Bundesliga: German football returns but not as we know it

FC Schalke 04's German goalkeeper Alexander Nuebel walks with a face mask at the club's training grounds during a training session in Gelsenkirchen, western Germany on May 14, 2020. - Players arriving in several sparsely-populated team buses, substitutes wearing masks and goal celebrations limited to elbow bumps -- when German football returns to the pitch this weekend, it will have to follow a draconian set of guidelines. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
The country has 174,098 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 7,861 deaths, according to the last digits, but the German Football Association (DFB) has worked closely with the league organizers (DFL) and hopes strictly security protocols will protect those involved when playing games.

If the measurements work, it could provide a model for other sports to get back on the bike. If not, questions will be asked as to why football returned so early.

Philipp Köster, editor-in-chief of the football publication “11 Freunde”, says more bluntly: German football is “words”.

“This is an experiment with an unknown result,” Köster told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen.

“It could really happen that we see two or more weeks of football and then everything is canceled […] if there are many infections or serious infections. “

The new look of football

It is an experiment that will not involve supporters, the component that provides sport with its spectacle and emotion. As the saying goes: football without fans is nothing.

The German top flight division regularly attracts an average of 43,300 people per game, but no more than 322 will be able to participate in the games until the end of the season, with games to be played behind closed doors.

The few elected candidates allowed to participate in the matches will therefore be divided into three distinct areas: the outside and inside of the stadium, as well as the stands.

Only 98 people (including players, coaches and referees) will be authorized around the field with 115 others on the stands (including journalists, hygiene staff and emergency services) and 109 others outside of them (mainly consisting of security guards) .

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A schedule will limit who can enter the stadium at any time, including the staggered arrival of teams around 90 minutes before kick-off.

“The games will be different,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of the DFL. “After the first day we will all know why we prefer games with fans.”

“But this is the framework in which we must operate and I expect the best possible sport in this framework.”

Borussia Moenchegladbach has filled its stadium with clippings from fans.

Popular tests

At first glance, the DFL guidelines for the new football normality seem to have covered any eventuality.

Everyone must practice social estrangement and the players should alternate their time spent in the locker room, keeping a distance of 1.5 meters and continuing to wear a mask.

The hygiene staff will be on hand to disinfect the changing rooms once the players have left for the field where the pre-game handshakes and team photos are among some of the discarded pleasantries.

The balls will be disinfected before the game and the ball-boys (over the age of 16) will continue to clean them during the games.

The same goes for the players and coaches on the substitute bench who must sit at least one place from each other and continue to wear masks where possible.

Teams will now be able to use five substitutions per game to cope with the list of congested matches.

Before Saturday afternoon, all teams were isolated in seven-day training camps where the DFL requested equally rigorous security protocols.

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Players will be tested at least twice a week throughout the season, needing a negative result before going to the stadium to play.

However, the decision to bring football back to Germany took a further blow this week after two players Dinamo Dresden tested positive for coronavirus.

As a result, the second-tier Dresden game against Hannover on 17 May will not be contested and the whole team will be quarantined for two weeks.

Billion audience

A limited number of television crews will be admitted inside the stadium with a potentially huge global audience eager for their first taste of competition for months.

“The Bundesliga is now the first major league in the world to resume playing,” said Bayern Munich general manager Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at Sport Bild.

“And if the Bundesliga is the only league in the world to be broadcast on TV, I assume that we will have an audience of billions worldwide.”

DFL’s Seifert had previously stated that clubs in the country’s top two leagues would have lost a total of $ 823 million if the season had not been completed due to the loss of television rights, advertising and ticket sales.

On the field, there will be a lot of interest in what promises to be a fascinating end to a season with everything yet to play.

The defending champion Bayern Munich is leading but has a number of opponents in the running.

Borussia Dortmund are only four points behind in second place, with RB Leipzig and Borussia Mönchengladbach also within reach of the title with nine games remaining.

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In the meantime, Werder Bremen and SC Paderborn are anchored at the foot of the league, but both can achieve security.

The DFL has confirmed that there will be relegation in the first two divisions if the season can be completed and the deadline for the season can be extended beyond 30 June if necessary.

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