After what seemed like an eternity, live sport returned to our screens in the shape of the German Bundesliga at the weekend.
Yes, it was different and surreal, but having been starved of the beautiful game for two months, it was worth it to see 22 players kicking a ball around.
The Bundesliga became the first major league in Europe to decide it was safe to play the remaining part of their season behind closed doors.
With no fans present, the sight of a local derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke under normal circumstances would have meant a full house at The Wesfalenstadion, instead a handful of personal were on hand to witness the game.
Before kick off as both sides emerged from the dressing rooms, the visitors Schalke were all wearing face masks but the hosts players decided against this.
Both Managers also took to the dugouts with there faces in full view, but the support staff all had masks on. It was an eerie silence before the referee blew his whistle for the start of the match, broken only by the sight of images of Dortmund’s players on the screens around the stadium.
Before the game eventually started, we witnessed the rare sight of no pre game handshakes, just a gentle nod between both captains, and the officials.
England’s Jadon Sancho- who had been struggling with an injury- was named as one of the subs for Dortmund, with the replacements from both sides sitting apart with face masks on, which is compulsory.
As for the game itself, it was fairly competitive with both sets of players going into tackles. The promising Erling Haaland gave the hosts the lead after 29 minutes, queue muted celebrations, just a fist pump and a smile from the Norwegian. On the cusp of half time Dortmund doubled their advantage when Rafeal Guerreiro fired into the bottom corner.
Three minutes into the second half, Dortmund made the game safe when Eden Hazard’s brother Thorgan thumped the ball into the net. Guerreiro bagged his second of the afternoon with a lovely flick over the Shalke keeper to move Dortmund up to second in the table.
At the end of the match, Dortmund decided to go to one end of the stadium to perform their customary winning celebration in front of nobody. Despite this, it was good to see the Dortmund players with smiles on their faces knowing that the job was done, and they had grabbed all three points.
Normal service was resumed for Bayern Munich and Robert Lewandowski on Sunday afternoon, after defeating Union Berlin 2-0 at the delightfully named Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.
Lewandowski scored his 40th goal of the season when he converted a penalty just before half time. Defender Benjamin Pavard added a second late on to wrap up victory.
One feature all football fans have missed has been VAR. Well in yesterdays game it re appeared. In Germany all decisions get sent to Cologne, with Bayern’s Thomas Muller having a goal ruled out after straying just ahead of Serge Gnarby- remember him- the former Arsenal man heading towards goal with Muller adding the final touch, but marginally offside.
Despite this setback, Bayern weren’t really troubled against a Berlin side who are struggling towards the bottom of the Bundesliga. Next week the little side of Union Berlin have their own local derby, as they face their near neighbours Hertha Berlin. Such a pity that nobody will be allowed inside this quaint ground to see the battle of Berlin.
One final word from me. Huge congratulations to the commentary teams from BT Sport who had to call the action across the weekend. Very difficult when having to do this from the comfort of your own house.
Paul Dempsey, having to commentate from inside his front room back in Ireland, even had the inconvenience of a Tesco delivery driver banging at his door four times whilst he was calling Dortmund vs Schalke, and the excellent Ian Darke crouched up on a chair telling the whole world about Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin.
By the wonders of video calling and Zoom, we can now have commentators and analysist from the world of football live into our rooms. Wow how much has technology come forward. To think a few years ago this new form of live tv sport would be unheard of, but now who’s to say that this could be the new way forward. No commentators at grounds, no analysts sitting next to them or co commentators either. Everything done from the safety of their own homes and old chairs. Welcome back football and live sport, we certainly have missed you, but boy, is this new form of live sport behind closed doors going to take a little while to get used to.