Bundesliga football has a model for how sports can return amid coronavirus.

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BERLIN — When the Berlin soccer clubs Hertha and Union met on the pitch six months ago, sparks literally flew. The scrappy game was buoyed by a raucous, impassioned crowd that lit flares and shot fireworks onto the field.

The scene was far different when the rival teams went head-to-head once more on Friday night, and the starting whistle echoed across Hertha Berlin’s empty 75,000 seat stadium.

“It’s awful, it’s just awful,” said Hertha fan Chris Chwalisz, 56, as he had a halftime cigarette and complained about the lack of atmosphere and lackluster first-half play.

Since it kicked off its first post-coronavirus match last week, Germany’s Bundesliga has been cheered by fans at home here and closely watched from abroad. It has offered sports-hungry spectators a chance to enjoy some professional competition while other leagues are still out of action, and it could become a model for how to resume sports around the world.

But soccer at its core remains a team sport in which close body contact is often unavoidable. There remain questions about whether the Bundesliga’s rules for testing, quarantines and limiting contact will be enough to ensure a full and fair rest of the season. And some of Germany’s most hardcore soccer fans say teams are putting financial interests ahead of what’s best for players, supporters and the game.

 

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