MUNICH • Bundesliga clubs returned to team training yesterday, with players split into small groups or pairs and kept at a safe distance amid strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
German football has been suspended for almost a month and the German Football League (DFL) has said the ban will remain in place for the top divisions at least until April 30.
Clubs, however, were given the all clear from their state authorities and the DFL to restart training this week, with the German league becoming the first of the "Big Five" top flights, including the English Premier League, the Italian Serie A, the Spanish La Liga and the French Ligue 1, to resume some sort of normalcy.
Eight-time defending champions and leaders Bayern Munich decided to not only train players in small groups, but it was also done behind closed doors to minimise the risk of infection, which captain Manuel Neuer called "a very unusual feeling".
It is something he and his teammates will have to get used to, though, with the club issuing a statement regarding the restricted training: "Obviously, all health guidelines are being adhered to, the training is closed to the public.
"Bayern are asking fans to continue following guidelines and please do not come to the team's training centre."
The Bavarian giants trained in groups of five, but without any contact, just like fellow top-flight clubs Borussia Monchengladbach, VfL Wolfsburg and others, while Eintracht Frankfurt trained in pairs.
Bottom side Paderborn also trained in small groups, with coach Steffen Baumgart noting it was important for the players to be back on the pitch, adding that weight and fitness sessions would be conducted separately.
"It is important that players get the ball on their feet again," he said. "That is why we have created the training sessions in such a way that ball activities are the focus."
Germany has seen the number of infected cases rise above 100,000 up till yesterday, with nearly 1,600 dead after testing positive for the Covid-19 that has forced the country into lockdown.
Days since Bayern Munich last worked out at their training centre, after the Bundesliga was suspended on March 13.
As such, the DFL made it clear last week it was not known if or when the season would resume despite clubs resuming some sort of training.
The stop in play has also had major financial implications for lesser-known teams and those in the lower divisions.
Two weeks ago Borussia Dortmund, Bayern, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen - four teams who regularly play in either in the Champions League or Europa League - came together to create a €20 million (S$31 million) solidarity fund to help struggling clubs in the top-two tiers.
Dortmund has also provided part of its Signal Iduna Park stadium for the treatment of suspected Covid-19 cases.
While things are looking bleak on the sporting front, with no games on the horizon, Bayern president Herbert Hainer believes one good thing will come out of the crisis - that the over-inflated transfer market of recent years will become a thing of the past.
"Although predictions are difficult to make, it's obvious there'll be changes, he told the club's 51 magazine. "I agree with (predecessor) Uli Hoeness' assumption transfer fees will decrease. That's just logical.
"When income decreases, there's less money in circulation and given the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, outrageous (transfer) sums in the millions are even less justifiable than they already were."