Bundesliga games under threat as clamour to scrap rest of season grows in face of spreading coronavirus pandemic

Calls to scrap the rest of the Bundesliga season are growing as Europe struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The Associated Press March 12, 2020 19:20:33 IST
Bundesliga games under threat as clamour to scrap rest of season grows in face of spreading coronavirus pandemic
  • There will be eight rounds of games remaining in both divisions of the Bundesliga after this weekend.

  • There were almost 2,100 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Germany on Thursday, with three deaths.

  • Rhine derby between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne became the first Bundesliga game held without fans amid the outbreak.

Berlin: Calls to scrap the rest of the Bundesliga season are growing as Europe struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

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File image of Bayern Munich players celebrating a goal. AFP

This weekend’s games in Germany are all to be played without fans, while it’s likely that all games in the second division will be in empty stadiums, too.

“Football without people is not football for us,” said Union Berlin president Dirk Zingler, whose next two games — against Bayern Munich on Saturday and at city rival Hertha Berlin a week later — will be without fans.

There will be eight rounds of games remaining in both divisions after this weekend.

But Erzgebirge Aue’s game against visiting SV Sandhausen on Saturday was likely to be called off after the home team said on Thursday that two of its fans attending the Saxony derby at Dynamo Dresden the previous weekend had tested positive for the virus.

“I’m assuming that it won’t be possible to play to the end of the season,” Aue president Helge Leonhardt told news agency dpa on Wednesday, when Hannover player Timo Hübers became the first in Germany to test positive for the virus.

Also on Wednesday, the German football federation postponed the next two rounds in the third division.

“We find ourselves in exceptional circumstances with new developments almost every hour,” federation general secretary Friedrich Curtius said. “One thing is clear — health stands above everything else.”

There were almost 2,100 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Germany on Thursday, with three deaths from the disease. Italy reported 827 deaths, Spain 55 and France 48.

Wednesday’s Rhine derby between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne became the first Bundesliga game held without fans amid the outbreak.

“It’s no fun. It’s not nice, either,” said Gladbach coach Marco Rose after the 2-1 win. “Football without fans is not the football we want.”

Referee Deniz Aytekin was also critical.

“There’s something missing and massively so. I can only hope that this isn’t something for the long term,” Aytekin said. “Without fans it’s not worth half as much.”

Hundreds of Gladbach supporters gathered outside the stadium to cheer their team from afar and then celebrate afterward, somewhat defeating the purpose of not letting them in.

“The measures are absurd if fans gather in front of stadiums, like in Valencia this week before the game against Atalanta or in Paris for the game against Borussia Dortmund,” Bayern ultras Club No 12 said on Thursday in a statement.

The Bayern fans urged the federation to cancel all games “immediately” and criticised the current measures as insufficient.

The federation has already said Germany’s friendly against Italy in Nuremberg on 31 March will go ahead without fans in attendance.

Cologne sporting director Horst Heldt questioned why the game was being played at all — a decision he said was “madness” — and he criticized soccer’s governing bodies for not being more proactive in dealing with the threat of the virus.

“FIFA and UEFA should come out of the woodwork and not hide,” said Heldt, who proposed putting the European Championship back by a year. “That would give us all a bit of breathing space.”

The Bundesliga’s clubs are to meet for an extraordinary general meeting with the country’s football authorities to discuss ongoing measures on Monday.

“We’re not at the end of developments,” Hertha general manager Michael Preetz said. “There will be more news, reports and decisions made in the coming days. We shouldn’t succumb to hysteria. Everyone’s health comes first.”

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