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Fist bumps and masks: Football returns in Germany

/ 08:21 PM May 16, 2020
Bundesliga

A lone fan of Fortuna Duesseldorf watches from far the Merkur Spiel-Arena prior to the Bundesliga soccer match between Duesseldorf and Paderborn in Duesseldorf, Germany, Saturday, May 16, 2020. The German Bundesliga becomes the world’s first major soccer league to resume after a two-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Roland Weihrauch/DPA via AP)

BERLIN — Football resumed in Germany after a two-month break with four games in the second division on Saturday taking place behind closed doors.

South Korea midfielder Lee Jae-sung scored the first goal in the division to give Holstein Kiel the lead at Jahn Regensburg. He celebrated by giving teammates fist bumps.

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The games were the first since soccer was put on hold March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they were being played in empty stadiums amid strict hygiene measures.

Goal celebrations in other games were also marked by fist bumps and elbow-to-elbow touching. Players had been warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging.

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All players and team staff who didn’t start games wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the fields as customary.

The Bundesliga was due to resume later Saturday, also without fans, with the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke the highlight.

The game’s authorities were keen to restart the country’s top two divisions with several clubs, including Schalke, facing severe financial difficulties because of the pandemic-enforced suspension in play.

Numerous polls showed a growing majority in Germany was against the resumption of the leagues. Fans are also critical of games without supporters present.

“Soccer without fans is nothing,” read a joint statement from several Bayern Munich fan groups after the league decided on May 7 to resume.

Cologne fans accused authorities Saturday of prioritizing money over people’s health. There was criticism too from players.

Karlsruher SC midfielder Marc Lorenz, a substitute in the second division game against Darmstadt on Saturday, told the Badische Neueste Nachrichten newspaper that the league hadn’t considered the health of the players “at all” in its rush to get back. He also warned of fatigue leading to serious injuries.

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Teams in both divisions are allowed five substitutions instead of the usual three to help cope after two months without play.

Players and staff have been subjected to regular testing for COVID-19. There were three cases found at Cologne, while second-division Dynamo Dresden was ordered into 14 days of quarantine after two more cases brought its total to three last Saturday. Dresden’s game against Hannover on Sunday was called off, and the team cannot train during the quarantine period.

Augsburg coach Heiko Herrlich was due to make his debut in charge against Wolfsburg but will miss the game after leaving the team hotel in strict quarantine conditions to buy toiletries. He will only return after twice testing negative for the virus.

Bayern Munich visits Union Berlin on Sunday.

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TAGS: Bundesliga, coronavirus, Football, Games, Germany, pandemic, SEASON, Soccer
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