The Bundesliga marks the return of the football elite, with changes, during the coronavirus pandemic

Borussia Dortmund's game against local rival Schalke 04 was played with no fans as soccer returned.

While fans were not allowed – the most obvious difference from normal match days – the six Bundesliga games it has undoubtedly increased morale among those who watch television all over the world who crave action in a higher league. Not to mention the same clubs that desperately need television’s profitable money to function and thrive.

Germany’s highest level regularly attracts an average of 43,300 people per game, but these games are held behind closed doors.

“It was strange, but we were prepared that there would be no spectators,” said Leipzig defender Lukas Klostermann after his team’s 1-1 draw against Freiburg.

The Bundesliga break lasted nine weeks, with the other three elite football divisions in the hardest hit countries in Europe – the British Premier League, the Spanish Liga and the Italian Serie A – which has not yet set a set date for their return. Those championships were certainly keeping an eye on how it went on Saturday.

Germany, which has been praised for its pandemic management, it reported over 173,000 coronavirus cases with nearly 8,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

The Bundesliga imposed strict rules before rebooting.

“We have had many other things to organize, respect and resolve,” FC Köln football chief Frank Aehlig said in a virtual press conference ahead of this weekend’s games. “It is completely different from what we know from our normal business.”

Other differences

The teams spent a week in quarantine before the games, the players moved the players – who are regularly tested – to the stadiums in multiple buses rather than one and more than one changing room was also used per team. Even then, the rules of social distancing had to be followed.

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There were staggered warm-ups and the teams entered the field at different times without mascots, in another change.

The substitutes wore masks and did not sit in the shelter but between the shelter and are at the Signal Iduna Park of Borussia Dortmund, well distinct from teammates. The match ball was disinfected before the kick-off, presumably leading the referee to enter the field last.

More than 80,000 fans would usually show up to see Dortmund take on Schalke 04 in one of football’s most heated rivalries, but instead the solitary sounds were coaches and players who yelled instructions and applauded encouragement and cries of pain from the players when they were fouled.

The first goal in every game came to Dortmund and from the most likely contender, Erling Braut Haaland.

The nineteen-year-old cleverly deflected Thorgan Hazard’s cross with his left foot in the 29th minute while Dortmund beat Schalke 4-0 and moved to an inactive point of Bayern Munich.

Erling Braut Haaland celebrates after scoring for Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.

He celebrated with a distance dance from his teammates, without much noise.

When the Dortmund medical staff attended Haaland on the pitch in the second half, he also wore masks. A mask was given to Dortmund’s Thomas Delaney when he was replaced in the 67th minute.

The usual post game of Dortmund players – arms raised and lowered – occurred but not while holding hands with teammates and when Haaland spoke after the game with the Bundesliga, the microphone was covered in something that looked like a movie sticky.

The new normal in football.

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“It was an extremely painful afternoon,” Schalke midfielder Daniel Caligiuri told his club’s website. “None of us have been better today. Obviously we have lost fan support, but we just have to accept the situation.”

Things could change

Despite the games going on as the Bundesliga tries to complete the season, things could change at any time.

The substitutes were kept well separated and wore masks.

If players test positive for the virus, games will be canceled. It happened in the second tier of the championship when two Dynamo Dresden players tested positive, prompting Sunday’s match against Hannover to be demolished.

Augsburg manager Heiko Herrlich missed the 2-1 defeat in the Bundesliga against Wolfsburg, meanwhile, for breaking the quarantine rules when he bought the toothpaste.

But Saturday’s game in the world’s most famous sport was destined to be a respite for many, if only temporarily, as the coronavirus continues to rage.

“Having the opportunity to discuss whether it was a penalty or not, to discuss whether it was a handball or not … all of these things can bring back some normalcy to a few hours for many people,” said Aehlig, whose club hosts Mainz Sunday. “I hope it will give people a positive feeling for their lives.”

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