Union Berlin hosts 4,500 soccer fans amid pandemic

BERLIN (AP) — Union Berlin welcomed 4,500 fans to its 2-0 win over Nuremberg on Saturday in the biggest attendance so far for a soccer team in Germany during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bundesliga was suspended in March. No supporters had been allowed when the league resumed and completed its season after a two-month break.

Union fans welcomed the chance to attend the preseason friendly match against Nuremberg.

“It’s really fantastic, I missed it,” Cornelia Packhäuser told The Associated Press before attending her first game in six months. “It’s great that fans are allowed in, even with the (hygiene) measures. My family is totally split up. One is in sector one, one is in sector two, one is in sector three, but we can be there, and to be there is everything.”

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Fans were only permitted to attend the game – which doubled as a celebration of 100 years of Union’s stadium – under stringent conditions.

Tickets were for club members only, personalized and non-transferable to ensure contact-tracing is possible. The supporters had to show ID and their club membership card before entering, and they had to wear masks when not in their allocated place.

Seats were clearly marked to show which could be used, and standing fans were asked to keep their distance from each other on the terraces. Stewards asked fans who were too close to each other to move. Journalists had their temperatures taken and were seated apart, while photographers were allocated places where they had to stay.

“It’s sad that it’s so empty, but it’s wonderful to be here again,” Union fan Mark Schôffler said. The stadium capacity is around 22,000.

Then-German champion Nuremberg played Union for the first match at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei in 1920.

Nuremberg now plays in the second division. Two second-half goals, including a penalty from Danish forward Marcus Ingvartsen, were enough for Union. Fans sang long and loud, as if to make up for those who were absent.

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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