Even those mostly obsessed with football in the Bundesrepublik admit that they don't mind taking in an ice-hockey game when the Bundesliga takes its customary winter break.
The Bundesliga won't be taking much of a winter break in this year of the global pandemic. Moreover, the fate of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) has been in limbo since the COVID crisis hit. The 2019/20 season was completely cancelled when the world locked down last March and even the best supported clubs teeter on the brink of insolvency.
A German footballing legend does his part for his German hometown of Cologne.
|Lukas Podolski.||Photo: Sven Mandel / CC-BY-SA-4.0|
The Kölner Sharks of German professional ice-hockey needed to sell a minimum of 100,000 virtual tickets in order to pay their dues for the coming season. How could a team that averages 12,000 spectators per game hope to garner that amount of interest?
Lukas Podolski stepped in with a guarantee. If his hometown team reached the target, he would suit up for the Kölner Haie. The 35-year-old made several promotional appearances in a Haier jersey skating around the Lanxness Arena.
The bet worked and the current Anatalyaspor striker will return to the town he began representing as a ten-year-old; this time in a red and white hockey sweater.
When precisely Podolski will return remains as uncertain as when the 2020/21 DEL season will start. The struggling league, which couldn't financially justify "ghost-games", has already postponed the start date three times. A league-conference will meet on Thursday and is expected to announce a target date in late December.
The DEL's fortunes were rising in recent years with the production of outdoor matches played on the Bundesrepublik's football pitches. Köln hosted one of these games, modeled after the NHL's "Winter Classics", before over 40,000 fans at the RheinEnergieStadion in 2019. Many more such pitch events were planned until COVID plunged the league into chaos.
Podolski assured all those who contributed to the club's survival that he would honor his commitment. "I'm very happy for the sharks that the 100,000 tickets came together for them," the national team legend said in a statement, "One can only express deep thanks to all the individuals that chipped in."
"When matters settle down a bit more, we'll all sit down at the KEC and discuss how to proceed," he continued, "Whatever it will look like, I'm looking forward to being a Kölner Haier player."