Calls for footballers to wear masks if Bundesliga returns

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany’s ministry of labour wants footballers to wear masks as protection against the coronavirus if Angela Merkel’s government gives the green light for the Bundesliga to return next month.

The German Football League (DFL) confirmed Thursday that they are ready for the Bundesliga to resume from May 9, albeit without fans in stadiums and with strict player hygiene measures in place.

The final decision will be made by German Chancellor Merkel and state leaders, who are due to meet in Berlin on Thursday.

Germany has been less affected than other European countries by the pandemic, but currently has 5,321 deaths due to the virus.

According to magazine Spiegel, the Federal Ministry for Labour has drafted safety guidelines which include a recommendation that players and match officials wear a mask which would “not slip in sprints, headers and challenges”.

“Should the masks slip, the game must immediately be stopped”, according to the draft, and because the masks would get wet fast due to exertion, they should be “replaced every 15 minutes at the latest”.

The Bundesliga’s top clubs are sceptical.

“You might be able sprint once with a face mask on, but not several times,” RB Leipzig’s sports director Markus Kroesche told daily paper Bild.

“It’s an interesting idea, but, for me, not one you can put into practice.”

Bayer Leverkusen’s medical advisor Dr. Karl-Heinrich Dittmar says masks would not be necessary as the league is planning to regularly test players and club staff if the league resumes.

“Wearing a mask is uncomfortable, breathing is impeded,” said Dittmar.

“This wouldn’t work in football, but I don’t think it is necessary — with testing, the risk of infection is extremely low.”

Another suggestion in the ministry guidelines is that each team be quarantined in a hotel for the duration of the season amid hopes it can be completed in Germany by June 30.

Players have already given a mixed response to the idea of being isolated for the nine remaining games of the season.

“I personally would find it extremely difficult to spend the next few weeks in a hotel and not be able to see my family,” Eintracht Frankfurt defender Danny da Costa told reporters.

However, Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller said being placed in quarantine may be the only way to get the season finished.

“It is quite clear that football would submit to almost all the rules necessary to play,” Mueller told magazine Sport Bild.