The German Bundesliga returns: what did the new reality of football look like?

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Borussia Dortmund beat rivals Schalke 4-0 as players celebrated goals by beating their elbows

BBC coverage

How to follow:
Follow the live commentary from Union Berlin v Bayern Munich on the BBC Sport website from 4.30 p.m. BST Sunday

The German Bundesliga restarted on Saturday and gave a glimpse of what the Premier League and other top leagues might look like if they returned.

The South Korean K League kicked off last weekend, when some smaller leagues like Belarus and Nicaragua never stopped – but it was the first elite football in more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What did football look like in May 2020 – played behind closed doors and with a certain social distancing -?

Temperature controls, several buses and balls disinfected

This screen at RB Leipzig told people to wash their hands

The teams arrived in several buses so that the players can socially distance themselves on the way to the match.

The players and staff had all been quarantined in the team’s hotels all week and are regularly tested for coronavirus.

When leaving the buses, they wore face masks on the way to the ground.

Others attending the games, including the media, had their temperature checked.

Fans were banned from playing, police patrolling to ensure that no crowds gathered at the scene. Only 213 people were allowed to enter the ground – 98 on and around the field (such as players, coaches and ball players) and 115 in the stands (such as security, doctors and the media).

109 other people (including security guards and VAR operators) were cleared just outside the stadium.

The soccer balls were disinfected by soccer boys before the match and again at half time.

There were 30 match balls, each disinfected by ballballers and left in special places rather than being given to the players

Socially distanced substitutes

The substitutes were all separated and wore masks

Substitutes and coaches wore masks and distanced themselves socially on individual seats on the bench – or in some cases in the first rows of empty stands behind the benches.

RB Leipzig, which tied Freiburg 1-1, brought up an airport staircase so players could get to and from their seats in the stands.

Head coaches were allowed to go without masks so that they could shout instructions to their players.

The substitutes took off their masks to warm up, and when the players were replaced, they were given a mask before reaching the bench.

Elbows instead of hugs

Certain objectives have been achieved by celebrations of social distancing …
… and some were not

The game itself was no different from normal with flying tackles and many goals – 16 – in six games on Saturday.

But there was some social distancing from the goals, as many strikes were celebrated without the usual hugs – think of the elbows instead of the hugs.

However, some goals – notably those of the Hertha Berlin players in their 3-0 victory at Hoffenheim – have been celebrated as normal. Hertha will not be punished because the German league asking players not to kiss is a directive, not a rule.

With only a few dozen people making noise on the benches, viewers could hear players and managers speaking, as well as the sound of the ball being kicked – and hitting the back of the net.

Teams have been allowed to use five substitutes in one match – which other leagues will have the option of doing when they return. Schalke, in his 4-0 loss to Borussia Dortmund, was able to make two substitutions at half-time – and three more after the break.

Applaud the empty stands

Borussia Dortmund players ran to celebrate in front of the empty south shore

After the final whistle, Borussia Dortmund players went to their famous south shore to celebrate in front of the empty stand, known as the Yellow Wall, which welcomes 25,000 fans.

Wolfsburg players then kicked boots with officials

The Wolfsburg players kicked boots with the referee and his assistants, rather than the usual handshakes, after their 2-1 victory at Augsburg.

Elsewhere, punches and pokes were the name of the game.

The players and managers were interviewed by television reporters with microphones on sticks, keeping a safe distance, while the post-match press conferences were held by videoconference.

RB Leipzig striker Yussuf Poulsen was interviewed remotely

Have the fans stayed away?

Police made it impossible for fans to gather outside

One of the reasons why Premier League matches could be played on neutral sites is to avoid fans gathering outside their own field during a match.

But that didn’t seem to be a problem in Germany on Saturday.

Dortmund police spokesman Olivier Peiler said: “It is surprisingly calm. We had planned and calculated various scenarios, but we did not expect that only a few fans would come to the stadium and downtown.

“Apparently the calls from the city and the police to stay and watch the home game worked. We are very happy to avoid infections. “

But not everyone was happy. Fans of Augsburg placed a banner in an empty booth stating “football gives life – your business is sick” to protest the continuation of football during the pandemic.

“If you can’t celebrate, the whole thing breaks down” – What did the managers think?

After a goalless draw with Paderborn, Fortuna Dusseldorf manager Uwe Rosler said: “The day was a bit strange. I’m an emotional man, I like to hug a player, which I obviously couldn’t do today. “

Dortmund coach Lucien Favre said: “There is no noise. You shoot at the goal, you make a superb pass, you score and nothing happens. It’s very, very weird. “

Freiburg coach Christian Streich said in a virtual press conference: “Obviously, it is sad that the fans cannot watch the match, that we cannot meet and go to the match and play this game together.

“It is not something that can go on forever. But under these conditions, I did not expect a drop in quality due to a lack of fans and we did not see it. “

Hertha Berlin boss Bruno Labbadia defended his team by celebrating their goals without social distancing.

“The fact is that it is part of football,” he said. “We have been tested so many times that we can afford it.

“If you can no longer celebrate, everything breaks down. I’m just glad the team was right to celebrate today. “

“Like playing basketball at school” – How did the others react?

Former Bayern Munich and England midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who played sports at BT Sport from his own house, said: “I miss the fans already. It was so strange that it will take time to get used to it. “

“Football without the fans is hard to watch. “

BBC live text reader Jonathan Chilvers said, “The atmosphere in Dortmund against Schalke reminds me of playing 10’s basketball in the school gym. “

Marty Waddell tweeted, “No. Sorry. As much as I love and miss football, it was not fair. And I still miss it as much (if not more). “

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