France kicks off return of supporters to elite European football


LE HAVRE, France (AP) – For the first time since the coronavirus stopped sports and chased spectators, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and other stars will be back in front of thousands of fans chanting their praises on Sunday.An exhibition match Sunday evening between the starred team of Paris Saint-Germain and the French team of Ligue 2 Le Havre will be the first meeting in front of the supporters to present one of the elite European clubs since the beginning of the epidemic.

Only 5,000 people will be admitted inside the 25,000-seat Océane Stadium in Le Havre. Spectators must wear masks to enter the arena and they will be kept away in the stands and in the queues at the entrances.

Paris players will have the words “Tous unis” (Tous unis) and “Merci” (Merci) on their kit to show their appreciation for the health workers.

Among the top 5 European leagues, only France lets spectators enter football stadiums. Germany has ended its season without supporters, but the league and clubs plan to play 2020-2021 with fans. The game resumed without fans in Spain, England and Italy.

France stopped its league and never resumed it following its release. The return of fans comes as the death toll in the country this week has surpassed 30,000 and amid growing concern over a possible second wave of infections. Football matches are accused of helping to accelerate the initial spread of the pandemic across Europe. In Serbia, matches played in front of thousands of supporters despite the pandemic were followed last month by players and the CEO of Red Star Belgrade who tested positive for coronavirus.

The 24-player team chosen by Parisian coach Thomas Tuchel includes the club’s stars, preparing after four months of inactivity for their last competitive games of the season. PSG will play the French Cup and League Cup finals later this month and the Champions League quarter-finals in August.


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