Freiburg midfielder Jonathan Schmid said he is “not at all” afraid to return to the pitch but acknowledges that a second wave of coronavirus infections would put paid to German football’s plans to complete its interrupted season.
“Germany wants to finish their championship,” the 29-year-old Frenchman told AFP. “We’re training for that. We’ll be ready when it resumes.”
The German Football League (DFL) wants to restart matches in empty stadiums from May 16, providing it gets the final green light from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. A decision is expected on Wednesday.
Those plans were thrown into question on Monday when the league said its testing of players, coaches and backroom staff had produced 10 positive cases. Three are known to be from top-flight side Cologne.
Germany has been less affected by the pandemic than other European countries, an outcome partly attributed to mass testing.
Schmid said any signs that football’s return had produced a new surge in infections would halt the restart plans.
“If there is a second wave and it affects some clubs, I think the season will be over,” said Schmid.
“The clubs don’t want to risk everything. But it’s also important to get back on track for the economic survival of the clubs.”
Despite having two children, Schmid said he was not worried about the possibility of infection.
“No, not at all afraid. If we’re allowed to do it, then it’s safe,” said Schmid.
“We get tested once a week. If I am positive, I will stay away from my children and my wife. That’s the advantage for us, we’re being followed.”
Most German clubs resumed training on April 7 but put in place stringent social distancing measures.
“At first it was weird. You arrive at the training area already changed and go straight home for a shower. We don’t have a lot of time to communicate either.
“We don’t shake hands, we greet each other from a distance. It feels weird. The coaches don’t want us to get too close to each other.
“But the most important thing is to get back on the pitch… with the ball, doing a few exercises and a fresh environment, it was a change compared to being at home!”
The training is evolving.
“Now we are working in groups of four. Avoiding contact; no tackling.”
“Football is a contact sport. A player needs that,” Schmid said.
“We’re already happy to be back on the pitch, on the ball, and having fun with a few team-mates on the field.
“We’re ready to go! We’ve been training more intensely than we do in the pre-season. There have been a lot of sprints, a lot of changes of direction.
“To avoid injuries that we are training harder. Maybe there will be less training and more games. As a player, I’d rather play lots as they do in England than train for five days!”
Giving it your all
If the Bundesliga resumes it will be behind closed doors, with players’ voices echoing around empty stadiums. It is not the way Schmid wanted to try to lead his club into a place in European competition next season.
“I’ve never played behind closed doors. There’ll be something missing. With the stadium and the fans behind us, it’s tough for away teams to win at Freiburg. It’s always a plus,” said Schmid, who came up through the club’s youth system.
“You have to be prepared for that and keep giving it your all.”
There has been talk of Bundesliga players wearing masks on the field.
“Walking around with a mask is uncomfortable. I wear one when we go shopping. It’s not comfortable to breathe. So playing football…,” he said, ending with a laugh.
Like their Bundesliga counterparts at other clubs, Freiburg players have taken a pay cut.
“The club asked us to lower our salaries to help groundstaff and office workers. We agreed. It was a good thing to do it compared to everything they do for us.
“We wanted to give back something that would allow them to continue to live, because they also have families and rent to pay. It’s harder for them than it is for us. A little gesture does good.”