FOOTBALL AND COVID-19: A TALE OF TWO CONTRASTING WORLDS

German football has shown the world how sports and a global pandemic can co-exist and different countries have certainly followed suit.

Even if you have been living under a rock for the entirety of 2020, you must know how much devastation and heartbreak the Covid-19 pandemic has caused to the whole world; hundreds of lives have been lost, countless businesses have perished not to talk about the number of people who have fallen into depression.  But the crisis is gradually easing and life is slowly going back to normal and football is no doubt part of many people’s lives.

Several countries have responded to the continuation of sporting activities differently with some like France even voiding all sporting activities till September, however, the German football league (DFL) was the first major European country to resume its first and second division leagues (Bundesliga 1 and 2). Though after the approval from the government, the decision of the DFL was met with staunch criticism and out lash from politicians and some supporter groups who felt it was still very unsafe considering the interactions and physical contact involved in football and also believed the clubs were putting financial gains ahead of safety. To further compound the situation, some members of Bundesliga 2 team Dynamo Dresden were found to be positive for Covid-19 just few days to the restart of the league but the DFL handled the situation excellently by quarantining the entire team and postponing their matches. Furthermore, their handling of the league’s resumption has been nothing but top-notch, hence setting the template for the other European leagues to the follow.

The novelty of playing football without fans present in the stadium has definitely been strange for everyone involved but it also led to a record of number of television viewers who tuned to watch the matches. The fans no doubt have a huge role to play in football and this can be seen in the way the results of the home teams have been affected with only 3 teams winning at home after the first 22 matches in the Bundesliga 1. The cheering and protesting of the fans also incite and motivate the players accordingly either by arguing refereeing decisions, exaggerating fouls suffered, exuberant goal celebrations and time wasting techniques have been few or inexistent. Talking of goal celebrations, the DFL also provided strict guidelines on social distancing protocols to be followed by observing social distancing during these celebrations, during pre-match warm ups and even for substitutes on the bench, all these rules have been followed to the latter except perhaps for the goal celebrations where we have witnessed some players overwhelmed by the joy of the moment.

On the playing side, the first 2 weeks were played at a training tempo due to lack of match fitness and practice with a lot of muscle injuries suffered as well but the past weeks have been business as usual with the teams playing some high-tempo, entertaining and attacking football just like before the leagues were suspended.  Bayern Munich have tightened the grasp on the title with an 8 point lead after triumphing in the ‘’Der Klassiker’’ against bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund a few weeks back and are confident of securing their eighth consecutive title in the coming weeks.

The return of the leagues has been an absolute success, from the guidelines put in the place by the DFL to the sanitary discipline of the team not forgetting the quality of entertainment they are providing for many distressed fans across the world.   We will all therefore, be looking forward to a hitch-free completion of the league as well as the German Cup (DFB-POKAL).