Trickle of fans return as German Cup kicks off new season
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Limited numbers of football fans will watch matches in stadiums across Germany for the first time in six months this weekend when the first round of the German Cup kicks off.
There is an odd number of 31 matches spread over the weekend as holders Bayern Munich will only play fifth-tier side FC Dueren in mid-October.
The Champions League winners have been granted extra rest following their victory over Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon on August 23.
There are no all-Bundesliga matches, giving smaller clubs the chance to claim a big-name scalp.
Potential giant-killers are third division side Duisburg who host Ruhr neighbours Borussia Dortmund and fourth-tier team Schweinfurt, who are up against Schalke 04.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the German FA has permitted each host club to admit a set number of home fans -- travelling supporters are banned -- providing the local health authority gives permission.
"38,677 spectators are allowed to watch the German Cup this weekend - unfortunately spread over 31 matches," German daily Bild pointed out.
The result is huge regional differences in numbers of spectators allowed with some games to be played behind closed doors.
In eastern Germany, where the rate of infection remains low, 10,000 fans are expected to watch Dynamo Dresden play Hamburg on Monday.
Likewise, a crowd of 7,500 can see Hansa Rostock against VfB Stuttgart on Sunday.
However, in southern Germany, which has been more affected by the pandemic, second division Nuremberg host Champions League semi-finalists RB Leipzig behind closed doors.
The same applies to 1860 Munich's home tie against Eintracht Frankfurt and seven other first-round games.
In fact, 11 lower leagues sides have waived home advantage against bigger clubs better equipped to meet the strict hygiene measures.
One example is fourth-tier side VSG Altglienicke, who opted to play at Bundesliga side Cologne and are relishing the trip.
"It's quite exciting," Altglienicke coach Karsten Heine told newspaper the Berliner Morgenpost, with his squad looking forward to playing at Cologne's stadium "for perhaps the first and last time".
Likewise, Bremen-based FC Oberneuland are renting a double-decker bus having opted to play their tie at Champions League side Borussia Moenchengladbach.
The fifth-tier team are arriving a day early so they can have a tour of Borussia Park, where only 300 fans will be allowed in for Saturday's fixture.
German Cup first round fixtures
Eintracht Braunschweig (second tier) v Hertha Berlin, TSV Havelse (fourth) v Mainz (at Mainz) (1845 GMT)
Nuremberg (second tier) v RB Leipzig, FSV Union Fuerstenwalde (fourth) v Wolfsburg (at Wolfsburg), SV Todesfelde (fifth) v Osnabrueck (second), 1860 Munich (third) v Eintracht Frankfurt, FV Engers (fifth) v Bochum (second) (at Bochum), Oberneuland (fifth) v Borussia Moenchengladbach (at Moenchengladbach), VSG Altglienicke (fourth) v Cologne (at Cologne), MTV Eintracht Celle (fifth) v Augsburg (at Augsburg), Meinerzhagen (sixth) v Greuther Fuerth (second) (at Fuerth) (1330 GMT), Ingolstadt (third) v Fortuna Duesseldorf (second), Ulm (fourth) v Erzgebirge Aue (second), Karlsruhe (second) v Union Berlin (1630), Carl Zeiss Jena (third) v Werder Bremen (1845)
Chemnitz (fourth tier) v Hoffenheim, FC Rielasingen-Arlen (fifth) v Holstein Kiel (second) (at Kiel), Eintracht Norderstedt (fourth) v Bayer Leverkusen (at Leverkusen), Kaiserslautern (third) v Jahn Regensburg (second), Schweinfurt 05 (fourth) v Schalke 04 (at Gelsenkirchen), TSV Steinbach (fourth) v Sandhausen (second), SC Wiedenbrueck (fifth) v SC Paderborn (second), Hansa Rostock (third) v Stuttgart, SV Elversberg (fourth) v St Pauli (second) (1330), Wiesbaden (third) v Heidenheim (second), Magdeburg (third) v Darmstadt (second), Waldhof Mannheim (third) v Freiburg (1630)
Dynamo Dresden (third tier) v Hamburg (second), Wuerzburg (second) v Hannover 96 (second), RW Essen (fourth) v Arminia Bielefeld (1630), Duisburg (third) v Borussia Dortmund (1845)
Thursday, October 15
FC Dueren (fifth tier) v Bayern Munich (1845)
© 2020 AFP