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Germany’s Bundesliga is the first of Europe’s major football leagues to restart

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Issued on: 16/05/2020 – 12:29Modified: 16/05/2020 – 12:35

Football in Germany returns to the pitch on Saturday as the Bundesliga becomes the first of Europe's top leagues to swing back into action since the coronavirus lockdown.

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The German Football League (DFL) convinced Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country's regional leaders to allow play to resume by agreeing to submit to an extraordinary set of guidelines to prevent infection.

The stadiums will be empty and silent except for the players' shouts and the referees' whistles. Germany has suffered far fewer deaths from coronavirus than other large European countries, but it is still too dangerous for crowds to return.

Borussia Dortmund will take on local rivals Schalke 04 in the Ruhr Derby on Saturday.

That fixture would normally have attracted an 82,000 crowd to Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park but supporters will be locked out.

On Sunday, Bayern Munich, who were four points clear at the top of the table when the season was suspended in March, will resume their quest for an eighth successive Bundesliga title when they play in the capital against Union Berlin.

No hugging

To minimise the risk of infection, players and staff are being tested regularly and each club has been in a week-long quarantine ahead of the matches.

Teams will arrive at stadiums in several buses in order to meet social distancing requirements inside the vehicles. Once on the pitch, players have been warned not to hug to celebrate goals.

Substitutes and coaches on the bench must wear protective masks.

Some have already fallen foul of the unprecedented rules.

Augsburg's new coach Heiko Herrlich has ruled himself out of Saturday's match at home to Wolfsburg after leaving the team hotel to buy toothpaste.

"I made a mistake," Herrlich said. "I did not live up to my function as a role model for my team and the public."

While Herrlich was criticised, there was sympathy for Union Berlin coach Urs Fischer after he broke quarantine following a family bereavement.

It means he must miss his side's clash with Bayern.

"All our sympathy goes to the Fischer family in this difficult time," said Union president Dirk Zingler.

Ex-Chelsea striker Salomon Kalou, 34, has been suspended by Hertha Berlin for shaking hands with team-mates.

Bavaria's state leader Markus Soeder warned that those who fail to follow the regulations should expect consequences.

"If the health experts have given you these suggestions, if the league itself has worked out concepts at great expense, then you have to abide by these rules," Soeder said Friday.

"And if you don't follow them, in case there is any doubt, there will be 'a red card'."

The coronavirus has claimed over 7,800 lives in Germany.

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