From social distancing substitutes using airport stairs, to disinfected balls and a potential television audience of one billion, the Bundesliga enjoyed a chequered restart as the first major sports league to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The German top two divisions, suspended since mid-March due to the virus, returned on Saturday (May 16), including the Bundesliga’s showcase — the Ruhr valley derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 — as football-starved fans around the globe tuned in to watch live action.
Despite the possible global audience of a billion as predicted by Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and the hope it gave other sports leagues, it was not what fans had been hoping for.
Instead of the 81,000-crowd packing in Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, it was a mere 300 people, including players, staff, team officials, broadcasters and security personnel, as in every stadium as part of a strict health protocol.
Fans have also been banned from inside and around the venues to minimise the risk of infection.
Police were present at the grounds prior to the start in order to deter fans from gathering outside to celebrate.
The Bundesliga has allowed five substitutions in total per game to cope with the lack of match practice and the congested fixture schedule.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland offered some insight into the ‘new normal’ in football on Saturday as the striker and his team-mates ensured they remained apart from each other when celebrating the Norwegian’s opening goal against Schalke, Goal.Com reports.
“The 19-year-old found the net after a fine back-heeled through-ball from Julian Brandt sent Thorgan Hazard through on the right wing, with the Belgian subsequently finding Haaland at the back post with a neat cross to put the hosts in front at the Westfalenstadion. Having scored the first goal in the Bundesliga since its return to action following the coronavirus-enforced suspension, celebrations could well have been wild, but Dortmund’s players kept their cool as they maintained social distancing rules with a beaming Haaland.”
The league is desperate to complete the season for contractual reasons by June 30.
via Reuters and Goal.Com