Bundesliga emerges from coronavirus lockdown – and the rest of Europe is given hope

France, Spain, England and Italy look on with interest as the German league plans to restart on May 16

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Bundesliga fixtures

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 

Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),

Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)

After a gap of 66 days, Bundesliga football will return to action next weekend.

The German league responded swiftly to government permission to resume matches as part of their easing of the coronavirus lockdown and on Thursday set May 16 as the restart date.

A derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke will be the highlight, and while German clubs accustom themselves to games behind closed doors – a condition of returning to stadiums – world football will watch with interest, hoping Germany’s bold decision to bring back elite sport acts as a catalyst for governments elsewhere.

There is still some trepidation, it emerged on Thursday, about the return of football to German weekends and midweek nights.

Although the decision, endorsed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, was backed by most regional leaders, in some cities, such as Bremen, home to relegation-threatened Werder Bremen, authorities spoke out about hurrying players back onto the field.

But beyond Germany’s borders, the belief is that a hugely encouraging precedent has been set:

France

“It’s a really big step,” said the president of Olympique Lyonnais, Jean-Michel Aulas, of the Bundesliga restart.

The influential Aulas is one of the strongest critics of last week's decision to declare the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season finished, with 10 match days unplayed.

The French government, responding to the country’s severe public health emergency, had banned team sports until at least September.

Aulas hopes there could now be a rethink. "Where there's life, there's hope," he told L'Equipe. "Everyone who argued we had to stop because all the other leagues were going to stop their seasons should be ready to reconsider.

"Maybe it’s not too late to try and come up with a plan that could make sense politically. French football will lose €700 million [Dh2.7 billion] because of the decision [to abandon the domestic season]”.

England

The Premier League and Football League hope Germany’s example will prompt the British government to include the possibility of professional football resuming when, this weekend, measures to lighten the country’s lockdown are announced.

Elite clubs have been in talks about a possible return to training after mid-May and behind-closed-doors fixtures taking place in June.

The Premier League is developing medical protocols that, they will argue, minimise the risks to public health and to individuals.

But it is yet to persuade all 20 top-flight clubs of the need to play some of their 'home' matches at neutral stadiums, because not all grounds are likely meet the demands of Covid-19-imposed safety standards.

With projected losses, if the season is abandoned, estimated at well over €1bn, there is economic pressure to have English club football back on television. “It would give the nation a lift,” said Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary and deputy to prime minister Boris Johnson.

Spain

Players returned to the training grounds of most top division clubs this week, to be tested for coronavirus.

For those who register negative, they will take part in practice drills – in limited groups, observing strict limitations on contact with one another.

That will begin at the weekend, with a view to something close to full training sometime in June.

The tentative plan for La Liga’s top two divisions is for fixtures to resume, without spectators in stadiums, in mid- to late-June.

Top-flight clubs have 11 match days left, and, with the country’s Ministry of Sport having approved the safety measures put in place for a return to training, La Liga president Javier Tebas is confident the league programme can be completed, ideally by the end of July.

Some concerns, though, have been expressed by players. They have spent more than a month under the Spanish government’s rigorous restrictions on movement, put in place to contain a pandemic that has claimed more than 26,000 lives in Spain.

“We are fearful of undertaking an activity, football, that naturally goes against the basic advice of medical experts, which is to maintain physical distancing,” said a statement released by the players and staff at Eibar, though the Basque club still intend to train this month.

Italy

Leading club bosses and medical experts met on Thursday for what were expected to be extended discussions about how football in Serie A.

The Italian top-flight was suspended in early March as parts of northern Italy were overwhelmed by Covid-19 infections, could safely resume.

Some players have reported this week to their clubs for testing for the virus and even light training, but the route-map to a restart is unclear.

“I hope to get football going again,” said the Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora, “but without safety issues resolved, the government will close it down.”

Serie A side Torino reported that one of their key employees had tested positive this week.

Brescia, who are facing a battle to avoid relegation from Serie A if the remaining 11 matchdays of the 2019-20 campaign go ahead, the president, Massimo Cellino, and the captain, Daniele Gastaldello, have opposed the resumption of matches.

Bundesliga fixtures

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 

Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),

Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)