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Football: German league restart draws global audiences

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BERLIN: The Bundesliga drew bumper global audiences for its restart at the weekend behind closed doors, but a top league official said the players will be reminded to maintain social distancing even during goal celebrations.

Germany's top-flight became the first top European league to resume after a two-month hiatus, behind closed doors and surrounded by draconian hygiene measures.

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But despite the restrictions, the weekend's matches passed off without problems.

Players and staff were regularly tested for the COVID-19 virus in the weeks before the games, while the small number of accredited officials and media members had their temperatures checked before being allowed into stadiums.

Police fears that fans would gather outside the grounds did not materialise.

"There was a big sense of relief," the CEO of the international arm of the Bundesliga, Robert Klein, told AFP and other media Monday.

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"We want to finish the season, but are aware there is a big responsibility that we do this correctly.

"There was an enthusiasm to see top-flight football again.

"Someone said to me, 'it looks like the eyes of the world are on the Bundesliga' and I think that was true.

"We were trending in Colombia, Ghana, South Africa and Asia."

'ROLLERCOASTER'

Borussia Dortmund's Norwegian striker Erling Braut Haaland showed he had lost nothing of his power in the two-month hiatus as he scored the first goal of Saturday's restart in the 4-0 hammering of rivals Schalke.

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Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland celebrates in front of empty terraces in Saturday's 4-0 win over Schalke. (AFP/Martin Meissner)

Pay-per-view broadcaster Sky reported a record audience of six million viewers in Germany for Saturday's matches, after making some matches available for free.

The overall global figure is expected later this week.

With fans currently starved of live football due to the pandemic, the viewing figures recorded for the Dortmund v Schalke match in football-mad Mexico, Brazil, Italy and Argentina were far higher than normal.

In the UK, broadcaster BT Sports had a peak figure of 652,000 for that same match – a respectable figure when compared with the channel's best-ever Premier League audience of 1.7 million for a Liverpool v Arsenal match in December 2018.

Klein described the last few weeks as "exhilarating, challenging … a rollercoaster" as the league got the detailed restart plans approved by the German government.

There were, however, a few glitches on Saturday.

Markus Soeder, the leader of the state of Bavaria, criticised Hertha Berlin's players for hugging to celebrate goals in their 3-0 win at Hoffenheim.

There were also hugs and handshakes in some other matches, breaching hygiene guidelines which the clubs have agreed to.

Hoffenheim coach Alfred Schreuder wore a mask on the sidelines during his side's defeat to Hertha Berlin. (AFP/THOMAS KIENZLE)

The German Football League (DFL) say those concerned will not be sanctioned, but Klein said the message will be reinforced.

"In the hygiene concept, there is a guideline to celebrate within the social distancing norms," Klein said.

"One can imagine" he added, that in the heat of the moment, for example "a goal being scored, that maybe sometimes they will get closer.

"I think the guidelines were generally well respected at the weekend.

"They are there for the clubs to implement. I am speakinRead More – Source