No handshakes; no mascots; no child escorts and no team photos either before the start of a match: Is this even a football match we are talking about?
But yes, these guidelines are for Germany’s Bundesliga which started again last week after a break of over 60 days caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which made the world go on a half-time break.
Few days ago, German club Hertha Berlin suspended its Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou for flouting the guidelines. The forward posted a video on social media in which he was seen shaking hands, clapping, fist-bumping with his teammates and also complaining about wage cuts. He later apologised.
Unusual times call for unusual measures.
Germany has close to 1,79,000 coronavirus cases out of which 1,58,000 have recovered, according to Worldometer. It recorded 8,270 deaths and currently has 12,261 active cases. However, the number of cases have declined in past few weeks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected the financial stability of clubs and they were desperate to complete the league to bag the $300 million kitty coming from television contract.
Restarting the league was only possible because of an elaborate set of safety guidelines prepared by the Deutsche Football Liga, an organisation that runs the Bundesliga.
What are these guidelines that made football return to where it belongs? Let’s take a look:
The guidelines say both teams should not arrive at the same time at the stadium. The players and staff must maintain a distance of 1.5m and wear masks. The buses should be disinfected. The players of the home team are encouraged to use personal cars but no carpooling.
Once they reach the stadium, the guidelines say the players must use different entry points, if possible, to avoid contact. The rules book says changing rooms should be used in a staggered manner and if extra rooms are available they should be put in use. Players must wear masks when they are in the dressing room and the time spent in there should be restricted to 40 minutes.
When the match begins the players are not allowed to shake hands before the match, a pre-match tradition unimaginable to not have. Child escorts, pre-match team photos, and arranging of teams into groups will not be allowed. Everyone except those on the pitch will have to wear mask. Balls must be disinfected before and during the game. Players and the coaching staff will have to sit at every 2nd or 3rd bench to maintain a distance of 1.5 metre.
The post-match press conferences will be organised virtually. Hand sanitisers will be provided to both teams.
Team meals should be prepared by the team chefs in advance and brought to the stadium. Third-party caterers should not be used. Social distance should be maintained by the players while eating. Spas to remain closed and individual showers are recommended.
Training should always take place without visitors. Players and other staff must be informed about the symptoms of the novel coronavirus infection.
Obligatory confirmation of symptom-free status should be sent to the hygiene officer before entering the training premises. Team meetings should be held in large spaces with good ventilations. Two tests every day before training for five days before the match day.
Borussia Dortmund vs FC Schalke highlights
Training staff should be as small as possible and they should have the hotel exclusively for them or exclusive floor/area to prevent contact with other hotel guests.
Cleaning of rooms will not be done until the team in the hotel to avoid contact with the hotel staff. Sufficient towels, sanitary equipments will be provided to prevent contact. Players should not touch lift buttons, door handles, stair handrails with their bare hands.
What if a player tests positive
The player must report to the team doctor and immediately go for self-isolation. If the player is asymptomatic, he can carry out personal training at home after consulting the team doctor. Other general rules must be followed as well.
The next round of matches will take place on 23 May, 2020. Other major leagues around the world are still contemplating what their future course of action should be. Bundesliga might show the way in bringing the beautiful game back to the pitch.