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DORTMUND — When soccer clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund meet on the pitch it’s called “The Classic,” and it’s a big deal in German soccer.
The success of Germany’s lockdown means alongside shops, restaurants, and museums, soccer is now back on the pitch. And that means means Bayern and Dortmund can finally battle it out for top of the league.
If you think fans would be happy, you’re wrong. The rules governing soccer’s return ban all fans from attending games.
“Without fans, it's not football. Football lives from the fans,” said Aymen Gabsi, a die-hard Dortmund supporter.
Sports journalist Sebastian Wessling, is one of the lucky few allowed in the stadium. He told VICE News the matches have been branded “geister-spiele,” or ghost games.
The players are also adapting to a new reality. “There's no handshakes. Even if they celebrate goals, they're supposed not to hug, not to touch” Wessling said.
As meeting people from more than one other household is still strictly ”verboten,” most supporters are watching the game at home. But the Dortmund fan club “Totale Offensive” has a solution: a socially distanced viewing for 30 people in a hall designed for 150.
“For me I miss the feeling in the stadium,” said fan club member and season ticket holder Benjamin Sohn.
Unfortunately the game didn't go well for Sohn — Dortmund lost by a goal.
“We would have had a chance had our fans been there. But there's nothing to do about it now,” he said.
Dortmund’s supporters may not be happy, but the Bundesliga is expanding its viewership. Sports leagues all over the world, like the NFL, are watching Germany’s experiment. It’s at least been encouraging enough for soccer leagues in Italy, Spain, and the U.K. to restart their seasons in June.
“I think there's a lot that can be replicated,” Wessling said. “But I think the most important thing is always that the pandemic is under control, wherever you want to play.”
Cover: Soccer players of both teams play the game in front of empty spectator stands (Photo by Marcel Kusch/picture alliance via Getty Images)