The Bundesliga season has been cleared to restart in eight days, bereft of spectators but offering hope that football in Germany will chalk out the blueprint for the resumption of other European football leagues. France and the Netherlands have already scrapped the season, copping huge financial losses, while others are engulfed in uncertainty and pay disputes. In this backdrop, the resumption of Bundesliga comes as a wave of optimism. Or, as German chancellor Angela Merkel put it: “People get back a short piece of normal life”. The return to the field was as much as a financial necessity as an emotional need. Aborting the season would have made the league, financially the most robust in Europe, poorer by 800 million dollars.
But, there’s fear in certain quarters: Will the restart usher in another wave of the pandemic? Three Cologne FC players tested positive last week, and Salomon Kalou irresponsibly filmed himself ignoring social distancing measures and got duly sacked. Football is not taking any chances. The pre-match screening is detailed, now. Players will be tested twice a week, three team buses will be used for social distancing, players will enter the field separately and there will be no handshakes. Off the pitch, food will be delivered to their rooms and they must provide lists of family members when they go home after matches.
From a player-club perspective, every measure is in place to prevent another episode. But still, questions remain. And these concern the fans. Spectators can be kept out of the stadiums, but not out of the game. More so in Germany, which has the highest average attendance figures in Europe. So even if the games will be played behind closed doors, chances are the fans will throng outside stadiums, crowd pubs, parks and other community spaces. The unknown, unregulated crowds could undo the hard work the country’s health care system has put in to curb the pandemic. The world will be watching Bundesliga like never before.