THE BUNDESLIGA IS BACK, BABY
The first of Europe’s major leagues to restart after being shut down by the Covid-19 crisis more than two months ago, Germany’s top-flight footballers are ready to take their first tentative steps back into something vaguely resembling normality this weekend. To give you an idea of just how far ahead of Blighty our Teutonic cousins are when it comes to emerging slowly from lockdown, it’s worth noting that citizens of Berlin are currently able to visit their local barber shop to get a short back and sides before adjourning to their local cafe for a flat white. The Fiver, meanwhile, has barely left the crawlspace it calls home for eight weeks and recently found a nest of mice residing in the involuntary bouffant we’re cautiously optimistic will win us first prize in tonight’s inaugural neighbourhood Art Garfunkel lookalike competition on Zoom.
International interest in the Bundesliga will be unprecedented, so much so that English football hipsters who have pretended to like it for years might even be found tuning in out of curiosity. The powers that be in the Premier League will certainly be watching carefully, nervous in the knowledge that if their ruthlessly efficient German counterparts prove incapable of running elite behind-closed-doors football matches without too many hitches or threats to player safety, the chances of a comparatively disorganised English rabble doing so could scarcely be more slim.
While the 20 Premier League clubs have been busily squabbling over their different interests in a series of largely unproductive conference calls, the Bundesliga’s guinea pigs have been busily training for the past month, pausing occasionally to be tested for Covid-19. Crowds will be absent and group goal celebrations will be verböten, while strict hygiene remains a priority. Indeed, spare a thought for Heiko Herrlich who will be forced to sit out his first match in charge of Augsburg, who face Wolfsburg, after breaking strict quarantine rules to go on an emergency toothpaste run to the nearest supermarket. “Even though I followed all hygiene measures both when I left the hotel and otherwise, I cannot undo this,” he sighed. “In this situation I did not live up to my role model function towards my team and the public. I will therefore be consistent and stand by my mistake. Because of this mistake I will not lead training and I will not coach the team in the match on Saturday.”
There remains plenty to play for at both ends of the German top flight and The Fiver is unlikely to be alone among football-starved fans settling down to watch Borussia Dortmund take on Schalke in Saturday afternoon’s Revierderby. A win for Dortmund, who The Fiver used to like before they became too mainstream, will reduce Bayern Munich’s lead to a point before their first game back on Sunday. Despite being away from home and almost certainly ring rusty, the champions are white-hot favourites to see off Union Berlin, the current hipsters’ club of choice, who the world’s most tea-timely email has been supporting since 11.15am this morning. Like The Fiver, they might be poor but they are $exy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We are shocked that there are obviously third parties who are willing to break into our club premises with criminal energy in order to carry out industrial espionage. The perpetrators were filmed and are now being investigated” – Lask suit Andreas Protil doubles down after the club were accused by 11 of their Austrian Bundesliga rivals of holding training sessions – caught on film – that break coronavirus rules.
“I’m honestly not worried that football might not return too soon. But I am rather concerned that Soulmates is ending. And so, just for these last few weeks, can we please have the ads back? Even if none of the featured ladies would ever find me remotely interesting or attractive” – Tony Crawford [here you go – Fiver Ed].
“So, with the return of the Bundesliga this weekend (and to a lesser extent, the K-League and Faroe Islands ‘Premier’ League last weekend), the STOP FOOTBALL campaign has juddered to a halt. Overdue, ineffective, inadvertently hilarious at times, grimly unfunny at others and ultimately a failure … pretty much on-brand for a Fiver-backed initiative, wouldn’t you say?” – Derek McGee.
“Re: random football matches in films (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Not a film, I know, but in the 1979 series of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John Standing’s character Sam Collins has an Ipswich v Arsenal match on while lazing around in his capacity of night duty officer. Paul Mariner is mentioned by the great Barry Davies as being his ‘man of the match’” – Tony Kitson.
“With no other football on, are we really going to have to pretend to care about the Bundesliga? The last time I watched German football, the double Ballon d’Or star striker of title winners HSV Hamburg thought this was a good idea. Top 40 in the UK and Top 10 in Germany, by the way” – Noble Francis.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Sarah Rodgers [thanks for your mail even if we couldn’t publish it – Fiver Prude Ed].
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
League Two clubs have agreed to end the current season, paving the way for Crewe, Swindon and Plymouth to be promoted. The decision is yet to be ratified by the Football League and FA, but clubs are still keen to hold play-offs for the final promotion place.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has called on the Premier League to allow free-to-air coverage and offer financial support to “the wider football family”, presumably amid howls of laughter from top-flight HQ.
Troy Deeney, the Premier League’s own minister for straight talking, has hit back at the planned restart. “I’m not going to put my family at risk,” he said. “What are they going to do, take money off me? I’ve been broke before so it doesn’t bother me.”
Uefa chief Aleksander Ceferin thinks that “at least 80%” of European leagues will finish the current season. Ceferin also expects this season’s Big Cup to be completed, and for next season’s tournament to run as usual.
And 86-year-old defender Vitorino Hilton has signed on for another year in Ligue Urrrrrn with Montpellier. “This is the most beautiful contract because I think it will be my last,” he cheered.
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