Hope Bundesliga can bring smiles back to people: Dortmund's Cramer

Borussia Dortmund managing director Carsten Cramer said the club will not try to replace its fans with printed cutouts like rival Monchengladbach.

It will be no easy task for Borussia Dortmund to reboot its title challenge at Signal Iduna Park against Frankfurt, while it also has Tuesday's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain looming on the horizon.

Borussia Dortmund will take on bitter rival Schalke in the Rivierderby on Saturday.   -  AFP

Bundesliga – Germany’s top flight football – will be the first major European League to restart its season which had come to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Second-placed Borussia Dortmuch will kick-start the proceedings when it takes on FC Shalke in the Revierderby on May 16 (7 pm IST).

The players will have to get used to playing in empty stadiums and Dortmund's managing director Carsten Cramer told Sportstar that it will take time for everyone to get accustomed to this new normal.

“It is unimaginable, but I am glad that we start at home. Although we will miss the Yellow Wall and our supporters, I am glad we are starting at home where we are unbeaten this season. It is always a big game when we play Schalke and it will be challenging,” Cramer said.

“We have two advantages of playing at home – one is that we practiced in an empty stadium three times, so I think we got some interaction with the empty stadium. The second advantage is that we had an experience of playing behind closed doors when we played our last game against PSG in the Champions League. All of us, including the players know there is no alternative right now. The players are focused on the game, they want to win and are happy they can start playing again.”

The returning clubs have to follow a host of protocols to ensure safety of everyone involved.

“We have a booklet of rules to follow. We will have the longest bench ever in our stadium -- it is almost 50m long. The distance between two players is close to 2.50m and all players must wear masks. We can have four ball boys and they must wear gloves. On the stands, we have eight representatives of our club and four of the away team. We share a stand usually visited by 8,000 people with 12 guys,” Cramer said.

READ: Coronavirus: When and how will Bundesliga return to action

Fellow Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach has come up with a unique idea to populate the stands with cardboard printouts of its fans. Dortmund, though, isn’t looking at replicating the same. “Our spectators are so spectacular that you can’t copy and paste them by a 3D printer or something like that. We cannot substitute our supports with imitations. We decided to let it be as authentic and pure as it could be,” he said.

-All eyes on Bundesliga -

Acknowledging the worldwide focus on the Bundesliga, Cramer said: “The interest in Bundesliga this weekend will be extraordinary because everyone is watching and observing and seeing if this will work and how it will work. It will have an impact on the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A. So, it is important for the whole football business sector.”

Cramer hopes the resumption of football can add some cheer in these testing times.

“Maybe football can bring some normality back to the people. If you watch the news you are confronted by negative news about poverty, unemployment and restrictions. Maybe football can help bring a smile back to peoples’ faces. This is my hope. I hope it can spread some cheer, and it will be easier if we win!”

Catch the Bundesliga Live on Star Sports Select 1/HD, Star Sports Select 2/HD from May 16.

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