La Liga: Kanoute feels empty stands will have little impact on quality of football

All matches would be played behind closed doors and less than 300 people, including players, support staff and others will be allowed in the stadium.

La Liga ambassador Frederic Kanoute feels the financials played a big role but the decision to resume La Liga was not fast-tracked.   -  Special Arrangement

La Liga will become only the second major European football league to resume after the coronavirus pandemic when Sevilla hosts Real Betis in the much-anticipated Seville Derby on Friday. Coming from a three-month break owing to the global lockdown, the League will have a new set of rules to follow to ensure the safety of all the players and others involved, including all matches being played behind closed doors.

La Liga ambassador Frederic Kanoute feels the empty stands will have very little impact on the quality of football played on the pitch. “Fans can expect fantastic games and there is no better game to start with than a tie between Sevilla and Real Betis. I have played it so many years and it’s the most incredible game I have been involved in. Even though there will be no fans in the stadium, it will be very exciting and people will enjoy it from home,” said the former Sevilla striker.

Less than 300 people, including players, support staff, and all other various stakeholders, will be allowed in the stadium on match days. 

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“The empty stands will affect players a little bit as professional footballers like to play in front of fans. There will be a difference in playing with crowd support and now without fans, but they are professionals and their level of performance will be the same. The players have been waiting to get back to competitive football for so long that they will still (even without fans) give their very best on the pitch,” he continued.

He added that empty stadiums would see teams lose their home advantage and make it a more level playing platform. Without the fans, Barcelona’s home stadium, Camp Nou, which is the largest football stadium in Europe, might not seem too daunting after all for visiting teams.

La Liga president Javier Tebas had recently said the league was brought back keeping in mind the financial constraints, stating that a cancellation would have resulted in clubs losing billions.

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Kanoute feels the financials played a big role but the decision to resume La Liga was not fast-tracked, “Finance plays a big role everywhere in our society, I understand that. I also think we have to be fair and say La Liga has been reasonable enough. Germany has started football and we haven’t seen any incidents of repeat cases. If done properly and if all health protocols are respected, it is quite reasonable. There is a high level of responsibility now but I think it’s not irresponsible to start La Liga because we have had a long period without games and there aren’t many news cases in Spain of late. I guess it was the right call but only time will tell.”  

The Malian-French former footballer added that the five substitutions rule would slightly favour the bigwigs such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, who boast a much wider player pool. “We have to be honest and admit that big teams and big clubs have bigger squads anyway. They don’t have just 16 players but have 25 top players that can be rotated,”  he said.

Stressing on the impact a deep squad would have on a team's performance, he recalled the 2006-2007 season when Sevilla was fighting in the La Liga, Europa League and the Copa del Rey. “I remember when we were close to winning the 2006-2007 season - we were tired because we had to play the Europa League too. We found it tough to maintain the same rhythm and had to give up the league.”

Sevilla won the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, but fell short of the treble as it finished third in the La Liga, five points shy of champion Real Madrid.

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