Coronavirus crisis spoils Union Berlin’s encounter with Bayern Munich


It was supposed to be one of the greatest days in Union Berlin’s history. The little club from East Berlin had never before welcomed Bayern Munich for a competitive match. In their first season in the top flight, this game was supposed to be a highlight.

Instead, it was a sad sort of day. The matchday pubs were all closed, and the usually bustling train station was nearly empty. One chap still stood at the entrance selling match programmes, but they were a bit out of date. They had all been printed back in March, when this game was originally supposed to take place.

In normal times, there would be 20,000 fans packed into Union’s Alte Försterei. Three of the four stands are terraced, and 리니지프리서버구축 when the ground is full, it can be a fearsome prospect for 리니지프리서버순위 opposing teams.

Robert Lewandowski scored a penalty to give Bayern Munich the lead at Union Berlin

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But these are not normal times. On Sunday, only 300 people were allowed into the stadium, all of them subject to strict controls.

Before you were allowed into the ground, a gun was held to your head. Only to measure your temperature, mind, but an eerie experience nonetheless. Anyone showing a fever of over 38 degrees celsius would be turned away, and even the medical officer himself was supervised, to make sure no blind eyes were turned.

Inside, you could hear everything. Complaints from the players, encouragement from the coaches, and the thud of the ball echoing around the little terraced stadium. You could even hear the birdsong from the woods outside.

The match formed part of day two of the Bundesliga’s restart without fans in the stadiums 

Normally, those woods would be speckled with red and white. A little old lady would be selling knitted scarfs on the corner, the beer would be flowing in the green catering trucks, and 리니지프리서버 a stream of fans would be trudging up the path towards the ground, occasionally veering off to take care of important business behind a tree.

On Sunday, they were silent. Mounted police were on patrol on the woodland paths, making sure Union’s famously passionate fans had not assembled to cheer their team on from outside.

They needn’t have worried too much. Apart from a few forlorn autograph hunters and some elderly couples going for a walk, most people had stayed home.

Substitutes sat socially distanced in the stands, the only spectators in the 22,000 ground 

‘They chased me away!’ joked fifty-something Union fan Norbert Kurzner. Having gone for a Sunday stroll with his wife, he decided to look in on the stadium before kick-off and was ‘very politely’ told to clear off by police.

Kurzner didn’t give his team much of a chance against Bayern. The raucous atmosphere would have been Union’s trump card against the champions, but in an empty stadium, even assistant coach Markus Hoffmann admitted that a shock result was ‘almost impossible’.

So it turned out, as Robert Lewandowski gave the champions the lead from the penalty spot late in the first half. Bayern had enjoyed three-quarters of possession until that point, and were preparing to cruise their way through the second half.

Alphonso Davies was a threat but Bayern were pedestrian at times with the silent backdrop 

Every single word on the pitch was audible. ‘He pulled out, ref!’ screamed Thomas Muller when a Bayern player was penalised for a high foot in the first half. Union’s assistant coach Markus Hoffmann, meanwhile, barked his instructions at top volume from the touchline.

Hoffmann and Bayern boss Hansi Flick were the only ones present allowed to go without masks. The Bundesliga is taking no risks, and the list of behavioural regulations handed to journalists was eight pages long.

Yet you can’t plan for everything. Late in the first half, there was brief confusion when a speculative effort from outside the area flew over the bar and into the empty away block behind the goal. Had someone been nominated to fetch lost balls? In the end, one of the groundsmen snuck past the fence to collect it.

Hard-as-nails Union have claimed the scalps of Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach this season, but they were neutered without their fans, and deep into the second half, Benjamin Pavard headed the ball in at a corner to seal three points for 리니지프리서버커뮤니티 the away side.

Benjamin Pavard celebrates after scoring Bayern’s second goal at The Alte Forstere

But as they say in Germany, ‘hope is the last thing to die’. With ten minutes to play, a muffled voice suddenly floated in on the breeze. A few fans had obviously had enough of watching on TV and decided to come and cheer on their team from the woods outside. So the home side were treated to a beery, tuneless serenade as they fought desperately in the dying moments of the match.

It was all in vain. 2-0 at the final whistle, and all that remained was for the groundsmen to collect the remaining lost balls and the post-match press conference to be broadcast to the journalists via the big screen. Questions were asked via an online form.

During a surreal encounter, Flick quipped: ‘I didn’t see any ghosts, but there were no fans in the stadium.’ 

It was not football as it should be, especially in a stadium like this one. And perhaps it was not the occasion that everybody had hoped it would be at the start of the season. But one thing is for sure: nobody who as at the Alte Forsterei will ever forget that sunny, silent Sunday afternoon.

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