The anniversary has arrived. It was one year ago today. The announcement came. For the first time ever in Germany's top flight, a Bundesliga match would take place behind closed doors. A week impossible for anyone to forget then commenced.
In Monday's print edition of Kicker magazine, the Bundesrepublik's preeminent footballing publication devoted 18 full pages to this milestone.
On Sunday, March 8th 2020 the Bundesliga's 25th round had just been completed before packed stadiums. A dangerous virus loomed south of the Alps. Italian authorities had been dealing with the situation for approximately two weeks. Serie A matches had been postponed.
Everything happened so quickly. On Sunday, it was confirmed that a mid-week make up match between 1. FC Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach would take place without fans. On Monday, five of the nine upcoming round 26 fixtures were confirmed to be spectator-less.
After RB Leipzig hosted Tottenham Hotspur in a Champions League fixture before full stands on Tuesday, Eintracht Frankfurt and VfL Wolfsburg shut their doors to fans for their upcoming Europa League matches. By Wednesday, all nine scheduled Bundesliga fixtures were planned in empty stadiums.
Thursday was spent in denial. DFL officials vowed to press on. Finally, on Friday, hours before the 2019/20 26th round kicked off, Germany suspended it's football season and the entire world shut down.
In commemoration of this unpleasant anniversary, German footballing magazine Kicker devoted it's Monday print edition to interviews with German footballers and fans who have been carrying on under these circumstance for a full year.
Among the many highlights, Freiburg's Nils Petersen, Union Berlin's Andreas Luthe, and BVB diehard Fritz Eckenga sum up what's missing.
Nils Petersen, SC Freiburg
"We take this bus to the stadium and there's no great interest. I used to see 20 flags and 48 jerseys at the Littenweiler train station at half past eleven. Then you knew: 'Today I can make these people happy!'. Of course, the fans are at home cheering for us now, but we don't realize that."
"The emotions after scoring a goal at home before all the happy faces is indescribable. When I look at my friends and fiancé in the and see how they react, a pleasant chill runs down my spine and I feel the pulse of the stands."
"Without the direct feedback of people, it feels like we're playing training games."
Andreas Luthe, Union Berlin
"When you experience the feeling of a full stadium as a child, you want to be down there on the field at some point. That's what drives you. Our sport has become cold and technical."
"It's underestimated how much the players miss the fans. When you stand in front of the "Kurve" [fan sections usually behind the corner flags] to celebrate with the fans after winning a game or just head over to the fence after a loss to discuss the shitty situation with them, all of that is missing."
"It hits most of the players I know hard when things aren't going well. Suffering together with the fans influences and unites them. At the moment, it's hard for me to gauge the opinion of our performance out there."
Fritz Eckenga, Borussia Dortmund supporter
"Without the energy that runs through the stadium; that feeling of being able to influence a match, ghost games aren't worth it. Without the community experience, the date with friends, getting together in the pub well before kickoff and going out to eat afterwards, football is just a business."
"In its reduced form, it's clear what football is. It's about keeping the business going and turning a profit. Corona hasn't changed football, but it's clear what it's all about now. This has always been a balancing act. In normal times, I could check my mind at the door of the stadium cloakroom.
"When so much of what is essential to me has been taken away, the question of meaning comes into greater focus. Sometimes I ask myself if this balancing act is even possible anymore."