MAKE MY DAY: Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti went above and beyond the call of duty to cheer up a supporter. AFP/VNA Photo
Things really hit home for me a little after 7.30pm on Saturday night. It was at that point I realised just exactly what I had lost.
You see Saturday night, 7.30pm, is 12.30pm in the UK, and that’s when the first Premier League match of the weekend kicks off.
What follows, for those of us fortunate enough to live in a country that shows just about every match from England’s top flight on television, is a feast of football.
When the early game finishes, there’s just enough time to nip to the shop to top up my Saigon Beer supplies and make myself a sausage buttie (that’s sandwich if you didn’t already know) before the next match kicks off at 10pm.
And once that match is done and dusted, it’s just a short wait before the 5.30pm (UK time) game gets underway.
Saturday for me was spent anxiously flicking television channels bereft of the beautiful game. Oh, how I yearned for anything resembling even just a kick-about to tune into.
As I sat there, drowning my sorrows in the above-mentioned brew, I stopped to ponder when the hell will my life get back to normal? When I say normal, I’m obviously talking about football.
You can handle the summer because more often than not you will find a game to watch, and of course, there’s the World Cup and Euros every two years alternately.
But this is different. There is no calendar available for me to count down the days before the season starts again and no pre-season friendlies for me to analyse the new signings as they play in far-flung places.
Instead, I find myself scouring Facebook videos watching footballers play keepie-up with rolls of toilet paper and talk about the heartaches they face self-isolating.
That said, I did stumble across a video this week that restored my faith in the humanity of footballers, although in the case, a football manager.
Carlo Ancelotti is a true footballing great. As a player, he was a midfield maestro with Parma, Roma and Milan. But it’s his managerial credentials that are simply staggering.
This is a man who took charge of Roma, Juve, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and Chelsea, winning domestic titles in Italy, England, France, Spain and Germany.
Now he is the manager of Everton, and boy are they lucky to have him. No disrespect to Everton, but there is no doubt in my mind this is the best manager they have ever had since Howard Kendall was in charge an age ago.
This week I watched a video clip in which Carlo calls Mark Cruise, an Everton supporter who was a little down in the dumps, to say the least. Mark is a 52-year-old with motor neuron disease, who has been forced to self-isolate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For just over four minutes, the Everton manager chatted with the supporter in a bid to lift his spirits, which I’ve no doubt he did.
The fan called the manager Mr Ancelotti, despite his pleas to call him Carlo. “I am just a man, like you,” the Italian told him.
The pair chatted about what to watch on Netflix, they talked about Everton FC, obviously, and Carlo told him about the dire situation his friends and family are facing back in Italy, a country ravaged by the coronavirus.
I’m sure there are plenty of other footballers, and managers, who do their bit to cheer up fans who find themselves in less fortunate situations, but there was something extremely endearing about Carlo, and it certainly cheered me up in these sans-footballing times.
Football will return one day no doubt, and we will all forget about this dry period we are finding ourselves in right about now.
But one Evertonian will never forget what happened to him during the pandemic on the day that Carlo called. VNS