Professional soccer resumed in Germany after a two-month break, with four games in the second division on Saturday taking place behind closed doors. The games were the first since soccer was put on hold March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and they were played in empty stadiums amid strict hygiene measures. Goal celebrations were marked by fist bumps and elbow-to-elbow touching. Players had been warned to keep their emotions in check and to desist from spitting, handshakes, and hugging. All players and team staff who didn't start games wore masks. Substitutes took their positions in the stands, rather than beside the fields as customary. Balls and seats were disinfected, and players were handed masks as they left the field at halftime.
The game’s authorities were keen to restart the country's top two divisions as several clubs are facing severe financial difficulties because of the pandemic-enforced suspension in play. Numerous polls, however, showed a growing majority in Germany against the resumption of the leagues. Fans are also critical of games without supporters present. "Soccer without fans is nothing," read a joint statement from several Bayern Munich fan groups after the league decided on May 7 to resume. Cologne fans accused authorities Saturday of prioritizing money over people's health. There was criticism, too, from players. Karlsruher SC midfielder Marc Lorenz told local media that the league hadn't considered the health of the players "at all" in its rush to get back. He also warned of fatigue leading to serious injuries. Players and staff have been subjected to regular testing for COVID-19.
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