How it felt to watch Cardiff v Leeds in the stadium with no fans
By Beth Fisher, ITV Wales Sports Reporter
Cardiff City and Swansea City were back to winning ways on the weekend as they resumed their season in the Championship.
They are the only teams in Wales to be back playing sport in a competitive league.
Swansea had a terrific 3-0 win away to Middlesborough and Cardiff shocked top of the table Leeds with a 2-0 win at home.
In normal circumstances the wins would have been shared with thousands of fans - but as we know, "normal" doesn't exist at the moment with all games played behind closed doors meaning, of course, no fans.
The only people allowed in the stadiums are the teams, officials, medical staff and the media.
I was lucky enough to attend Cardiff against Leeds on Sunday and the whole experience was, well there's only one word for it, bizarre!
From the moment of arriving at the stadium everything was and felt different. From where we had to park and just the emptiness of the whole surrounding area.
I was shown to my parking spot and walked the 100 yards to the media entrance. I had my mask at the ready and as I entered the media gate I was greeted by a man holding a digital thermometer. I'll be honest I was a little nervous... but luckily my temperature reading was normal!
I then filled in a form to confirm I was feeling well and had no symptoms, before being escorted up to the stadium around twenty minutes before kick off. On a "normal" match day I'd be scrambling through an excited crowd trying not to spill my tea. But not today.
I got to the media section and was greeted by a host of familiar faces - all covered in masks. I had a specific seat assigned to me which had a big green tick on it. Normally at this point I would be introducing myself to the journalist from another outlet sitting next to me, predicting the scores and talking about current form of the teams. But everyone was so far away that it felt even more lonely!
When the stadium announcer welcomed Leeds and Cardiff onto the pitch it really sunk in how different this was going to be. I've been at games with crowds so loud that you can almost feel the sound waves move through your body. Here we had around half a dozen people clapping which felt almost awkward but I understood their sentiment!
I had been watching games in the Bundesliga and the Premier League on TV with the fake crowd noise available to viewers but I had wondered what it was like for the players.
I know at the Swansea game at Middlesborough they pumped the fake crowd noise inside the stadium but here at Cardiff City games there was nothing but shouting from the pitch and sidelines.
The players voices echoed around the stadium. At times you could hear individual players shouting at their team mates tactical instructions and also the occasional question to the officials: "Ref surely that was a yellow card?!"
The moment that really made me realise just how much I missed the fans was when on the 35th minute Cardiff City's Junior Hoilett scored an absolute beauty of a goal to make it 1-0 to Cardiff. I watched him with my own eyes dribble the ball and then strike it into the goal. I saw the net ripple as the ball hit the back of the net BUT it still didn't quite register that he had scored! Why? Because I genuinely was waiting for the crowd to erupt!
I missed the songs, the banter between the two sets of supporters and that roar of pure joy when a team scores. I'll almost go as far as saying I even missed people standing up in front of me and blocking my view!
Sport may be about results but for the most part people go for the experience and the feeling that it gives you. For many supporters going to home and away games has been part of their weekly routine for years and if you ask any sports commentator it is their energy that drives a game.
So whilst football is back - and I'm sure the majority of fans are glad - it would be absolutely remiss of me to not pay tribute to the part they bring to the game.
Was it the same? Absolutely not. And whilst I of course enjoyed Cardiff's victory over rivals Leeds, I can't help but think it would have been an even sweeter victory if I could have shared it with 30,000 other people!