The German Bundesliga returned on May 16 th after a two-month hiatus occasioned by the unforgiving Covid-19 pandemic. It presented a moment of reality, a preview of what other returning elite leagues might look like. Minor leagues like the Nicaragua and Belarus never really took a break, but with all fairness, it just wasn’t what the world of football would pay top dollar to watch. Played in empty stadiums, minimal contact, and social distancing, just what does the return of Bundesliga and the football’s new reality look like?
Quarantined before matches
Prior to the restart, all Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 sides had to assure authorities that they would meet all necessary guidelines of curbing the Coronavirus spread within their camps. Players had been quarantined in selected hotels for 14 days, with regular examinations taking place in all team camps.
Separate buses, face masks, temperature checks, kits change
Teams arrived in several buses, each carrying only a few players seated at considerable distances off each other. Players would be seen leaving their respective buses wearing face masks, and notably, there was no room for the traditional bromance and shoulder holding among players.
Nothing looked ordinary, even to the players who found themselves completely lost in the new normal. Temperature checks were administered by medical personnel on every individual within the stadium, balls were sanitized before kickoff and at halftime, and players had to change to new kits at halftime. Empty stadiums meant only individuals offering football essentials (medical personnel, media, security, and safety) were allowed in. There were cops on patrol in and around stadiums to ensure that no groups formed within the vicinity.
Socially-distanced subs and coaches
Substitutes found themselves in unfamiliar grounds, resting a few meters apart, and wearing masks. The usual player-to-player low-tone conversations were conspicuously missing, with only coaches allowed to do without masks for purposes of shouting instructions to their charges. Substitutes only removed their masks to warm up, and would receive new masks on their way to the bench.
No hugs for goals
All Saturday games started at a pedestrian pace, understandably due to rustiness among players, as well as players practicing too much caution. The Paderborn vs Wolfsburg tie looked like a training session, but when the goals came, something was different.
The thrill of finding the back of the net was still present among the scorers and teammates, but simple elbow bumps and fist knocks replaced hugs. As expected, some players found themselves overwhelmed by the joy of scoring, but they would quickly be reminded by colleagues to tone it down.
Hertha Berlin crushed Hoffenheim 3-0 on the evening, and somehow, Hertha players found themselves celebrating normally. It wasn’t their fault though; they’ll be forgiven for overachieving.
Applauding empty terraces
Who else saw that? Whether teams were playing by the script or not, it was weird to see them clapping to an empty stadium. It could be a spontaneous act, but still, it didn’t look normal.
No one knows for how long things will remain this weird, but fans of other leagues should be prepared to put up with the new way of doing things. If there is a way you can create your own stadium experience watching a televised match, you will be doing yourself a lot of justice. The silence around these stadiums will be sickening.