More positive news on the global sports scene. A little over three months after the German Bundesliga became the first major European football league to successfully re-start its season, hopeful signs emerge from the country's capital that general templates for allowing fans back into sports venues can work.
|Photo: Seppalot13, CC BY-SA 3.0|
Bundesliga side 1. FC Union Berlin, in accordance with plans announced less than ten days ago, successfully executed plans to play a preseason friendly against 1. FC Nürnberg before thousands of live fans on Saturday. The club reported attendance of approximately 4,500, making the crowd at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei the largest collection of spectators globally to watch a football match since the onset of the global pandemic.
Stadium announcer Christian Arbeit addressed the crowd directly before kickoff. “You can’t possibly imagine how wonderful it is for everyone at this club that you can be here today,” Arbeit let flow through the loudspeakers, “Thank you so much for coming.”
Union’s specific hygiene concept permitted season ticket holders to enter the venue. Entry required a club membership, a photo ID, and a temperature check. The club retains data on all entrants in the event that an infection cluster emerges from the event. Any post-match contact tracing efforts will thus be assisted.
Seats inside the stadium were cordoned off so as to ensure that fans would maintain adequate distance from each other. Club ushers were charged with making certain that fans would maintain their distance on the terraces. The stewards also enforced a mask mandate whenever attendees opted to move from their designated seats.
“It’s really fantastic,” Eisern fan Cornelia Packhäuser told The Associated Press, “It’s great that fans are allowed in. My family is totally split up. One is in sector one, one in sector two, one is in sector three. Still, we can be there and to be there is everything.”
Union president Dirk Zingler confessed he had difficulty concentrating on the actual match. “I didn’t see much of the game,” Zingler remarked, “I instead looked at the people; their happy eyes. They sung their hearts out because they were finally here again.”
Zingler had much more to say in a post-match press conference. “We must continue our lives in spite of the pandemic,” Zingler told the media, “We have to place trust in our citizens again. We gave our fans back their space and they behaved very responsibly. We should do that more on a societal level: trust people and hand them the responsibility for behaving sensibly during the pandemic. I’m very proud that the Eiserners upheld that trust today.”
Zingler went on to note that health department officials were in attendance and found no significant problem with the club’s execution of its plan. While any more ambitious plans to up the number of supporters allowed in for Union’s opening Bundesliga match against Augsburg were ruled out, Zingler did indicate that the Köpenickers would definitely aim for another 5,000-seat-cap in that match.
In a piece of news that almost seems completely immaterial, Union bested Nürnberg 2-1 in Saturday’s 90-minute exhibition. Club officials, fans, and journalists across the globe remained far more interested in declaring a major victory in the quest to safely re-start congregative open-air events.
“It’s about showing that we can do it,” concluded stadium PA announcer Arbeit ecstatically.