The German Bundesliga on Saturday became the first of the major European soccer leagues to make a return after the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports across the globe, but it didn’t exactly pick up where it left off.
Things looked a little different because, of course, resuming the season amid COVID-19 concerns means extra precautions were taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Especially after a few of its players tested positive for the virus leading up to the first matchday since March.
Between not having fans and social distancing efforts, the welcomed return of the Bundesliga was also a bit of a weird scene.
Let’s just say, elite European soccer is just not the same without fans. Especially a league that’s normally so accessible to fans, as the Bundesliga is. Rather than the sound of chants and vuvuzelas from the crowd, you could hear echos of the players communication on the field loud and clear.
Still, as tradition, after Borussia Dortmund defeated Schalke 04, its players played tribute to the “Yellow Wall,” or the would-be section of their fans behind the goal that would be there during normal times.
Dortmund players still went to the Yellow Wall (normally 25k fans) and applauded the empty stand as a symbol of their appreciation and thoughts for the fans. ?? pic.twitter.com/edBQORGe84
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) May 16, 2020
It's not the same without the Yellow Wall ? pic.twitter.com/WRPDAPn5pf
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 16, 2020
It’s weird without fans and it’s not as good and it’s a bit surreal but…I enjoyed seeing some score a goal. The moment where you think there’s a chance, the finish, the sound of the ball hitting the net: it made me smile. And that’s kind of what we’re all in it for, really.
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) May 16, 2020
Maybe it wasn’t the same without fans, but it sure beats nothing at all. Admittedly, rebroadcasts of games only move the needle so much. For soccer fans, there’s really nothing like posting up on the couch with a cup of coffee for a Saturday morning of futebol.
And while things were different from a fan perspective, imagine being one of the players or staffers in attendance?
On the bench were reserves from every team donning face masks and sitting a few feet apart from each other. And post-game media interviews weren’t your usual scrum of reporters suffocating players with their recorders.
It’s a good job Dortmund’s subs are sitting two metres apart and wearing face masks. Just hope none of them get sent onto the field with 21 other men, who aren’t wearing masks, and asked to get within two metres of another player. #Bundesliga #Revierderby #BVB pic.twitter.com/2fUXR3jZy5
— Sport Social (@TheSportSocial) May 16, 2020
Dortmund and Schalke's subs social distancing. pic.twitter.com/M0QCN8jX6T
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 16, 2020
Post-match interviews in a new football world ? pic.twitter.com/AFoOnOwkTO
— Goal (@goal) May 16, 2020
Social distancing efforts led to some pretty strange goal celebrations, too, with elbow bumps and awkward dancing.
— Jennifer Orji (@JENNYKOKOMEDIA1) May 16, 2020
— Nancy Grace ❤️ (@RihannaTema) May 16, 2020
— Simon Phillips (@SiPhillipsSport) May 16, 2020
The social distancing celebration thing seemed a little strange to some fans, especially the ones being reminded that soccer is very much a contact sport.
No hugging or shaking hands during a goal celebration.
Yet players will inevitably grab eachother during corners. pic.twitter.com/BRtdEWSI8e
— Andres (@andrespgrm) May 16, 2020
— Troll F̶o̶o̶t̶b̶a̶l̶l̶ Bundesliga (@TrollFootball) May 16, 2020
The good news is, the bizarreness continues Sunday and Monday with three more matches, so maybe we’ll get used to sports during COVID-19 times soon.