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Zoom screens in stadiums: Can we just have the old Arsenal mural instead?

OPINION People laughed at the old picture at Highbury, but surely it's better than a Zoom call

04 June, 2020 — By Richard Osley

The Mural covering the demolished North Bank

AFTER they – sob, sob – knocked down the North Bank at Highbury 1992 and with it those glorious brick pissoirs, Arsenal covered up the building work that followed with The Mural.

And do you remember readers? The rest of the football world made jokes about how the club had resorted to drawing their own fans into the stadium.

Yet look, it turns out every club in the world now wants The Mural, after resorting to increasingly desperate ways to pretend they’re not playing football matches in dystopian empty stadiums.

In South Korea, a club filled the seats with dolls (you know the kind, but this is local papers bro) and in Australia people have been paying to have actual cardboard cutouts of themselves placed on the seats.

This charming idea naturally fell foul of the limitless McBoatyface desire of the great British public to trip the system and orders from the UK came in for images of Dominic Cummings and, even less tastefully, Harold Shipman to be included. And they duly were.

Then we come to Denmark where one of its top clubs, Aarhus – surely Suggs’ favourite football team, it being in the middle of his street etc – have set up screens in which fans can Zoom their way into the stadium by videocall.

Arsenal are apparently considering something similar. It’s like The Mural 2.0, if you are up with the tech lingo like I am.

At this point, the audience chorused with hysterical laughter: We won’t know if Arsenal fans are on mute or not.

Aarhus’ Zoom solution

The truth is, a big painting of supporters hiding the cranes nearly 30 years ago wasn’t so bad.

Crystal Palace should have worse memories of it, taunted by the joyful drawing as they were relegated at Highbury in 1993. It’s one thing to be heckled by a hoarse group of blokes, but the eyes of The Mural follow you all around the pitch, never blinking.

The Zoomal (I think I just made that up), sounds far worse, like a terrifying Black Mirror script.

Particularly so if the general use of Zoom during lockdown is a guide. During stoppages, players will look up to find hundreds of people holding up their cats by their armpits, each moggy looking indifferent to the football on the pitch and trapped in that doleful gaze which suggests they are still wondering why their owners won’t leave the house any more.

And imagine taking a penalty in front of a wall of Zoom faces.

In Newcastle’s case, this will be a cliff edge of belly tattoo livecams or, if the frothy celebrations which greeted their cup win against Oxford earlier this season are anything to go by, potentially something far worse.

No, get it down from the attic and just stick up The Mural again.

Those were simpler times.

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