MADRID – All eyes will be on Germany as the Bundesliga resumes top-tier European soccer with six closed-door matches after a two-month-long hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The world of sport is anxiously awaiting the return of live soccer matches which could be key to how other sports competitions resume activities, albeit within a drastically different context and environment.
The biggest game scheduled for 3:30 pm will see Borussia Dortmund (second in the league) and Schalke (sixth) play to rack up important points.
Sports director Michael Zorc said that players who feared contagion would be allowed not to play.
“If someone has doubts or is afraid, we will handle the situation rationally and we will allow them not to play,” Zorc said.
“My impression is that everyone is happy to be able to play soccer again. Everyone wants to play,” he added.
The encounter will be held in a stark stadium with no spectators.
The traditional handshakes between captains will not take place as well as the joint entrance of the two starting teams onto the field.
Players on benches must keep a 1.5-meter distance between each other and wear masks, with some watching on from the restroom to ensure safety distances are kept.
Any celebrations will be devoid of the usual group hugs.
With regards to coverage of the match, there will be no mixed zones, where statements are usually taken from players after games, and press conferences will be virtual.
There will only be four ball collectors per match who will have to be at least 16 years old and who must wear masks and disinfect their hands regularly.
Footballs must also be disinfected before the game and during the ninety minutes.
The eagerly awaited return of football will no doubt be watched with fans around the world tuning in via live streaming of the matches.
The clubs have been training since mid-April in groups.
The Saturday fixtures also include: Hoffenheim vs. Hertha, Augsburgh vs. Wolfsberg, Dusseldorf vs. Paderborn and RB Leipzig vs. SC Freiburg, all at 3:30 pm. Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Monchengladbach will kick off at 6:30 pm.
Borussia Dortmund is only four points behind Bayern, topping the table, with a derby slated for Tuesday, May 26.
RB Leipzig is nipping at Dortmund’s heels with one point less and five less than Bayern.
Both Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen, with seven and eight points behind the leader respectively, still stand a chance.
Bayern will not play until Sunday, at home, against Union Berlin.
Leverkusen will not play until Monday when they will visit Werder Bremen.
That current board makes this season one of the closest in recent years.
What fans will be watching is how the teams return from the 66-day break.
Who will manage to better adapt to the peculiar circumstances of closed-door matches?
And how will the Bundesliga unfold before its end in late June?