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Football is back, but not as we know it: Germany's Bundesliga resumes

por Greta Pape (2020-05-24)


The saying goes that football without fans is nothing. But as Germany's Bundesliga became the first major European league to resume its 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that it isn't entirely true.

The outbreak of Covid-19 had curtailed sport across the globe but, outside of Europe, football made a tentative comeback in South Korea earlier in May. Now Germany, which has retained a reasonably firm stranglehold over the outbreak within the country, managed to make a return to action on Saturday. Bundesliga 2, Germany's second tier, had matches kicking off from midday before the top division followed suit a little over two hours later.

But there were an array of notable differences in how the afternoon's action unfolded, outside of the fact that fans weren't able to attend. They ranged from substitutes socially distancing to player celebrations that were fine-tuned to prevent any potential spread of the virus. 






Borussia Dortmund's first-team squad warm-up in front of an empty Westfalenstadion before they play against rivals Schalke







Schalke players took their seats on a newly formed substitute bench that adhered to social distancing rules 




Dortmund bus blasting a club song as it drives away from the stadium. pic.twitter.com/Ywp1gXB0dP

— James Ellingworth (@jellingworth) May 16, 2020






Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion is renowned as being one of the most atmospheric stadiums in all of Europe







But today, the stands remain empty as football resumes in Germany amid the coronavirus pandemic that has paused the sport







But star players such as Erling Braut Haaland will have to adjust to playing without supporters from Saturday







Some moments pointed at how the game will adapt in the future - such as Freiburg's celebration using elbow bumps 


The standout fixture of the day in Germany's elite league saw second-place Borussia Dortmund host their fierce rivals Schalke in the Ruhr derby.

Traditionally one of the most enigmatic games in the German calendar, Dortmund's clashes with Schalke usually bring a frenzied atmosphere, especially in the Westfalenstadion - Dortmund's furnace of a stadium. The club tweeted a picture of their famous 'Yellow Wall' stand empty, which it will remain for the foreseeable future, while the team coach was filmed arriving at the stadium with music blasting out, perhaps to psyche the players up in the absence of supporters on hand to welcome them.

It was inevitably striking how a venue synonymous with colour and passion was silent, but it is a small price to pay for football fans across Europe who are desperate for the game to make a safe return. 

Schalke manager David Wagner is close friends with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp - a former Dortmund coach - and he said Klopp is keen for his homeland to set the example for how the sport can make a return. 






Referee Deniz Aytekin checks the goalposts with a facemask on before kick-off between Dortmund and Schalke







Schalke manager David Wagner said that his friends in England were watching proceedings in Germany with interest







Meanwhile, Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann is pictured arriving with a face mask for his team's clash against Freiburg







Nagelsmann stands at a safe distance as he gives a pre-match interview before Leipzig's encounter with Freiburg







Two Leipzig supporters headed to the Red Bull arena, despite the rules preventing fans heading to matches on Saturday







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'All of you guys in England are praying we get the Bundesliga back up and running because this will be a hopeful sign for everybody, and that even if you are maybe four to five weeks behind you can get it done,' Wagner, who has coached in England with Huddersfield, told The Times last week. 

'This is why everybody looks to Germany and thinks, 'OK, if the Germans can do it, we at least have a chance to do it as well.' This is exactly what Jurgen said to me.

'On one side it's strange to speak about football and speak about playing the derby, Dortmund against Schalke, and on the other side, to the left and the right, people are dying all over Europe, all over the world. It's a very strange situation but, for me personally, I say, "OK, we have to do our job and we like to save our business as well".'

But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. The first goal of the whole afternoon came in the match between Dortmund and Schalke and unsurprisingly, Erling Braut Haaland was the scorer. It took his tally to just 10 goals in nine Bundesliga appearances since joining Dortmund in January but as he wheeled away into the corner of the stadium to celebrate a clinical finish, his team-mates were careful to keep their distance as they ran to join him. 

It set the hosts Dortmund on their way and they ended up recording an emphatic 4-0 victory. Afterwards, their players amusingly bowed down before Dortmund's Yellow Wall, even though there weren't any fans to commemorate such a brilliant display. 






After a brilliant Dortmund win against their rivals, the players saluted the Yellow Wall even though there wasn't anyone there




Celebrating as if the ground was full ????????????

