The Bundesliga returned yesterday after months of uncertainty, discussion and organisation to ensure player safety.
The return of German football, following a two-month hiatus, appeared to go ahead without a hitch. Despite the lack of fans and atmosphere, signs show that football can return safely. Although, the coming days and further testing and tracing of players will determine how safe the return truly was.
Ultimately, the Bundesliga matches gave football fans across the globe the first glimpses of what football’s new normal could be for the foreseeable future.
Bundesliga Returns: A Showcase For Football’s New Normal
New but Important Protocols
The fixtures yesterday highlighted a number of new safety measures that will become the norm for the immediate future.
Firstly, the arrival of players, coaching staff and club delegates on separate buses and social distancing on the way to their respective matches seemed strange. But limiting contact when possible remains so important. This carried over into the stadium with images of players sitting two metres apart on the bench whilst wearing face masks.
Temperature checks for everyone attending the game were taken. This included officials, security delegates, ball-boys and member of the media attending. Although fans can’t attend, for now, 213 people can enter in the ground (98 around the pitch and 115 in the stands.)
Disinfecting balls was another new procedure. Before the match an at half-time, ball boys would spray and wipe down the match balls.
The Eerie Silence of Stadia in the Bundesliga
When the team buses arrived at the stadia around Germany yesterday, only security and a small number of the media greeted the players. This set the tone for matches throughout the afternoon.
The strangest of these was in Dortmund. The Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke is one of the biggest fixtures in the Bundesliga season. Usually, the city streets would be littered with waves of yellow, but fans clearly obliged to the distancing measures in place yesterday.
Some of the oddities come from hearing player shots, especially some of Erling Braut Haaland’s net-busting strikes. But also from hearing players and coaching staff communicate.
This may not seem unusual to amateur players, but the emptiness of stadia only heightens every sound made on or near the pitch as they echo around the empty seats.
Every goal that was scored was only greeted by the cheers of players and backroom staff. While groans of annoyance from the opposition could also be heard.
The tongue in cheek celebrations from the Dortmund players after their 4-0 win over Schalke added a well-timed bit of light-heartedness to celebrate not just their victory, but what seemed to be a successful return of elite football.
Yet, their celebrations looked slightly haunting. The empty south stand of the Westfalenstadion, which usually holds the iconic ‘Yellow Wall’, was silent. Ultimately, the celebrations looked more like a glitch in a game of FIFA rather than real life.
This may be the new normal of supporting football for the foreseeable future. Elite football took baby steps yesterday that seemed positive. But ‘normal’ football may not return for some time.