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No fans, just cut-outs: Gladbach prepare to play in empty stadiums

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Berlin (AFP)

Playing behind closed doors with cardboard cut-outs of fans on the Moenchengladbach terraces will take some getting used to if German football resumes in May, says one of the few Bundesliga stars to have already played in a near-empty stadium.

"Everyone will have to come to terms with this unusual situation as best they can," Borussia Moenchengladbach winger Patrick Herrmann told magazine Kicker.

"Other teams will also have to adjust to the special atmosphere in their stadium."

The Bundesliga has been suspended until at least the end of the month in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

However, Gladbach returned to training last week in small groups at their Borussia Park stadium with life-sized cut-outs of fans on the terraces in a bid to boost morale.

"I was sceptical at first whether all this would have the desired effect," Herrmann, 29, said of the cut-outs.

"However, the figures come across as great, really close to reality."

Herrmann admitted applauding the cut-outs when he runs out for training at the stadium, "just like we always do before home games".

The winger, has made over 300 appearances for Gladbach, and set up the opening goal in a 2-1 home win over Cologne at a near-empty Borussia Park on March 11 with fans locked out, just before the German league was suspended.

It was the first Bundesliga game ever played without fans and Herrmann admits it was "a very strange feeling".

Matches played behind locked doors have been dubbed "ghost games" in German, but they could become the norm as public events are banned in Germany until August 31 due to COVID-19.

The German Football League (DFL) plans to hold a video conference meeting next Thursday with the 36 clubs in the top two leagues to discuss whether matches can resume in early May, albeit without fan.

If the health authorities give the go-ahead, the Bundesliga could be the first top European league to resume next month, but Herrmann says matches without supporters will test the players.

"What matters is the head, the will. I'm convinced that this will apply for the rest of the season," he said with the DFL hoping league games can be completed by June 30.

Just over 3,500 people have so far died due to the coronavirus in Germany.

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