Bundesliga's return a momentous day which lacked magic - but does that really matter?

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Dortmund's Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland (L) celebrates with team players after scoring the opening goal during the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v Schalke 04 on May 16, 2020

Image credit: Getty Images

ByMichael Hincks
16/05/2020 at 19:43 | Updated 17/05/2020 at 10:18

German football’s rush to return divided opinion, and while Bundesliga’s resumption may have lacked atmosphere, the results were no less significant – writes Michael Hincks.

The Bundesliga's return...


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It was great.

It was terrible.

Live football. Actual live football. On my television.

Live football? Great… It was a bit meh if you ask me.

No fans, but that was okay, some of the football was still quality.

No fans! It was soulless, the lack of atmosphere was awful, and the quality was poor.

Dortmund were great. Gladbach looked decent too. Not bad after a 61-day break.

Schalke were woeful. Leipzig looked limp. What were they doing during that 61-day break?


'We knew we had the support at home' - Haaland on Dortmund fans


Whether you loved or loathed the Bundesliga’s return to action, there is no getting away from the fact May 16, 2020 will go down as an historical day for football. The day a major European league returned to action amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Bundesliga is back but without fans

Image credit: Getty Images

We can at least all agree it was weird. Can't we?

The experienced armchair fan among us will have watched matches on television behind closed doors before. Maybe a home side were being punished for racist chants, or perhaps tensions in the city led to a game without supporters. But this occasion was different.

As football enters uncharted territory in its bid to resume amid a global crisis, here was a league looking to settle matters on the pitch while cancelled divisions across the continent brace themselves for legal battles off it.

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With this desire to play professional football once more, there was of course strange moments few will ever forget.

The lack of pre-match handshakes. The mask-wearing, social-distancing substitutes. The option to use five substitutes. The interviews from afar. The disinfecting of the footballs. The sound of the ball hitting the net in an empty 80,000-seater stadium.

But then there were moments where the lack of atmosphere, and general weirdness of it all, made no difference.

Erling Haaland’s opener for Dortmund was no less well-worked. Renato Steffen’s header for Wolfsburg was still superb. Freiburg’s injury-time goal being ruled out by VAR was undeniably dramatic. Martin Hinteregger was just, quite simply, outstanding (see below). So too Julian Brandt's pass (see below below) and overall performance. Oh, and did you see Matheus Cunha's goal? (See below... below... below...)

The lack of supporters will likely go down as the major talking point once the weekend is over, but ultimately, come Monday, the Bundesliga will be one round closer to finishing properly. One round closer to the league being decided as it should be.

That will please both owners and league officials alike, while the powers that be in the Premier League and La Liga may well have enjoyed what they saw on Saturday too. One also wonders what those in France, Belgium and the Netherlands thought, if watching, knowing their own top tier will only restart when the new season does.

There may be further bumps along the way, but this decision to rush the Bundesliga back has been one step forward on the road to completion.

And in this business based on results, we now look to Sunday where Bayern Munich must respond to Dortmund’s convincing win, while on Monday we’ll take in Bayer Leverkusen’s attempts to make it a five-horse race against struggling Werder Bremen.

All of a sudden, we’re talking about footballing concerns again, and while it may be trivial in the grand scheme of a global pandemic, it is still refreshing to discuss, while for many this has been a chance to learn about a new league while they wait for their favourite to resume – be it in June, or later this year.

Celebrations in 2020

Image credit: Eurosport

Saturday was a learning curve for all, and a glimpse as to what ‘normal’ will be when watching football for the remainder of 2020.

But it is only temporary, and only adds to that giddy excitement of how it will feel when supporters can safely return to stadiums.

When the time comes, it will be magical, and while we wait, there’s always television.


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