Coronavirus: Dynamo Dresden cases leave Bundesliga restart in the balance | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 10.05.2020
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Coronavirus: Dynamo Dresden cases leave Bundesliga restart in the balance

Fixture congestion, potential health and injury risks, not to mention distortion of the competition - but the DFL insists that two new coronavirus cases at Dynamo Dresden will not throw the Bundesliga restart off course.

Christian Seifert, the chief executive of the German Football League (DFL), was just preparing to leave the house to appear on a weekly sports program for Germany's public broadcaster ZDF when he received the news from Dresden.

Following a third round of coronavirus tests, two players at second-division side Dynamo Dresden had tested positive for COVID-19. The local health authorities had ordered the entire first-team squad and coaching staff into isolation for 14 days – just one week ahead of the planned resumption of Germany's top two divisions.

"For the time being, this is still no reason to cast doubt on the continuation of the second division," Seifert insisted upon arrival at the television studio in Mainz.

"Out of 81 games, two are affected," said the 51-year-old, who has carefully and skillfully led the DFL's negotiations with politicians and stakeholders over the past two months. "But obviously, there will be a certain number [of games] where it becomes no longer possible."

The DFL's meticulous hygiene concept for the controversial restart envisages only infected players being quarantined but Seifert has always insisted that the final decision lies with local health authorities. And in Dresden, where the players had taken part in two "full contact" training sessions since Thursday, it was decided that all first-team personnel must go into isolation.

"We're not changing our goal, only the plans," said Seifert, who added he wasn't surprised that such a scenario had occurred, despite the hygiene measures in place. "I don't see it as a setback. It was clear that this could happen, and our fixture list allows for such eventualities."

It will be a long time before football fans return to the stadium

It will be a long time before football fans return to the stadium

Sporting ramifications

Dynamo, last in the second division table, will now be unable to train or play their scheduled matches against Hannover (May 17) or Greuther Fürth (May 24). Even their game scheduled for midweek on May 27 against Arminia Bielefeld is in doubt given that Dynamo will have been unable to train.

With the DFL insisting the season be completed by June 30, after which around 100 players in the top-two divisions will be out of contract, Dynamo face the prospect of having to play all nine remaining matches Sunday to Wednesday in the space of just one month.

Not only would this significantly increase the risk of injury to players, it would also put the club at a competitive disadvantage, with the Saxony-based side scheduled to face direct relegation-rivals Wiesbaden on April 7. It could also have a knock-on effect at the top of the league with Dynamo due to play Hamburg and Stuttgart, as well as Bielefeld, all three of whom are fighting for promotion.

"In the last few weeks, we have put enormous effort in terms of logistics and personnel into implementing the prescribed medical and hygiene measures," said Dynamo's director for sport Ralf Minge. "Fact is that we can't train or compete in the next 14 days."

There is no evidence to suggest that Dynamo Dresden's players or staff acted inappropriately but, after a recent Facebook video by Hertha Berlin forward Salomon Kalou showed players fist bumping and not practicing social distancing, the general degree of adherence to the DFL's strict hygiene concept has been questioned.

"I was extremely angry," said Seifert when asked about his initial reaction to Kalou's video. "Hundreds of people have put tens of thousands of hours into [the concept] in the past two months in order to get us to this point where it's possible to even consider continuing.

"I hope it was an isolated incident. But the public reaction to it should serve as a final warning to those who are still flippant."

Divided opinion, concerned players

Public opinion on football returning in Germany remains divided. A recent DW survey showed that almost half (49 percent) are against a continuation of the Bundesliga season, while a ZDF poll this weekend revealed that figure to now be over half (54 percent). Organized supporter groups and ultras have also made their position clear.

Some dissenting voices have also been heard among players. Cologne midfielder Birger Verstraete complained about his club's handling of the crisis in an interview with Belgian media, while Union Berlin defender Neven Subotic said he believes the leagues are restarting "too early." On Sunday, Sören Bertram, a striker with third-division team Magdeburg, said he thought players were being treated like "puppets."

"We have to take these fears and worries, seriously, and we do," said Seifert. "For the players, it's no different to other people who still have to go to work every day, but as long as the rules are adhered to, the risk of infection is extremely low.

"But these are absolutely legitimate feelings which we shouldn't ignore."

After two months of meticulous planning, lobbying and effort to reduce risks to a minimum, the Bundesliga is preparing to restart. The general secretary of global players' union FIFPro recently admitted that one coronavirus case could shut down the Bundesliga season. The arrival of two new COVID-19 cases leaves the prospect of German football resuming in the balance.