IN THE football community, the biggest question as the year looms large: How will football look like in 2021?

At least in most first world countries, particularly in Europe, massive vaccination programs are underway, with two vaccines now approved for use in the European Union.

Last December, the EU bought 300 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, while it approved just last Wednesday, Jan. 6, the use of its second coronavirus vaccine from Moderna.

This means that in a few months, most of the leagues in the continent will inch closer to normalcy.

Perhaps fans will now be allowed inside football stadiums, with “vaccination certificates” as among the newer protocols to be observed in light of the pandemic.

I am pretty sure the clubs and players of the leagues both big and small miss the 12th man, whether they’re playing at home or away.

Nothing sounds like a stadium alive with the chants and screams of flesh-and-bone fans.

And for us here watching in the safety of our third world homes, at least we would be spared of the dreary sights of empty stadiums and faux cheers.

On the other hand, 2021 for the Filipino football community, the beautiful sport from pre-pandemic times remains a not-so-distant memory, and with no mass vaccination in sight, uncertainty, unease and anxiety pervade.

Certainly the lockdowns and quarantine measures have taken their toll on everyone.

Fitness issues are weighing heavily on players, pros, student athletes and weekend warriors alike.

But worst hit are the coaches and staff, who have not only been deprived of livelihood, but whose futures remain uncertain.

It is easy to offer hope. It’s tougher to tackle these matters head on, especially in the days and weeks ahead.