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Playing Without Fans Felt Weird: Vito Mannone; La Liga Starts Group Training and More (Football Round-up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): Playing football without fans felt 'weird', says Vito Mannone of Danish side Esbjerg fB | Spanish football league starts group training ahead of restart | Paul Pogba's big brother Florentin joining Ligue 2 side Sochaux | Celtic win ninth successive Scottish Premiership title after season gets abandoned | FC Seoul left deflated after sex doll gaffe.
Vito Mannone, goalkeeper of Esbjerg fB

Fans are football. You go to the stadium and mainly you play for them, said Vito Mannone, goalkeeper of Esbjerg fB (Pic: Twitter, Ligalive).

Esbjerg fB goalkeeper Vito Mannone said playing without spectators was ‘weird’ and added he was looking forward to seeing fans back in the stadiums soon. 

The 32-year old former Arsenal man is currently with the Danish outfit on loan from Championship club Reading. “Before we stopped, we played one game without fans and it was really weird,” Mannone said. “It’s something I don’t wish for. Hopefully they are going to find a vaccine soon and we can see people back in the stadiums because it was terrible to be honest.

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“Fans are football. You go to the stadium and mainly you play for them. So it was very strange without them and I don’t want to see myself playing like that in 2021 or 2022 because I have to say that one game was terrible.”

Mannone’s former boss, Arsene Wenger, holds a similar opinion. Wenger said playing games without spectators should be only considered short-term as the absence of fans could damage the game. 

“Will it survive long-term? Will it damage the show long-term without supporters? I am convinced of that,” Wenger, FIFA's head of global development, told beIN Sport. “It is still the best possible way to get a verdict for the end of the season. It’s better than any other decision.

“We can’t be guided too much by financial reasons and take such a big gamble,” he added. “We have to first make sure this is medically safe.”

La Liga Starts Group Training

FC Barcelona players training

FC Barcelona players undergoing a group training session.

On May 18, La Liga began group training for the first time since the league was suspended mid March due to the Covid-19 pandemic devastating Spain. This move comes on the heels of the Bundesliga which became the first European league to resume last weekend.

Until last week, the players were training individually. Full squad training is expected to begin in the coming weeks and the league is hopeful of resuming the season by mid-June. 

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The Spanish Government gave a green light for practicing in groups while following strict coronavirus guidelines. Cities like Madrid and Barcelona have not been permitted to loosen the confinements but teams such as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona have been given permission to move into the second phase of training. 

"It will be good to be able to set all training routines on an equal footing," the league’s President Javier Tebas said to broadcaster Movistar. "It's very important that every club has the same chance to be in good shape."

“We have congratulated the Bundesliga," Tebas said. They put in a lot of effort into this. It's an example to follow.”

Pogba's Big Brother Joins Ligue 2 Side

Florentin Pogba

Florentin, brother of Paul Pogba, signs deal with Sochaux

Paul Pogba’s elder brother Florentin Pogba joined Ligue 2 side Sochaux on free transfer after he was released by Atlanta United. The 29-year-old agreed to a three-year contract deal with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard. Florentin was a free agent after he left Atlanta at the end of his brief stint in Major League Soccer (MLS) this January.

He began his career at Celta Vigo in Spain and had stints at Sedan and Saint-Etienne in France as well as Genclerbirligi in Turkey.

The elder Pogba has earned 21 caps for the Guinea national team. He also won the US Open Cup and the Campeones Cup during his time at Atlanta.

Celtic Win Scottish Title

Celtic were named champions of Scotland after clubs voted in favour of ending the season, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) said.

“The SPFL has today announced that, following consultation with all 12 top-flight clubs, the Board of the SPFL has determined that the 2019-20 Ladbrokes Premiership has been concluded with immediate effect,” the league’s statement said.

“The decision means that Celtic are crowned 2019-20 champions and Hearts have been relegated to the Ladbrokes Championship.”

Dundee United, Raith Rovers, and Cove Rangers were named the winners of the Championship, League One and League Two. The SPFL released end-of-season payments of over £1.8 million ($2.18 million) to clubs to help them deal with the financial burden.

Celtic’s arch rivals Rangers, who finished runners-up, sought an independent investigation of the SPFL’s handling of the season. The other clubs did not support the request.

FC Seoul’s Sex Doll Gaffe

FC Seoul placed inflated sex dolls on the stands in place of spectators during a Korean league match

FC Seoul placed inflated sex dolls on the stands in place of spectators during a Korean league match

South Korean football club FC Seoul apologised for using sex dolls instead of mannequins to fill seats during a K League match that took place in an empty stadium on Sunday.

Seoul’s match against Gwangju was played without any spectators as a safety measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the dolls were dressed in the club’s uniform like any normal fan, and some were shown holding placards supporting the team, but fans watching the match on television immediately took to social media and raised concerns about the inflatable spectators.

“Just look at their breasts, they were four times bigger than those of normal mannequins,” one fan wrote on the club’s official Instagram account. The club issued a statement saying the supplier had assured them they were not “adult products” but went on to apologise for failing to check.

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