The German Bundesliga will resume behind closed doors on Saturday week, 16 May.
And the biggest game of the day will be the Rohr derby between Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund in Gelsenkirchen. Normally there would be upwards of 60,000 at this one, but only around 300 people, including players, staff and officials, will be in or around the stadiums during matchdays, so it’s going to be an eerily silent edition of what is normally a raucous, colourful and boisterous occasion.
Alphonso Davies’ Bayern lead the table, as usual, four points clear, and resume with an away game at Union Berlin on Sunday 17th.
Most teams have nine games to play, with the final weekend of the season rescheduled for 27-28 June, making from opening to closing a span of 7 weeks.
The league has been suspended since 13 March; clubs returned to training in mid-April with players working out in groups.
The German Football Association (DFB) said the season would resume under strict health protocols that bans fans from the stadium and requires players to have Covid-19 testing.
At a news conference today Christian Seifert, chief executive of the German Football League (DFL) said despite the empty stands and other restrictions, “it was crucial to resume play”.
There have been a total of 12 players testing positive in the top two divisions following two series of coronavirus tests.
Seifert said: “The interest is big. I see reports from across the world that we are the first major league to return. This can only happen because we have the privilege to live in one of the most modern health systems in the world.
“The matches will feel different. After the first matchday, we will all know why we prefer games with fans. But that is the framework we have to operate in and I expect the best possible sport within this framework.”
This adds pressure to other governments to allow national leagues dependent on TV money rather than gate receipts to resume. The English Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ has already been working on a plan to safely bring football back and the Bundesliga decision will place the UK government under pressure to follow suit. But Covid-19 deaths and stats in England are at much higher levels than we’ve seen from Germany.
The other two leagues (Spain & Italy) from the big four mainly dependent on TV will also be keen to take their lead from Germany and will be watching the situation with keen interest.
Switching back to the Bundesliga, Alphonso Davies has been taking time out from his new-found TikTok fame to talk about the resumption of football in his adopted country.
“Trying to resume matches on the 9th, I think that’s their way of saying they know the players are safe.
“Coming back to the first training session, it was like going back to school again.
“Being inside for almost two weeks and not seeing anyone – just seeing them on video – it was good to see everyone again, run around and kick a ball.”
The Canadian youngster went on to explain what some of the sessions comprised of.
“We start training about 10:15 in individual groups of about six. We do our assignments for that day. We don’t high five or fist pump each other – instead try to keep a safe distance.
“We don’t have set-pieces, but are just getting back our touches and fitness, some passing, some shooting, some running. It keeps us in shape.
“Keeps us getting ready for when they say if we’re going to play or not. As of now, we’re just trying to keep fit.
“We get the training done, go home, shower and stay at home”