Behind the Scenes of Bundesliga's Closed Doors

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Last weekend the Bundesliga made a triumphant return to sports amid the coronavirus pandemic. SI's Brian Straus details the effort that went into the successful comeback.

Robin Lundberg: The resumption of the Bundesliga marked a significant return for sports. And for more, I'm joined by our Brian Strauss for today's Daily Cover. Brian, you got to talk to some of the members of FC Shaulk 04. What was it like for them but behind closed doors as they got ready for this? 

Brian Straus: It was surreal, it was surreal for them starting on the trip to the stadium. This is the biggest rivalry in German soccer. And these stadiums were only like 20 miles apart. So it's a real backyard brawl behind, you know, between these two very traditional clubs. And they were talking about how even on the trip there, they're used to seeing fans on the road, fans congregating around the stadium bottleneck. You know, Western McKenny, the U.S. national team midfielder who plays for Shakar, you know, said, you know, you get fingers, you get beer bottles and end. It was dead. It was dead quiet, dead silent, you know, playing in an 80,000 seat stadium, being able to hear yourself talk and think and, you know, hearing the ball hit the foot or hit the pole. It was just really, really strange day. And it didn't look like Shaulke was ready. They lost for nothing, but it was the price they had to pay to get the games back playing. They're not going to be fans for a while. And this was the only way the Germans could do it.

Robin Lundberg:  How was the Bundesliga able to return so quickly relative to two other sports?

Brian Straus: Germany's handled the pandemic so much better than other countries. They have a third to a quarter of the death toll that the other big countries in Europe have. Europe's other big leagues. Spain and Italy and France, which has already canceled the rest of their season. And then here, you know, we're debating drinking Windex. You know, we're not even close to getting back to playing sports at home stadiums. So they handled it well right from the start. They had a real they had a very comprehensive, detailed plan that covered everything from when the ball boy should be in the stadium. Checking the temperature of TV people coming into the stadium. Everything about, you know, what zone at the stadium, how many minutes before kickoff. Who could be there? Who was allowed to be there? Everybody wearing masks except the players and referees. It was very comprehensive and detailed. And they had total buy-in from all the clubs, all the players. The players went into full quarantine a week before the match, and they have all been disciplined and committed to getting this right. And it worked. You know, no problems. After the first week, all the Bundesliga and second league games were played and everything looked like it went well.

Robin Lundberg:  Hopefully that is a good omen, both for the Bundesliga and the rest of sports as they try to make a return. Brian, appreciate your time, as always.