Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04 lock horns in quiet affair as big-ticket European football makes a comeback

Instead of thousands of fans chatting and drinking beer outside the stadium, there were only a few locals out for a weekend bike ride as Borussia Dortmund hosted Schalke in a normally fierce local rivalry.

The Associated Press May 16, 2020 20:07:26 IST
Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04 lock horns in quiet affair as big-ticket European football makes a comeback

Dortmund: Game day in the Bundesliga is a lot quieter than it used to be.

Instead of thousands of fans chatting and drinking beer outside the stadium, there were only a few locals out for a weekend bike ride as Borussia Dortmund hosted Schalke in a normally fierce local rivalry.

Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund FC Schalke 04 lock horns in quiet affair as bigticket European football makes a comeback

The Borussia Dortmund-FC Schalke match marked the return of top-flight football competition in Europe. AP

The German football league resumed Saturday after a two-month break due to the coronavirus, but with no fans in the stadiums.

The song You'll Never Walk Alone, a favorite of Dortmund fans as well as Liverpool supporters, echoed around the stadium ahead of kickoff and the starting whistle could be heard outside. The arena has an 81,000 capacity but league rules permit just 213 people, including players, to be inside for the game, none of them supporters.

In the city center ahead of the match, longtime Dortmund fan Marco Perz sat outside the German Football Museum in a jacket patched with club emblems. He said he hasn't missed a home game since the 1990s.

“I'd normally be on the South Stand right now, in the yellow wall,” he said, referring to the vast terrace which underpins Dortmund's reputation for passionate support. Now Perz is planning to watch the game with a friend over food and a beer. “The main thing is to see the game,” he added.

On the next street, face masks were on sale in Dortmund's yellow and black, with the stallholder saying they were the most popular on offer.

Local authorities had pleaded with fans not to mass outside the stadium.

“Anyone who stands in front of the stadium because they want to follow the game has got it wrong,” Dortmund mayor Ullrich Sierau said Wednesday. “It’s an appeal to the good sense of all fans, and I’m sure that the fans of both Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund are sensible people.”

Dortmund fan Nicole Bartelt said she would stay away from the stadium — which she called “the temple” — in the hope of showing fans could be trusted to return sooner rather than later for games.

If fans gather, “we'll end up waiting even longer to be back,” she said.

Police were spread along the road by the stadium in vans, on motorbikes and horseback. There have been clashes between fans at Dortmund-Schalke games before, but the police had little to do except remind TV crews to stand further away from each other as they filmed team buses arriving. One bus driver blasted out a Dortmund club song as he drove away.

Dortmund's last game was in an empty stadium too, but with big crowds outside.

Thousands of Paris Saint-Germain supporters gathered outside the Parc des Princes as their team beat Dortmund in the Champions League on 11 March.

Those scenes — and the decision of PSG players to sing along with the fans — showed that a game risks spreading the disease even without letting a single supporter into the arena. Similar scenes the same evening at a Bundesliga game between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne caused concern.

During the following two days, the German, English, French and Spanish leagues all opted to suspend competition rather than play in empty stadiums, at least for the time being.

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