German soccer returns without audience

Soccer: - 17-05-20

(Berlin) First challenge for German soccer: the resumption of the Bundesliga on Saturday proved that football and coronavirus could coexist, at the cost of silent stands and sanitary precautions. But this success remains to be confirmed for the first major European championship to restart.


The screeching sound of a whistle at kick-off, the first goal by young Norwegian star Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund's big victory in the "Ruhr derby" against Schalke (4-0). Ninety minutes were enough to bring back the goosebumps on the arms of lovers of "Fussball", weaned from matches for precisely 63 days due to pandemic.
These fans have found the usual ingredients of Saturday afternoon: goals, winners, emotions. But in front of their TV, they couldn't escape unusual details.
Because the shadow of the health crisis hangs over the ground. The completely empty stands of the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, a stadium known in normal times for its boiling "Yellow Wall" of supporters, accompanied this restart in a confusing silence.
A “surreal” recovery, according to the boss of Borussia Dortmund Hans-Joachim Watzke. "In the two hours before the match, you receive texts from all over the world, and then you drive through your city and absolutely nothing happens," said the manager. " You have to get used to it ".
In front of the deserted "Yellow Wall", the Borussia players still went to make their usual greetings at the end of the match, a strange scene in the absence of everything.
The camera and hygiene measures are what awaits Dortmund, Leipzig and other top players in the coming weeks, as well as the famous Bayern Munich on Sunday against the Union Berlin.
Entrances to the separate fields, regularly disinfected balls on the edge of the lawn, masked and spaced substitutes on their bench and above all incredibly sober goal celebrations, while respecting social distancing: this is soccer in the days of COVID- 19.
“The day was a bit odd. I'm an emotional person, I like to take a player in my arms, which I obviously couldn't do today, "said Uwe Rösler, coach of Düsseldorf.
Bad reflexes
Both players and coaches know that they will be judged on their "exemplarity", a term explicitly mentioned by the soccer authorities in their ultra-precise health recovery protocol.
Difficult nevertheless to get rid of some bad reflexes.
Dortmund defender Mats Hummels who naively blows his fingers, Hertha Berlin striker Matheus Cunha who sucks his thumb after being hugged by several teammates: these innocuous images take on a disturbing dimension in this period, even if the League has assured that no sanction would be pronounced against players guilty of hugging.
Around the stadiums, which are usually so busy, you will also have to get used to the silence. In Dortmund, the weekend’s most anticipated duel, the atmosphere in the city had nothing to do with a match day, an AFP journalist said.
“We can only receive 50 people, against 500 normally. People are not necessarily reassured in any case to regroup in the current context, "explains Jörg Kemper, manager of the Wenkers supporters bar in the city center, who had to apply strict marking on the ground in his establishment.
Germany, pioneer
But if a majority of public opinion, as well as a fringe of supporters to believe some banners on Saturday, is not favorable to the resumption of the championship (56% of people questioned in a poll this week), the sector of soccer, determined to recover the 300 million euros of TV rights that remain to be distributed between the clubs, will be satisfied with such a day without a hitch.
Abroad too, these first steps will have been hailed for a great championship: neighbors like England, Spain and Italy, who are still hoping to resume, no doubt come out confident.
From China to Brazil, the whole world only had eyes for German soccer. Even world champion Kylian Mbappé announced on Twitter that he was back for soccer in front of his TV. He will surely have been thrilled by the performances of his compatriots Alassane Pléa and Marcus Thuram, both scorers with Mönchengladbach in Frankfurt (3-1) to finish the afternoon with a French touch ".
These two would like to be able to keep smiling, but there is still a long way to go for "Fussball", not immune to new cases of coronavirus which would impose thorny solitary confinements.