‘Can argue football is important industry like WWE’: David James on restarting season

“It is important how you spend your time. One thing I do religiously, I write a little list of things to do each day. It kind of makes my day worthwhile,” says David James. From playing football to becoming a manager, from dance reality TV show to a football analyst – James has done it all in his career. The 49-year-old represented some of the biggest Premier League clubs during his playing days – which includes 214 appearances for Liverpool, apart from making 53 international appearances for England’s senior team.

He also played for Indian Super League franchise Kerala Blasters in 2014 and then took on the managerial role for Blasters in 2018. But amid the nationwide lockdown in the United Kingdom due to coronavirus pandemic, James is having to stay at home in Hertfordshire, England with his family at his house, and find ways to keep himself physically and mentally fit. Speaking exclusively with Hindustan Times from the UK, James says he is following safety protocols like everyone else.

“I live with my family. Unfortunately, the current circumstances dictated that all of us don’t live together anymore. I am staying with some of my family and am in contact with the rest of my family through FaceTime, just like everybody I guess,” he says.

James recognises the negative mental effects one can have in locked up spaces. To tackle the same, he continues to keep himself active throughout the day, by planning what he wishes to do in advance. “If you can keep your day active, then you will be in a good mental health state,” he says.

Painting is an activity that James has taken up these days – he has been creating art to showcase support to NHS medical workers who have been involved in the fight against COVID-19. He also enjoys playing DJ music on his laptop and exercising. James further says he has also been watching some “really bad movies” at home – names of which he cannot recall.

A close-up of David James’ painting

“What’s the worst movie I have watched… I can’t remember the name. I have watched over a 100 movies, I have forgotten all the names. I find time to watch old movies these days,” he says. James also enjoys playing some games with his granddaughter at home. “Fortunately, there is just plenty for me to do at home,” he says.

‘If WWE is ‘essential industry’, so is football’

Addressing the elephant in the room – whether the football season should be resumed amid closed doors or not – James says that if a “safe environment” is created for “everyone involved with football games – – including referees, support staff, TV crews, etc – then the games should be able to go ahead.”

“For Football, as we love the sport, the need for the competition to reach the end – to have your winners and to have your losers – is valuable and imperative part of the integrity of the game,” he adds.

But the former goalkeeper acknowledges that time it may require to create such an environment could be an issue. “How long does it take to create a safe environment – making sure all fabric is sanitised, because that is the primary safety issue. For individuals, you have to make sure that none of them are in contact with coronavirus, which will require testing of everyone associated with the game.”

Earlier this month, the Florida state authorities in the United States deemed Vince McMahon-owned professional wrestling industry WWE as “essential media”. An executive order issued by Florida’s Emergency Management Director permitted professional wrestlers to continue working, as long as they perform in arenas without fans. James says that football is also an essential industry for many.

“WWE has created a scenario where they have been deemed an important industry. You can argue football is an important industry as well, because of the amount of people that follow the sport. I am sure, not everyone agrees. But if it’s possible for everyone to be tested, everyone to be cleared and to create an environment or a place to play games, maybe season can be restarted,” he says.

James argues that it won’t be logical to convert all the stadiums in the country as “safe environments”. “Maybe, a hub or a series of hubs across the country where groups of teams could go and play games would be more preferable, because then you are limiting the actual facilities that are needed,” he says.

‘Season shouldn’t be null and void’

But what happens if the season cannot be resumed and has to be concluded? There are still 6-8 weeks of football left to be played in the Premier League, though with Liverpool leading the table with 82 points in 29 games, 25 points ahead of 2nd-placed Manchester City, there seems to be a little doubt on who will lift the trophy.

However, questions can still be asked on who will finish in the top four-position, with at least 8 clubs still in picture to earn a spot in the Champions League. The relegations battle looks even stiffer. In such a scenario, should the entire season be declared null and void? James thinks Liverpool have won the league and it would be a travesty if the entire season is declared canceled.

“Around 75 percent of the season has been played. There is a clear layout of how the teams have performed. There could be an opportunity to introduce an algorithm similar to what is used in cricket for the ODIs and Tests, to declare the winners and losers,” James says.

“The resistance to this will obviously would be clubs who have underperformed – those who could not think they could qualify for Champions League through an algorithm or clubs who are facing relegation threat – they would rather see things go null and avoid. That would be a travesty.

“Because the teams are in this position because of what they have done so far in the season. And if they get relegated through an algorithm – that is because of the 75 percent of the season that has happened – and not the 25 percent that did not happen,” he concludes.

(Sports enthusiasts can visit the official Facebook page of Sony Pictures Sports Network, @SonySportsIndia and watch ‘Sony Ten Pit Stop’ featuring David James discussing football and the various personalities that he has interacted with during his 20+ year career like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and Steven Gerrard among others. The interactive session will be LIVE from 5.00 PM on April 22, 2020.)

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