Su­per Cup be­tween Bay­ern and Sevilla a test for fans

Malta Independent - - Sport -

The coro­n­avirus test­ing tent set up for Bay­ern Mu­nich fans has a re­as­sur­ing mes­sage on its wall: "Su­per Cup? Su­per Safe!"

Not ev­ery­one sees it that way. This year's Su­per Cup is more than just a cer­e­mo­nial opener for the Euro­pean soc­cer sea­son. If UEFA has its way, it will usher in a re­turn for fans in the Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League, too.

But that en­tails sup­port­ers from Cham­pi­ons League win­ner Bay­ern Mu­nich and Europa League cham­pion Sevilla fly­ing across Europe to play for a largely sym­bolic tro­phy on Thurs­day in the Hun­gar­ian cap­i­tal of Bu­dapest.

Af­ter a re­cent rise in coro­n­avirus cases across the con­ti­nent, UEFA's plan is com­ing un­der pres­sure.

Some lead­ing Ger­man politi­cians fear the game could spread the coro­n­avirus. Even the mayor of Bu­dapest doesn't want fans at the game.

"If I had the le­gal pos­si­bil­ity of de­cid­ing on this is­sue, the match for sure would be held be­hind closed doors," Bu­dapest Mayor Gergely Karac­sony told daily news­pa­per Nep­szava for Wed­nes­day's edi­tion. "But I don't have the right, so the re­spon­si­bil­ity be­longs to those that do."

Ger­man na­tional team coach Joachim Löw is another critic.

"Fun­da­men­tally I think it's a bit of a wrong sig­nal to al­low so many spec­ta­tors in there, in a risk area," he told Ger­man broad­caster RTL on Wed­nes­day.

The de­ci­sion on play­ing with fans rests with the Hun­gar­ian na­tional gov­ern­ment headed by Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban, a de­voted soc­cer fan who has been ea­ger to pro­mote his coun­try as an is­land of sta­bil­ity dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis. Hun­gary has also helped out UEFA by serv­ing as a neu­tral venue for Cham­pi­ons League and Europa League qual­i­fiers hit by virus-re­lated re­stric­tions else­where.

A re­cent surge in virus cases in Bu­dapest, how­ever, has put the cap­i­tal on Ger­many's of­fi­cial list of high-risk ar­eas. Bay­ern fans re­turn­ing from the game will have to un­dergo a coro­n­avirus test and could be re­quired to iso­late, Bavar­ian gov­er­nor Markus Söder said Mon­day.

Bay­ern orig­i­nally sold 2,100 tickets for the game out of a pos­si­ble 3,000 and of­fered free coro­n­avirus test­ing at its sta­dium. Hun­gar­ian au­thor­i­ties re­quire any­one ar­riv­ing to present a re­cent neg­a­tive test.

About 800 of those 2,100 fans re­turned their tickets af­ter Ger­man au­thor­i­ties dis­cour­aged them from trav­el­ing. Sevilla sold only about 500 of its al­lo­ca­tion, so most of the crowd of up to 20,000 — 30% of sta­dium ca­pac­ity at the Puskas Arena — will be made up of lo­cal fans from Hun­gary.

UEFA's de­ci­sion to give the clubs an al­lo­ca­tion for trav­el­ing fans is un­usual this sea­son. No ma­jor Euro­pean league al­lows away ticket sales for 2020-21. Eng­land and Spain both started with­out any fans. Ger­many al­lows clubs to have sup­port­ers of up to 20% of ca­pac­ity.

An in­fec­tion spike in Mu­nich forced Bay­ern to play in an empty sta­dium against Schalke last week, but they can still travel to Hun­gary for the Su­per Cup.

The Hun­gar­ian soc­cer fed­er­a­tion has de­fended the de­ci­sion to play the Su­per Cup with sup­port­ers.

"Thanks to the strict safety mea­sures, dur­ing the match the Puskas Arena will be a safer lo­ca­tion than any other place in the coun­try or in all of Europe," the fed­er­a­tion said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day.

Bay­ern flew into Bu­dapest on Wed­nes­day with a full squad, in­clud­ing Leroy Sané, who could win his first tro­phy for the Mu­nich club, and Serge Gnabry, who scored a hat trick in Fri­day's 8-0 rout of Schalke.

Sevilla is play­ing its first com­pet­i­tive game of 2020-21 and will likely give a de­but to Ivan Rakitic af­ter the Croa­t­ian mid­fielder ar­rived from Barcelona on Sept. 1.

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