Football in 2020: Highlights of the coronavirus-hit year

Bayern Munich was the most successful club in a year hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, while Lionel Messi's dramatic transfer saga was the biggest talking point of 2020.

Football across the globe had to face unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.   -  Reuters (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)

It was an unusual year for sports with the coronavirus pandemic halting tournaments for an extended period or leading them to be cancelled. Football clubs across the globe suffered huge losses with wage cuts and empty stadiums becoming the new normal.

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However, there was plenty to cheer for Indian football in particular after two of the biggest clubs Mohun Bagan and East Bengal made their entry into the Indian Super League.

16 January - ATK and Mohun Bagan complete merger

Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan announced a merger with Indian Super League club ATK FC to form ATK Mohun Bagan. The merger also meant that the 131-year-old club brought its massive fan base to the Indian top-flight.

30 January - Christine Sinclair makes history

Canadian forward Christine Sinclair became the all-time top scorer in international football, breaking the mark held by American Abby Wambach when she netted her 185th goal against St. Kitts and Nevis.

14 March - ATK lifts third ISL title


ATK players celebrate winning their third Indian Super League (ISL) title after beating Chennaiyin FC in the final.   -  Prashant Nakwe


ATK FC won its third ISL title before it merged with Mohun Bagan by beating Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in the final. Antonio Lopez Habas' men were imperious in the summit clash as Javi Hernandez scored twice and Edu Garcia got on the scoresheet. Golden Boot winner Nerijus Valskis scored for Chennaiyin, but it proved to be just a consolation.

30 May - Thuram takes a knee

Black Lives Matter protests spread across the globe following the death of George Floyd under police custody in the United States, with active sportspersons also joining the battle against racial inequality. Borussia Monchegladbach forward Marcus Thuram was among the first few footballers to show his solidarity for the movement after scoring his first goal in the Bundesliga against Union Berlin. The league did not charge the youngster for his action, with FIFA also requesting federations to not sanction players for their support.

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5 June - Chelsea declared WSL champion

Chelsea was awarded the Women's Super League title by England's Football Association (FA) after the season was ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blues were second in the table behind Manchester City but was announced champion due to superior points per game.

26 June - Liverpool ends 30 years of hurt

Jordan Henderson

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson lifts the Premier League title.   -  Reuters


Liverpool was confirmed as the champion of England for the first time in the Premier League era, its first English top flight title in 30 years after Chelsea beat Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp's men were also the quickest to the title, sealing it with five matches to spare.

16 July - Real Madrid wins La Liga

Real Madrid sealed its 34th La Liga title with a 2-1 win over Villarreal, its first in the past three years. Zinedine Zidane's side showed determination and grit to record 10 wins on the run, while arch rival Barcelona fell flat during key moments after the league resumed in May.

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July 20 - Ballon d'Or cancelled

For the first time since its inception in 1956, the prestigious Ballon d’Or awards were cancelled due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

23 August - Bayern Munich seals second treble

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich celebrates with the Champions League trophy after winning the final against PSG.   -  AP Photo


German giant Bayern Munich became the second team in history after Barcelona, to complete a continental treble twice by winning the league, domestic cup and Champions League. After sealing the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal, Hansi Flick's side beat a tough Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final with Kingsley Coman's 59th minute strike.

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25 August - Messi puts in a transfer request

After spending his entire career in Catalonia and winning 34 major trophies with FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi's fallout with the then club president Josep Maria Bartomeu had an unprecedented outcome. The club captain sent a fax to the club saying he wished to exercise a clause in his contract, allowing him to leave for free with immediate effect. However, La Liga clarified that the extension of 2019-20 season due to COVID-19 means the Argentine cannot be a free agent. Not interested in taking his boyhood club to the court, Messi decided to stay for one more season and see out his contract which ends in June 2021.

30 August - Lyon Women rewrite history

Five successive European titles is a feat that has only been achieved once -- by Real Madrid in the 1950s, when Alfredo Di Stefano was the star in Spain. Olympique Lyonnias beat Wolfsburg 3-1 in the UEFA Women's Champions League final to clinch its seventh title overall and fifth in a row.

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27 September - East Bengal enters ISL

Kolkata giant East Bengal, which celebrated 100 years since foundation in August, completed its move to the ISL from the I-League with a little less than two months before the start of the competition. Shree Cement East Bengal Foundation acquired a majority stake at the club, and with their successful bid the Red and Golds entered the top flight as the eleventh team in the competition.

14 October - Ronaldo scores 700th career goal

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring the 700th goal of his professional career.   -  Getty Images


Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo joined an elite club of six footballers who completed 700 goals for both club and country when he scored in Portugal's Euro qualifying match against Ukraine. He is behind legends such as Gerd Muller (735), Ferenc Puskas (746), Pele (767), Romario (772) and Josef Bican (805) on the all-time list.

20 November - ISL 2020-21 season kicks

The seventh season of the ISL kicked off in a bio-secure environment  in Goa, marking the return of top-level sport in the country for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. Newly-formed ATK Mohun Bagan beat Kerala Blasters 1-0 in the opening match after captain Roy Krishna scored in the 68th minute.

25 November - Maradona passes away

Diego Maradona

Tens of thousands of people lined up to say a final farewell to Diego Maradona's coffin at the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.   -  Getty Images


Football legend Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title, passed away due to cardiac arrest. Maradona, who had struggled with drug addiction and several health issues during his life, was under observation after undergoing a brain surgery early in November.

4 December - Maternity leave for professional women footballers

Professional women footballers are to be guaranteed 14-week maternity leave under new rules approved by FIFA with the clubs obliged to provide adequate medical support and reintegrate them into the team afterwards.

17th December - Lewandowski, Bronze win FIFA The Best honours

Robert Lewandowski finished top-scorer in all competitions as Bayern Munich won the Bundesliga, DFB Pokal and the Champions League.   -  twitter


Poland and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski was voted the FIFA Best Men’s player of the year as he beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to the top honour. The forward scored 55 goals in 46 games in the 2019-20 season as Bayern Munich won the continental treble. England’s Lucy Bronze was voted the women’s player of the year beating Wendi Renard and Pernille Harder to the prize. Bronze, who won the treble with Lyon, became the first full back across both genders and the first female English player to win the award.

23 December - Messi surpasses Pele

Lionel Messi scored his 644th goal for Barcelona to surpass Pele's tally of 643 for Santos as the all-time record scorer for a single club. 

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