German clubs resume training amid tight virus restrictions

Updated April 07, 2020

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MUNICH: Bayern Munich players try to keep a safe distance during their training session on Monday.—Reuters
MUNICH: Bayern Munich players try to keep a safe distance during their training session on Monday.—Reuters

BERLIN: Bundesliga clubs returned to team training on Monday, with players split in small groups or pairs and kept at a safe distance amid strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

German football has been suspended for almost a month and the German Football League (DFL) has said the ban will remain in place for the top divisions at least until April 30.Clubs, however, were given the all clear from their state authorities and the DFL to resume training this week, with champions Bayern Munich deciding to train players in small groups to minimise the risk of infection.

“Obviously all health guidelines are being adhered to,” the club said in a statement. “Obviously the training is closed to the public. FC Bayern are asking fans to continue following guidelines and please do not come to the team’s training centre.”

Keeping at least 1.5 metres from each other, players including captain Manuel Neuer, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller trained together for the first time since the Bundesliga was halted on March 13.

“It was a very unusual feeling to hold a training session in small groups, but it was also nice to see the boys in person again,” said Neuer after Bayern had previously held training sessions online.

After arriving at staggered times to limit contact -- with no greeting hugs or handshakes -- the 21-man squad was split into five groups, each containing a maximum of five players.

When they changed, the players were kept four metres apart in the changing rooms at the club’s state-of-the-art training complex in southern Germany.On the pitch, Bayern’s stars were careful to keep their distance from each other and there were no challenges or tackles.Once training was over, the players left to shower at home, where they ate food provided by the club in lunch boxes.

Other clubs also cautiously resumed training Monday, after the league’s ban on doing so until April 5 passed, amid hopes the league will resume in early May.Bayern are four points clear in the Bundesliga table.

At the training ground of their closest rivals Borussia Dortmund, the players also did not shower or eat on site after a session that focused on running and shooting.

Bottom club Paderborn also trained in small groups with coach Steffen Baumgart saying it was important for the players to be back on the pitch.

“It is important that players get the ball on their feet again,” Baumgart said. “That is why we have created the training sessions in such a way that ball activities are the focus.”

Weight and fitness sessions will be done individually, he said.Eintracht Frankfurt trained in pairs.The only clubs in Germany’s top flight not planning group training this week are Freiburg, whose players continue to work individually, and Werder Bremen, where the city’s senate still prevents training in groups.

Germany has seen the number of infected people rise above 100,000 this weekend and nearly 1,600 have died after testing positive for the virus that has forced the country into lockdown.

Despite the training resumption the DFL made it clear last week it was not known if or when the season would resume, and the stop in play has also had major financial effects on clubs.

Two weeks ago Dortmund, Bayern, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen came together to create a 20 million euros ($21.6 million) solidarity fund to help clubs in the top two tiers.Dortmund have also provided part of their Signal Iduna Park stadium for the treatment of suspected virus cases.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020