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‘Playing behind closed doors was terrible!’ – Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Mannone sends warning to the Premier League

The 32-year-old, who is currently on loan in Denmark, discusses what it is like to play football amid the coronavirus pandemic

While football in England slowly edges towards a restart, in Denmark preparations for a return to action are already well under way.

It has been more than two months since the SuperLiga was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the green light has been given for it to resume on May 28, with all remaining fixtures to be played behind closed doors.

So for Vito Mannone, the former Arsenal and Sunderland keeper who is currently on loan with Esbjerg fB from Championship club Reading, that means a return to football is less than two weeks away.

But the 32-year-old is well aware that when he does start playing again, it is going to be a very different experience to what he has been used to during a professional career which stretches back 14 years.

And the one thing he is dreading more than most? Playing games in empty stadiums.

“Before we stopped, we played one game without fans and it was really weird,” Mannone tells Goal. “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.

“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.”

The Italian keeper adds: “Without fans it is completely different. You have to prepare for the game in a different way, you have to push yourself even more. It makes it tougher to stay focused on the pitch and to motivate yourself.

“We played like it for one weekend here in Denmark and it was terrible – you will see when it happens in England. It’s worse than friendlies because at least in a friendly you still have somebody there. It doesn’t feel like football.

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