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Soccer

Bundesliga restarts with no fans, Erling Haaland celebrates goal alone

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, center, and his teammates celebrate winning the German Bundesliga soccer match between Dortmund and Schalke in Dortmund, Germany, on Saturday.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, center, and teammates celebrate winning the German Bundesliga soccer match between Dortmund and Schalke in Dortmund, Germany, on Saturday.
(Martin Meissner / European Pressphoto Agency)

Erling Haaland scored the Bundesliga’s first goal in more than two months and then celebrated.

Alone.

The 19-year-old’s Borussia Dortmund teammates stayed away, mindful of the strict hygiene measures amid the coronavirus pandemic, as Germany’s soccer season resumed in unprecedented conditions on Saturday.

Dortmund defeated Schalke 4-0 in the first Ruhr derby to be played in an empty stadium. Calls and shouts from coaching staff and players, and the thud of the sanitized ball being kicked, reverberated around the mainly deserted stands.

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Players had been warned to keep their emotions in check, and to desist from spitting, handshakes and hugging, in a game keenly watched by the rest of the soccer world hoping to restart their own leagues.

The German Bundesliga will play its first matches Saturday since being shutdown in March because of the coronavirus outbreak. No fans will be attending.

Haaland celebrated his opening goal with a restrained dance as his teammates stayed back.

“It’s hard,” midfielder Julian Brandt said. “But that’s the way it is now. We try to stick to the rules.”

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Brandt set up Raphael Guerreiro before the break and Thorgan Hazard after it. Hazard celebrated alone in front of the Westfalenstadion’s south terrace, where normally the club’s “Yellow Wall” of almost 25,000 fervent fans would be standing.

Haaland set up Guerreiro to seal the result as Dortmund cut the gap on leader Bayern Munich to a point. Bayern is set to play at Union Berlin on Sunday.

Team staff, and players who didn’t start, wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the field as customary, while balls and seats were disinfected.

Pre-game television interviews were conducted with long poles holding microphones and participants keeping their distance.

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Empty seats are seen in the Signal Iduna Park without spectators  during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 in Dortmund, Germany on Sautrday.
Empty seats are seen in the Signal Iduna Park without spectators during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke in Dortmund, Germany on Sautrday.
(Heinz Buese / European Pressphoto Agency)

“It’s quite surreal,” Dortmund chief executive Hans Joachim Watzke told Sky TV. “I’ve received messages from all over the world in the last couple of hours that everybody is watching and then you go through the city and there’s nothing going on.”

In other games Saturday: Hertha Berlin won 3-0 at Hoffenheim in coach Bruno Labbadia’s first game in charge; Freiburg drew at Leipzig 1-1; Paderborn drew at Fortuna Dusseldorf 0-0; and Wolfsburg won 2-1 at Augsburg, where the home side’s new coach Heiko Herrlich was forced to watch from the stands after breaking quarantine to buy toiletries. Herrlich will only return after twice testing negative for the virus.

Celebrations were muted throughout, with only Hertha’s players appearing to overstep calls for restraint.

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They were the first games to be played in the league since March 11. Eintracht Frankfurt was due to host Borussia Monchengladbach later.

Earlier Saturday, the second division resumed with four games, also without fans present and amid strict distancing measures.

South Korea midfielder Lee Jae-sung scored the division’s first goal for Holstein Kiel in a 2-2 draw at Jahn Regensburg. He celebrated by giving teammates fist bumps.

Goal celebrations in other games were also marked by fist bumps and elbow-to-elbow touching.

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The game’s authorities were keen to restart the country’s top two divisions with several clubs, including Schalke, facing severe financial difficulties because of the suspension in play.

Numerous polls showed a growing majority in Germany were against the resumption of the leagues. Fans are also critical of games without supporters present.

MLS layers, team executives and league officials have all refused to speak publicly about how and when play might resume, but Orlando is rumored site.

“Soccer without fans is nothing,” read a joint statement from several Bayern Munich fan groups after the league decided on May 7 to resume.

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Cologne fans accused authorities Saturday of prioritizing money over people’s health. A banner at Augsburg’s game against Wolfsburg said, “Soccer will survive, your business is sick!”

There was criticism too from players.

Karlsruher SC midfielder Marc Lorenz told the Badische Neueste Nachrichten newspaper that the league hadn’t considered the health of the players “at all” in its rush to get back. He warned of fatigue leading to serious injuries.

Players and staff have been subjected to regular testing for COVID-19. There were three cases found at Cologne, while second-division Dynamo Dresden was ordered into 14 days of quarantine after two more cases brought its total to three last Saturday. Dresden’s game against Hannover on Sunday was called off, and the team cannot train during the quarantine period.


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