The beautiful game was back on Saturday — but certainly not as we know it – The Sun

IT’S football — but certainly not as we know it. It’s Saturday, it’s 3pm and the beautiful game is back.

Of a sort. Because this is the ghostly Bundesliga coverage from a eerie BT Sport studio.

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The TV channel trailed their live broadcast as a “thrilling five-way contest for top spot”. Which made it sound like a night round Kyle Walker’s gaff — but no matter.

Starved of football, like millions of us, I sat on the sofa positively salivating. And the big news is that, post-lockdown, BT Sport host Jake Humphrey has lost his hair, grown a shaggy beard and is evidently sleeping rough in a tent.

Except, it turns out it is stand-in host, James Richardson.

In the studio, Raphael Honigstein (no, me neither) keeps a sensible distance while Owen Hargreaves joins from home, showing off his daring new accessory — a quite magnificent door handle protruding from his right ear.

As an alternative to the blood and thunder of the Premier League, the Bundesliga is right up there with our very own League One football.

But right now, given it is the only live football in town, I’ve got a large stein of Beck’s in hand, a bowl of authentic Huober Pretzels (amazing what you can still get in Lidl) and I’m excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.

The afternoon is all about the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke.

With 200-odd people in the 81,000-capacity Westfalenstadion, there is more atmosphere at one of Matt Hancock’s Downing Street press conferences. But then, who cares?

In truth, the game itself has all the intensity of a leisure centre training session.

Half an hour in and I still have not got used to the empty seats and a wall of silence. But proceedings are momentarily enlivened when Dortmund open the scoring through Erling Haaland.

But with no one to hug, we’re treated to the sight of a grown man forced to make his own entertainment with a corner flag.

A feeling Kyle Walker knows only too well. Probably.

Post-Covid-19 football is officially back. No fans, no atmosphere, no goal celebrations. Bolton fans will feel right at home.


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