The German Bundesliga, the first major European soccer league to come back from the two-month COVID-19 suspension, will resume play in empty stadiums — and on U.S. television — this weekend. But as Christian Seifert, head of the country’s soccer association, made clear in a news conference Thursday, the league’s return shouldn’t be seen as a return to normal.
“We are playing on parole and every match day is a chance to prove that we deserve the next one,” said Seifert whose teams were averaging 43,300 a game before the pandemic stopped play.
Stadiums this weekend will be limited to fewer than 215 people, including players, staff and journalists. Strict hygiene and social-distancing practices will be observed, as will other regulations detailed in a 51-page medical plan that will guide match operations.
Not everyone in Germany agrees parole is warranted with a public opinion poll released two weeks ago showing just one-third of those surveyed believe soccer should return behind closed doors while nearly half — 49% — opposed the idea. As of midday Friday, Germany ranked seventh in the world with more than 173,000 reported COVID-19 cases and eighth in deaths with 7,824.
But just as the country began opening up, localized outbreaks in the last week has the government considering the reinstatement of restrictions. It is against that background that games will resume with six games on Saturday, headed by the Dortmund-Schalke Revierderby (FS1, Fox Deportes, 6:30 a.m. PDT). That game, to be played before an empty Yellow Wall in Dortmund, will feature a clash of rising American players in Dortmund teenager Gio Reyna and Schalke’s Weston McKennie.
Other Bundesliga matches to be broadcast on U.S. television Saturday include Leipzig-Freiburg (FS2, TUDN, 6:30 a.m. PDT) and Frankfurt-Monchengladbach (FS1, TUDN, 9:30 a.m. PT). On Sunday, Cologne will play visiting Mainz (FS1, Fox Deportes, 6:30 a.m. PDT) and league-leading Bayern Munich will travel to Union Berlin (FS1, TUDN, UniMas, 9 a.m. PDT).