BUDAPEST – A confrontation between two major European teams, Bayern Munich and Seville, is expected to take place in a high-profile soccer match as scheduled in front of thousands of fans in Budapest Thursday night despite the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in Hungary.
The match, the European Super Cup, will be held at the Puskas stadium, and the organizers say that a maximum of 20,000 people, a third of the stadium’s capacity, will be accepted as part of a package of virus prevention measures.
“We have worked hard with the authorities here to try to make conditions compatible so that people can attend safely,” said Philip Townsend, director of communications at the European Football Association (UEFA), the governing body of European football.
Hungary is currently seeing a spike in recorded coronavirus cases much higher than the numbers seen when Covid-19 entered Hungary earlier this year.
Budapest was designated a “danger zone” by the German government last week due to an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, and Markus Söder, the leader of the state of Bavaria, where Munich is located, on Monday warned of the dangers of the spread of the coronavirus. in a game.
Fears about the virus in the Super Cup, where winners of the two biggest club competitions in Europe compete against each other, may be on recent memory. In February, a football match was seen as a factor contributing to the acceleration of the virus’s spread in Italy.
UEFA made available 6,000 tickets for fans of Seville and Bayern Munich, but on Wednesday it seemed that no club could muster enough attendance to take advantage of their ticket allocations.
Only 500 Seville fans were expected to travel to Budapest, and about 1,300 from Munich, as of Wednesday, according to UEFA, although that number may shrink due to concerns raised by German officials.
Of the remaining tickets, it is estimated that 90 percent were sold to Hungarian fans. Uefa and the Hungarian Football Association announced this month that they will give Hungarian National Ambulance Service staff 500 tickets.
Hungary’s chief medical officer Ferenc Fallos criticized the decision to proceed with the match and raised concerns that fans would not follow social distancing guidelines during, or before and after, the match outside the stadium.
“This is a human experience,” he said.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s enthusiasm for football is well known, and his government has directed public funds aggressively into the game at a time when Hungary’s healthcare system is still underfunded.
Dr. Fallos said that with positive rates of coronavirus testing above 10 per cent, “there are no guarantees that this will not lead to further disease, hospitalization, or even deaths in the days and weeks after the match.”
But the concerns of medical experts such as Dr. Fallos have played down the concerns of event organizers who say measures to mitigate the coronavirus will ensure the safety of fans.
“I wouldn’t call it an experiment,” says Gino Cebus, a spokesman for the Hungarian Football Association. “It is a priority project in which the organizing committee determines how to play the match with the strictest safety measures.”
Citing a comprehensive risk assessment, Hungarian football officials confirmed that comprehensive measures have been taken to ensure the safety of those attending the match. UEFA awarded Budapest the match in June.
The temperature of the fans will be measured at the gates. Social distancing rules are encouraged for those arriving on and leaving the stadium. The wearing of masks will be mandatory throughout the stadium, but “highly recommended” only for fans in their seat, with no one and a half meters in between fans who are not connected together.
Social distancing is also mandatory on franchise platforms, and men’s restrooms have been reorganized to provide more distance between fans.
“The organizers put an extraordinary amount of hand sanitizing equipment all over the Puskas stadium,” said Mr. Gino.
However, some fans complain about the lack of coherent guidelines for those trying to enter Hungary from abroad.
Ronan Evin, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, an association of football fans that claims to have members in 48 European countries, said the Hungarian embassy in Paris had been unable to answer questions about entry requirements into the country just days before the match.
“Leaving my home country was more difficult than entering Hungary,” he says, citing what he described as confusion about entry requirements and misunderstandings at France’s airport, as authorities seemed unaware of the special arrangements made for travelers to a match.
He said that upon entering Hungary, he was asked to present the results of his coronavirus test, which the authorities apparently did not notice was issued in French, and he was not asked where he would live and when he would leave.
Mr Evain’s quest to attend the Super Cup included “a lot of improvisation and uncertainty,” and he was frustrated by not having enough information about health and safety protocols communicated to the public. “Anything you post should be crystal clear, which is definitely not the case with this game.”