Football is back - how and why you should join Town fans in cheering on Fortuna this weekend
With no idea when Ipswich Town will return to action, Blues fans can at least cheer on a team with Town links in live football this weekend, as Fortuna Dusseldorf get their German Bundesliga season back under way. Mark Heath explains..
A SPECIAL BOND
For a number of seasons, Ipswich Town and Fortuna Dusseldorf have forged a special relationship.
Fans from Suffolk have visited the Merkur Spiel-Arena to cheer on Fortuna, with supporters from Germany also making an annual trip to Portman Road to roar on the Blues.
As part of that twinning, the teams also met in pre-season games played in Germany in 2015 and 2019.
James Norwood was on target but Town were well-beaten, 4-1, in the Interwetten Cup last summer, while the Blues were also on the wrong side of a 4-3 scoreline in a thriller back in 2015.
BACK TO ACTION
The Bundesliga will be the first major league in Europe to get back to action since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sport across the globe when it kicks off again tomorrow. Fortuna host bottom of the table SC Paderborn at 2.30pm UK time.
The league has been suspended since March 13, with Fortuna last playing in a 1-1 draw at Mainz on March 8.
Germany has enjoyed relative success in the fight against the virus though, with fewer than 8,000 deaths. Clubs returned to training in mid-April, with lockdown measures continuing to be be eased. Shops re-opened last week.
Most teams have nine games to play, with the final weekend of the season rescheduled for June 27/28.
FOOTBALL, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT
As is being discussed in all major leagues, the return of German football will be behind closed doors - something which will no doubt see the derby between Schalke and Borussia Dortmund seem a little understated tomorrow!
Strict health protocols are being observed, with all players being tested for Covid-19. There were ten positive tests from teams in the top two divisions in the first round of testing.
About 300 people, including players, staff and officials, will be in or around the stadiums during match days.
As well as players and staff, referees will also be subject to health regulations.
VIEW FROM THE BOSS
Fortuna are managed by Uwe Rosler, the former Manchester City star and boss at Leeds and Wigan, who admits he’s wary of the return to action.
Rosler, a cancer survivor, said: “Of course I’m nervous because of my medical history, but I’m also a person who when I go to work I can blend that out. It’s my choice to go to work, it’s a choice I took with my family to go to work and I have respect for anyone who raises their concerns to their clubs and we will talk and find the best possible solution for everybody involved.
“Of course there is some fear, of course the players have a lot of questions about the risk to them and their families and people in the risk group, like myself for example. But I think there is a clear confidence in the leadership that if they say it’s safe to play, it is.
“We can’t really compare out situation in Germany with the situation in the UK. Our politicians have shown great leadership in crisis, they took the right measures very early on. The German population has been very disciplined in understanding how important it is to take social distances, hygiene and all the measures in place to stop the pandemic.”
VIEW FROM A PLAYER
Centre-back Kasim Nuhu Adams says he and the team are excited to get back to playing, but will miss the fans.
“It is very exciting to play again but one painful thing is that football is always better with fans,” Adams said.
“Playing behind closed doors will affect some of us because we have always played in front of our amazing fans.
“We are also battling relegation and we need our fans to cheer us up but we also have to understand the circumstances.”
VIEW FROM A FAN
Oliver Sullivan, a Fortuna fan who lives in Suffolk, said: “It’s going to be great to see Fortuna back playing again and for them to get the international attention they deserve.
“But there are questions to be raised on player and staff safety, and whether it’s too early to see football resume.
“The stadium is always alive with atmosphere and it will be surreal to see the stands empty without the ultras, the flags and all the emotion.
“But, if football here is still miles away, then give Fortuna a watch - the counter-attacking play is so exciting. It could be a 4-0 win, a 0-4 loss or a 0-0 draw - but one thing it never is, is dull.”
Fortuna need to finish the season strong if they are to be sure of securing their top flight status.
They currently sit 16th out of 18 in the table, four points clear of the automatic relegation zone.
But if they finish 16th, they’ll have to come through a relegation play-off with the side which finishes third in Germany’s second tier to stay up.
They are four points adrift of safety, with Mainz in 15th spot.
HOW TO WATCH
All the Bundesliga games this weekend will be shown live across BT Sport.
You can watch Fortuna v Paderborn on BT Sport Extra 2.
Champions Bayern Munich, who are four points clear at the top of the table, travel to Union Berlin on Sunday (5pm ko).
You can watch that from 4.45pm on BT Sport 1.