sao Paolo, through the streets of Naples and into the night air.

Napoli v Inter in the kitchen

Behind Closed Doors #4

Augsburg v FC Köln : 07062020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Augsburg v FC Köln

Watching Augsburg v FC Köln this weekend while sorting out the washing I slowly realised that the producers at BT Sport had added crowd noise – or perhaps that there was crowd noise playing in the stadium. I did a bit of research and found that:

…an “audio carpet” for the basic noise is taken from the previous meeting and it is mixed with the real noise of the game. Reaction samples for scenarios such as penalties, fouls and decisions from VAR are created and “inserted” by a watching producer.

(from https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/52950715)

So what is this experience? We listen to the sound of football being played in a near empty stadium; to a commentator in a studio. We hear almost every kick of the ball; the referee’s whistle resonating freely through the space and rebounding from the empty terraces; the sound of the occasional siren in the streets close to the stadium; the shouts of players and coaches. But now we also hear environmental sound, stereo crowd sound from a previous match being mixed live – auditory archaeology recreating reaction; simulating presence. The match is sounding in the present and the past. Where are the past spectators whose voices we now hear projected into our experience of the WWK Arena? Are they at home listening to the sound of themselves; listening to their reconstituted sounding memories.

John Brewin reflects on the experience of simulated crowd sound during Borussia Dortmund’s game against Hertha Berlin earlier that weekend:

Those watching Borussia Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 home defeat of Hertha Berlin were treated to the greatest hits of the Westfalenstadion’s Yellow Wall. The sound mixer, operating from Sky Germany’s studio in Munich, conducted a knowledgeable if partisan crowd. As Dortmund’s Emre Can stepped from defence to clear up some first-half danger, he was the recipient of applause, and when Hertha’s defender Dedryck Boyata appeared to have handled in the penalty area, the “fans” bayed for VAR before booing when the claim was denied by the officials. For the viewer there was the comforting embrace of context. Watching a game played behind closed doors requires extra concentration. The ebbs and flows of crowd noises can tell the viewer when they need to pay closer attention.
During Dortmund’s first game back, their 4-0 defeat of Schalke, the most audible sound in the Westfalenstadion was the throb of the electrics required to power a stadium built to hold 81,000 people. The Hertha game, though it produced a far less satisfactory performance from Dortmund, felt a superior viewing experience.

John Brewin : The Guardian 07062020 15.48 BST

It is Sunday evening and I’m emptying and re-filling the tumble-dryer, laying the table, chatting, keeping one eye on the match, still goal-less. Listening to the diegetic and non-diegetic sound of the passing moment.

Augsburg v FC Köln

Behind Closed Doors #3

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen 23052020 : Mainz v RB Leipzig 24052020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Raphael Honigstein, Christoph Biermann and Archie Rind-Tutt discuss the return of the Bundesliga on Steilcast: https://theathletic.com/podcast/163-steilcast/?episode=19

Raphael Honigstein: So Christoph, you saw the games in a variety of guises, as a fan of football that you were just watching like any other fan would have done then I guess you watched the Revierderby because you are interested in a professional sense, and you were a spectator as one of the lucky ones at the Union, Bayern, game… Christoph Biermann: so, the first one, watching it as a fan worked to some extent because in the end it’s my team playing football, in the end winning 3-0 against Heidenheim… My team played well. To an extent I was happy, it felt like 30% football or 40% football there was so much lacking, but still there was some kind of emotion about it. It was more difficult to watch it in a professional sense later on as I watched some of the Revierderby… sometimes I had difficulty to concentrate actually so the football was not so bad, it was not as good as normally, but it was not so bad. Without all the things around the football match you can say it was pure on the one hand but there is so much lacking around the football match and I felt that I really had to fight to concentrate and that was easier on Sunday evening at the Alten Försterei where Union were playing against Bayern Munich. I was inside the stadium and kind of enjoyed it but I would put it like that, if it would be a one time experience I would have found it interesting as a novelty and then say, okay that was interesting and lets get back to the normal stuff and I have my doubts how this will change over the weeks because we are stuck with this now for nobody knows how long and that will be pretty difficult actually. Archie Rind-Tutt: Köln against Mainz I experienced in a colleague of mine’s car… he’s a Köln fan and he was punching the car seat in front when Köln scored and he was punching the car seat in front when Mainz equalised as well… When I was in the stadium in Frankfurt later… it felt really quite odd… I too found it difficult to concentrate on the game. All the sounds around it you noticed a little bit more, whether it was the technical crew jokingly trying to start a Mexican wave… or the sounds of the airplanes landing at Frankfurt Airport five miles down the road…

Saturday afternoon, finding mugs in the cupboard, kettle on – making a cup of tea, tidying, brilliant little back-heel, listening to the sound of football resonating in the empty Borussia-Park, applause, scattered, it swings behind for another corner, fridge door, tea caddy, teaspoon in the sink, stadium announcer, clatter of plates, he’s scored in some big games this season Leon Bailey, dishwasher, milk back in the fridge, crisp packets in the bin, the stadium erupts – players shouting – then subsides back into the quiet, the drone of the city resonating around the stadium, washing up in the sink, motorbike, they’ve not been quite as good at looking after the ball in the last twenty minutes Bayer Leverkusen.

