THE NEUTRAL ZONE
German football club Bundesliga returned to action on Saturday, providing a model for other leagues across the continent. However, the scene was much different from March 11, the last game played by the league. Only 300 people attended the Borussia Dortmund-Schalke kickoff at Signal Iduna Park, which normally holds up to 80,000 spectators. Subs wore masks and sat 6 feet apart on the sidelines, which many fans pointed out seemed unnecessary given the sport’s high-contact nature.
Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland scored the first goal of the league’s return. Haaland celebrated while socially distanced, dancing in the corner while his teammates clapped for him 6 feet away. Not all players followed the rules, as two other players in the league violated German guidelines. Despite Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram and Hertha Berlin defender Dedryck Boyata kissing their respective teammates while celebrating goals, neither will face consequences with the league.
Liverpool Manager Jürgen Klopp said he hopes Germany has success restarting the season and looks forward to Premier League’s return. With the prospect of Liverpool securing their 19th championship in an empty stadium, Klopp waxed philosophical: “We all started playing football without supporters and we loved this game not because of the atmosphere in a stadium.”
Despite the hashtag #BundesligaIsBack trending early Saturday, not all fans were looking forward to the return. Many fans of the Premier League expressed on Twitter that they would want that league to skip the season as “football is not the same without the fans.” German polls show an increasing number of Germans disapproving of leagues returning to play.
Troy Deeney slams Prem’s Project Restart plans and insists he won’t put family at risk even if it means going broke – The U.S. Sun – 5/14/2020
And he insists he will not put a return to action before his family’s health — even if it means going broke. […] Deeney added: “They’re talking about not playing in front of fans until 2021. So if it’s not safe enough for fans to be inside a stadium why should it be safe for players to be in there? At corners, Watford have 11 men back so you’re talking about having 18 or 19 men in a penalty area. That’s not social distancing.”
Eerie silence resounds as Germany ushers in football’s new abnormal – The Guardian – 5/16/2020
In Leipzig the players bumped elbows and grinned like this was all a little bit silly. In Dortmund Erling Haaland scored the first goal of football’s plague times and stood by the corner flag with his teammates around him in a celebratory pastiche of social distancing, a strangely haunting image that will, you suspect, be recycled many times.
Opinion: Football’s return short on feeling – Deutsche Welle – 5/16/2020
Should Germany continue to manage the coronavirus pandemic and the DFL’s hygiene protocols continue to be effectively put into place, this is what football will look like for a while, though. This strange, echoey, solo-celebrating, mask-wearing, stadium-empty football will never become normal, but certainly more familiar. […] A sterile approach might be the order of the day at the moment, but applying it to sport isolates the emotions and feelings tied to the highs and lows of competition. Fans in stadiums don’t just create atmosphere, they create consequence.
It’s TV at home as German football returns with ‘ghost games’ – AFP – 5/16/2020
Nicole Bartelt has been a loyal fan at all but two of Borussia Dortmund’s home matches since 2008, but when the Bundesliga restarts Saturday after a two-month hiatus because of the coronavirus, she will be forced to keep away from the stands. Nevertheless, Bartelt, 44, is not complaining that the derby with Schalke will be played behind closed doors. “It’s better to have ‘ghost games’ to slow the epidemic than to have a health catastrophe,” she told AFP.
Diego A. Pinzón on Twitter, 5/16/2020: Today, Dortmund brought us football and premium sports back, and while doing so it brought us hope that all of this will be over, in a civilized society, soon #BundesligaIsBack #Bundesliga
Luke Edwards on Twitter, 5/16/2020: Without labouring a point. You can disagree. You are neither right or wrong. Neither am I. But I’m not trying to tell you otherwise. It didn’t feel like football for me because it wasn’t what Dortmund vs Schalke should have been as an occasion or a spectacle. It felt functional
Cliff Schecter on Twitter, 5/16/2020: Btw, what are they doing about Bundesliga fan gatherings at spaces outside/around the empty stadiums? As we know you can discourage them, and yet they still have a way of happening
Chris Williams on Twitter, 5/16/2020: Enjoyed the coverage from BT today, live football on a Saturday afternoon is now a thing in the UK, made me forget about what’s going on, which is exactly what sport is good for, mental cleanse. It’s also a sign that normality could be taking its first few steps again.
Jake Humphrey on Twitter, 5/16/2020: They may be football clubs Terry. They are also businesses. With many employees relying on their wages to feed their kids and pay their mortgages. They are businesses doing what they can to survive…like many, many others across the world.
Angus Scott on Twitter, 5/16/2020: Welcome back football. It was surreal hosting the return of the beautiful game today. It was like no other show I’ve ever done – either in front of or behind the camera. If I’ve learnt one thing: football doesn’t make the world go round, it just helps it to @Bundesliga_EN