The Dortmund players continue to do their traditional thank you to the Yellow Wall ????#BundesligaIsBack pic.twitter.com/e4XvVzJV1Y

— ???????? Ja! Watch the Bundesliga live on BT Sport???????? (@btsportfootball) May 16, 2020






A fan of Fortuna Dusseldorf looks on as his side restart their Bundesliga campaign against Paderborn on Saturday







The Paderborn team bus pictured rolling into the stadium moments later, without its regular surrounding of supporters







Footballs at all Bundesliga matches were sprayed with disinfectant as the game made a return across the country


Moments after Haaland got Dortmund's first-half goal, Freiburg went ahead against Red Bull Leipzig. Strikingly, ??????? goalscorer Manuel Guelde celebrated alongside his team-mates with a number of forearm bumps instead of high-fives. Could that soon be the new normal for player celebrations across the continent?

The road to a return has not been straightforward for German football. When league leaders and the country's biggest club, Bayern Munich, resume their campaign on Sunday, their opposition Union Berlin will be without their manager, Urs Fischer.

Fischer's father-in-law passed away on Monday and the Berlin chief broke the required week long quarantine to be with his family. He has not been able to rejoin his squad in the following days and has to have two negative coronavirus test before he is granted access in person.

And Berlin are not the only managerless side this weekend. Augsburg boss Heiko Herrlich is absent from his team's match against Wolfsburg - which remarkably is his first game in charge - because he left the team hotel to go and buy toothpaste.

'I made a mistake by leaving the hotel,' he said. 'Even though I have followed all hygiene measures both when leaving the hotel and otherwise, I cannot undo this. In this situation, I was not able to act as a role model for my team and the public.

'I will therefore be consistent and stand by my mistake. Because of this misconduct, I will not be leading the training [on Friday] and will not be in charge of the team against Wolfsburg on Saturday.'

Augsburg lost 2-1, with Wolfsburg scoring a stoppage time winner. 






It didn't take long for the tackles to fly in - here Hoffenheim's Florian Grillitsch tries to tackle Matheus Cunha of Hertha Berlina







Dortmund's players maintained their distance when Haaland celebrated putting them 1-0 up against Schalke 


The first glimpse of football's immediate future came in the second tier of German football on Saturday, when four Bundesliga 2 matches began at midday and another four kicked off 30 minutes later.

Players were seen walking out onto the pitch to survey their silent surroundings before kick-off, while the only figures in the stands were masked cameramen. Match balls were sprayed with disinfectant, ball-boys were gloved and the dugout area where managers and substitutes sit was sprayed down before kick-off. 

Like the Bundesliga, subs were also sat apart from each other on the bench, maintaining social distancing.

Incredibly there was action immediately in the clash between Erzgebirge Aue and Sandhausen. Sandhusen's Dennis Diekmeier was shown a red card after committing a professional foul inside the penalty box after just four minutes and the resulting spot-kick was finished by Dimitrij Nazarov to give Erzgebirge Aue a 1-0 lead. 






Bundesliga 2 matches started from midday on Saturday as football made a return across Germany







Sandhusen's Dennis Diekmeier was shown a red card after just four minutes of his team's return to action on Saturday


There was one fixture that was already unable to be fulfilled. Two Dynamo Dresden players tested positive for coronavirus on the team's return to training last week and local authorities ordered the entire squad into quarantine for two weeks, meaning their game against Hannover this weekend was postponed.

'We are even further behind than before,' Dresden striker Alexander Jeremejeff told the BBC. 'When we were in quarantine earlier in the year, we could leave the house, go for a walk, buy food. At the moment we cannot do anything, we just have to stay at home. This is a new step.

'When the decision from the top came that we could train and the games were about to start, we gathered the whole team and started normal sessions. We only did this for two days and then we had to go to this quarantine for two weeks.

'There was a lot of joy in the beginning as we started to train as a team, you see your friends and everything is as normal and then two days later you are inside your own house and you cannot even go outside, so it's a little bit crazy.' 

But overall, this was a much needed tonic for your average football supporter enduring lockdown, be it in Germany or anywhere else. There is a long way to go to complete any season in Europe but after Germany took the first step, it feels a lot more possible than it did at the start of the day. 



Read more:

David Wagner: You guys are praying Bundesliga can get up and running to show it can be done | Sport | The Times