Borussia Mönchengladbach v Bayer Leverkusen

Sunday, making lunch, frying, squeezing ketchup from a near empty bottle, voices raised in the stadium, a coach claps, the sound reflects back at him, talking about the football with Herb, filling glasses with water, Mainz are alright aren’t they?, they are struggling, …and a yellow card as well for the challenge for the former Chelsea defender, tidying, is that Kevin Trapp?, apart from that free-kick was Roberto Carlos a good player?

Mainz v RB Leipzig

Behind Closed Doors #2

FC Köln v Mainz 17052020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Rhein Energie Stadion

I am sitting in the car, waiting, watching the closing stages of FC Köln v Mainz on my phone. It stops and starts, the signal comes and goes. I can hear the sound of an ambulance somewhere outside the Rhein Energie Stadion. As the sound of the siren reflects off the banks of empty seats it reveals the resonant properties of the space, the reflective surfaces of the stadium, a resonance usually heard only when the stadium is empty, when football isn’t happening. Now the sound of football happening and football not happening are both here with me, sitting in the car, on a side road in New Milton.

When the signal stops it opens a window to the sounds outside: a babble of back garden birdsong; talking; the loading of the car boot. Then the signal returns and the resonance of the empty stadium conceals the domestic sounds, the sounds of the driveway, the suburban side street.

FC Köln v Mainz

Behind Closed Doors #1

Dortmund v Shalke 04 : RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg 16052020

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Dortmund v Schalke 04

The category mistake described by Simon Critchley has arrived, it is here, it is abundant. The Bundesliga has returned with all matches taking place behind closed doors. On March 15th this year, before many nations had entered lockdown and shortly after Valencia met Atalanta behind closed doors in the Champions League, Tim Lewis wrote this in The Guardian:

The Mestalla in Valencia has to be one of the most intimidating stadiums in the world for visiting football teams. Its stands, which have the pitch of a ski jump, allow home fans to create a claustrophobic wall of noise. The rabid screams of 55,000 Valencians, bouncing off the concrete foundations, have made it something of a fortress for the local team and a popular venue for Spain’s home fixtures. A while back, I watched Valencia play Barcelona at the Mestalla, and there was a febrile menace in the air that night unlike any other I have experienced in a football ground.

The vibe at the Mestalla was rather different last week, when Valencia hosted Atalanta in the second leg of the sides’ Champions League last-16 tie. If ever a team needed a boost from their 12th man, their fans, it was now: Valencia had to make up a 4-1 deficit from the first leg. But, because of the coronavirus outbreak, the fixture was played behind closed doors. Watching the match on TV was eerie: you could hear the players shouting for the ball or celebrating or appealing for a foul. At times you had to remind yourself that it wasn’t a training exercise.

The febrile energy of Simon Critchley’s ‘sublime matrix‘ is now absent and so I started thinking about the sounding spaces that fans were now watching matches in, their domestic spaces. We watched Dortmund v Schalke 04 from the Westfalenstadion in our kitchen.

In the 29th minute at the Westfalenstadion Thorgan Hazard sent a beautiful curling cross into the Schalke penalty area from the right. It eluded the defender at the near post and arrived in the six-yard box at the same time as Erling Haaland who despatched the ball past the goalkeeper with a single, delightful, touch. The football was beautiful. It was no less beautiful in itself because of the absence of spectators but it was somehow diminished. It felt like the idea of a beautiful goal, a simulation, without the vibrating air, the seismic response of the crowd. There was no roar, just the crack of the net as the ball struck home. Of course, there was the beauty of the sound of the ball striking Hazard’s boot, bouncing, striking Haaland’s boot and then the net – dum-ba-dum-ka – but frayed, unleashed quivering air, the venting of thousands of lungs was absent. I documented the situation in the kitchen, watching the game, sweeping the floor, emptying the bin, making a cup of tea, tidying .

Dortmund v Shalke 04 16052020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

In Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Zidane talks about the sound of the crowd and how instead of hearing the mass sounding event his attention is often directed towards the sounding of individual events.

When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone. I can hear someone shift around in their chair. I can hear someone coughing. I can hear someone whisper in the ear of the person next to them. I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch.’ 

Zinedine Zidane Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno (2006)

I find myself imagining Erling Haaland’s attention being caught by the click of a kettle, Matts Hummels waiting for a goal-kick to be taken and becoming distracted by the sound of a breadknife cutting through a crust, the clank of bottles in the fridge, the rattle of cutlery in the dishwasher.

As Dortmund scored their fourth we switched matches and caught part of the second half of RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg at the Red Bull Arena while I emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the surfaces.

RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg 16052020