Former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid star Luis Garcia has celebrated the impending return of Spanish football, more than two months after the last round of matches.
A Champions League winner with Liverpool, Garcia spoke to FNR in a La Liga media conference ahead of the restart, praising the “massive” impact the competition’s return will have on the country.
“It’s very important because football moves so many things. One of those things is happiness and feelings,” he said.
“Maybe only 1% of the population says they can live without football.”
Garcia played on some of the biggest stages in world football, scoring big goals in front of packed crowds in league and European competition.
With games set to be played behind closed doors for the remainder of this season and beyond, the 41-year-old imagined what some of the greatest moments of his career would have been like in empty arenas.
“Scoring and winning is good, but it’s like life – if you have success and don’t have anyone to share it with,” he said.
“I’m glad we had the crowd!”
As the players return to the pitch with vacant stands, La Liga’s Australia & New Zealand Delegate Glen Rolls said the league is in consultation with the likes of EA Sports to incorporate crowd noise and different visuals into the matches for a global audience.
Garcia believes everything will be different for the players, however, and will miss the presence of real supporters.
“When they are not there, you have to focus and change your mindset, change the way you approach the game,” he said.
Empty stadiums mean that the advantage will “disappear a little bit” for home teams, according to Garcia.
With Barcelona chasing the league title, Garcia is looking forward to the “fantastic” battle between the Blaugrana and Real Madrid, who sit two points behind their rivals in second place.
Another of his former teams is locked in a five-team race for the final two Champions League spots, with Atleti currently in sixth.
Just five points separate third from seventh, and Atletico will face immediate rivals Getafe and Real Sociedad in the final two games – currently fifth and fourth respectively.
Diego Simeone’s side have endured a difficult season, having lost Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, and Lucas Hernandez in the summer. However, they are still in the Champions League and remain in the hunt for a place in the top four.
And Garcia hopes the 2014 La Liga champions can return to the Champions League places in a league he believes now gains greater following due to its competitiveness.
Looking ahead to the return of the league, Garcia is eager for the opening match: a Seville Derby.
“Sevilla vs Betis, the derby is fantastic. It’s about the excitement of football,” he said.
That game will kick off on Friday at 6am AEST, with the next four rounds of fixtures all confirmed across six timeslots.