Budapest, Hungary (AFP) – The coronavirus test tent set up for Bayern Munich fans has a reassuring message on its wall: “Super Cup? Super Safe!”
Not everyone sees it this way.
This year’s Super Cup is more than just a festive opening for the European football season. If UEFA makes their way, it will also lead to a return of fans in the UEFA Champions League and European League.
But that necessitates fans from Champions League winners Bayern Munich and European champions Sevilla to travel across Europe to play for a largely symbolic trophy Thursday in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.
After the recent spike in coronavirus cases across the continent, UEFA’s soccer plan is under pressure.
Some prominent German politicians fear that the game may spread the Coronavirus. Even the mayor of Budapest doesn’t want fans in the game.
“If I have the legal possibility to decide on this issue, the match will definitely take place behind closed doors,” Budapest Mayor Jirjeli Caraxoni told the Nebeszava daily newspaper on Wednesday. “But I don’t have the right, so the responsibility lies with whoever does it.”
Germany coach Joachim Loew is another critic.
“I basically think that allowing a large number of spectators to be there, in a dangerous area, is a bit wrong,” he told German radio RTL on Wednesday.
The decision to play with fans rests with the Hungarian national government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a loyal football fan who has been keen to promote his country as an island of stability during the coronavirus crisis. Hungary has also helped UEFA by acting as a neutral venue for UEFA Champions League and UEFA European League qualifiers matches that have been hit by virus-related restrictions elsewhere.
However, the recent spike in virus cases in Budapest has put the capital on Germany’s official list of high-risk areas. Bayern Governor Markus Söder said on Monday that Bayern fans returning from the match will undergo a coronavirus test and may be asked to isolate.
Bayern originally sold 2,100 tickets for the game out of a potential 3,000 and offered a free test for the coronavirus at home. Hungarian authorities are asking anyone who arrives to take a recent negative test.
About 800 of those 2,100 fans returned tickets after German authorities had banned them from traveling. Seville only sold around 500 of its quota, so most of the crowd of 20,000 – 30% of the stadium capacity at Puskas Arena – will consist of local fans from Hungary.
UEFA’s decision to grant clubs a travel fan allocation is unusual this season. There is no major European league permitting overseas ticket sales for the 2020-2021 year. Both England and Spain started without any fans. Germany allows clubs to have supporters up to 20% of capacity.
A high injury rate in Munich forced Bayern to play in an empty stadium against Schalke 04, but they could still travel to Hungary for the Super Cup.
The Hungarian Football Association defended the decision to play the Super Cup with the fans.
“Thanks to strict safety measures, the Puskas Arena will be a safer place during the match than anywhere else in the country or in all of Europe,” the federation said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bayern traveled to Budapest on Wednesday with a full squad, including Leroy Sane, who could win their first title with Munich, and Serge Gnabry, who scored a hat-trick in Friday’s 8–0 win over Schalke 04.
Sevilla will play their first competitive match in the 2020-2021 season and are likely to make their debut with Ivan Rakitic after the Croatian midfielder arrived from Barcelona on September 1.
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