TOPSHOT - Cardboard cut-outs with portraits of Borussia Moenchegladbach's supporters are seen at the Borussia Park football stadium in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.   / AFP / Ina FASSBENDER
Cardboard cut-outs at Borussia Monchegladbach's stadium. Image Credit: AFP

As football in Germany geared up for its second weekend of action since coming back from its COVID-19 suspension, a spate of positive coronavirus tests at a second division club has highlighted that football is far from clear of the pandemic.

Dynamo Dresden, where the entire squad is nearing the end of a 14-day quarantine after three players had already tested positive, have announced that a fourth player and a staff member have returned positive tests.

However, the club, who are bottom of the German second division, said health authorities had not extended the collective quarantine and that only the infected pair would be isolated, meaning all matches scheduled this weekend should go ahead.

Dresden team doctor Onays Al-Sadi said that the local authority’s decision to quarantine the entire team had paid off, despite criticism that it was excessive compared to other regions of Germany where only the infected players had been quarantined.

“It shows that the Dresden health authority has acted absolutely responsibly and correctly with the much-discussed measure of domestic quarantine for our team, as this enabled us to break through an infection chain within our team at an early stage,” he said.

While fans are still not permitted at matches in Germany, nearly 13,000 cardboard cut-outs of Borussia Moenchengladbach supporters are set to welcome the team for Saturday’s game against Bayer Leverkusen behind closed doors.

Gladbach hosted the first Bundesliga game ever played without fans on March 11, shortly before the German season was put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the club’s supporters’ groups, “Fanprojekt Moenchengladbach”, subsequently came up with the idea of allowing fans to print life-size images of themselves to be placed inside the ground.

The cut-outs line the stadium’s otherwise empty stands, with season ticket holders able to have their cardboard lookalike allocated to their regular spot.

“We’re arranging close to 13,000 cut-outs, but almost 20,000 have been ordered already,” Thomas Ludwig, head of the supporters’ group, told AFP subsidiary SID.

“It’s a nice operation, which creates an atmosphere in the stadium,” said Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl. “Even if at the same time it’s a reminder that football without supporters is not the same.”

“It’s fantastic. We really have the impression that we’re not alone when we’re training in the stadium,” added Gladbach coach Marco Rose.

Gladbach are third in the table and six points behind leaders Bayern Munich. They won 3-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend as the Bundesliga returned following a two-month interruption.