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German soccer’s Bundesliga gets underway after coronavirus shutdown – with noticeable changes


Rain clouds draw over the stadium Veltins Arena and the rolled out pitch of Bundesliga club FC Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Despite a ban in Germany on all large gatherings through the end of August to fight the coronavirus pandemic, soccer officials are hoping to restart the league without spectators in May. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

(CBS) — Millions of sports fans will be watching their first live game in months when Germany’s Bundesliga plays its opening game on Saturday. As the first major sports league in the world to return during the coronavirus pandemic, some hope it could provide a roadmap for the U.S.’ major leagues – the NFL, NBA, MLB and others.

“Every little thing about what Germany has done should be watched very closely by U.S. sports,” Grant Wahl, a leading soccer journalist and author of “Masters of Modern Soccer,” told CBS News’ Roxana Saberi.

Many Bundesliga teams resumed training in April after regular games were sidelined in March over COVID-19 and players were sent into quarantine.

One team, Dynamo Dresden, has already had to delay its start after two players tested positive for the virus and forced the entire team into a 14-day lockdown.

The return to the pitch will have some noticeable changes, starting with teams’ entrances. A single team will have to ride in on multiple busses to observe social distancing rules.

At games, coaches and substitutes not in play will have to wear face masks.

Players on the field have been told they can make physical contact as part of the game, but the hugging and celebratory embraces that come with scoring a goal are no longer allowed.

“We have to think about this, what we could do, because sometimes automatically you go to your teammate to celebrate the goal,” Robert Lewandowski, striker for Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich team, said.

The stands will also be noticeably quiet, with live fans banned for the rest of the season. Some will be paying to have cardboard cutouts of themselves sitting in stadiums instead.

“We of course will miss spectators, and therefore of course it’s important, but it’s not the time for wishes and dreams,” said Carsten Cramer, managing director of the team Borussia Dortmund.

Although soccer fans may be excited, opinions in Germany are split. As the country eases its strict pandemic lockdown, a recent poll suggests just over half of respondents oppose the return of soccer matches.

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