Bundesliga's Return Displays "New Reality" Of Live Sports
Germany's Bundesliga "resumed in unprecedented conditions" on Saturday, with Dortmund beating Schalke 4-0 in the "first Ruhr derby to be played in an empty stadium," according to Ciaran Fahey of the AP. Calls and shouts from coaching staff and players, plus the "thud of the sanitized ball being kicked, reverberated around the mainly deserted stands." Players were "warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging with the games keenly watched by the rest of the soccer world hoping to restart their own leagues." Team staff and players who did not start "wore masks," and substitutes "took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the field, while balls and seats were disinfected." Pre-game TV interviews "were conducted with long poles holding microphones and participants keeping their distance" (AP, 5/16). The AP's James Ellingworth wrote in Dortmund, it was "hard to tell that the city’s beloved team was playing at all." Outside the stadium "there was near silence." The club's Signal Iduna Park has an 81,000 capacity, but league rules "permit just 213 people, including players, to be inside for the game, none of them supporters" (AP, 5/16).
GOOD AND BAD: ESPN.com's Stephan Uersfeld noted Hertha Berlin players "did not observe the social-distancing instructions after each of their three goals, instead celebrating with a team embrace and other forms of physical contact." But "despite their disregard for protocol," the German Football League confirmed that the players will "escape without sanctions" (ESPN.com, 4/16). Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said that the league "remains on 'parole.'" But ESPN.com's Hamilton & Uersfeld wrote this weekend "was a hugely promising first step back as football negotiates its new reality" (ESPN.com, 4/16). REUTERS noted fans across the country "followed police orders to stay away from the stadiums" (REUTERS, 5/16).
A STAGE TO THEMSELVES: YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote the Bundesliga’s popularity "still lags far behind" England’s EPL and Spain’s LaLiga, and "perhaps even" Italy’s Serie A. But now, there is a "window when the Bundesliga is entirely without competition, when it has the spotlight of a fiercely competitive global soccer landscape to itself." Depending on "how long the layoff lasts elsewhere, there is a chance to capitalize." However, Saturday's Dortmund-Schalke match "felt less like a crackling derby than a leisurely preseason scrimmage" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/16). In N.Y., Rory Smith wrote by returning first, the Bundesliga "turned a problem into an opportunity." The league has, "for many years, sought to end the primacy" of the EPL in soccer’s global landscape. For a few weekends, the "eyes of the world will be on Germany" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/16).