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'Player performance may suffer behind closed doors'

May 08, 2020 17:21 IST
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IMAGE: Faroe Islands players celebrate. Photograph: Ints Kalnins//Reuters

Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov fears the performance of some players could suffer in the absence of spectators and a normal atmosphere at stadiums.

A number of football leagues around the globe will resume after the COVID-19 stoppage in the coming weeks but the matches will be played without fans.

The German Bundesliga season will restart on May 16 after a suspension of more than two months and championships in South Korea and Faroe Islands are resuming this weekend.


“Playing behind closed doors isn’t going to be the same and everybody knows that,” Berbatov told Betfair.

The 39-year-old Bulgarian, his country’s all-time leading scorer with 48 goals, also played for Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham in the English top flight as well as German club Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco in France.

“It will be quiet and you will be able to hear all the players talking on the pitch and communicating with their coaches,” Berbatov said.

“The atmosphere won’t be there and it’s going to be different for every team. Some are going to take it okay and others may suffer from it.

“Sometimes it can affect you performance when you go out there and there are no fans, you know it’s a serious game but in a way you body and mind can tell you it’s like a practice game, which can lead to bad games and performances, which isn’t a good thing.”

Berbatov, Bulgaria’s Footballer of the Year on seven occasions, joined United from Spurs in 2008 for a then club-record fee of 30 million pounds ($37.1 million).

“We all know that sometimes fans can win a game,” Berbatov said.

Football comes in from the COVID-19 cold in Faroe Islands

It may not be the biggest in the world, but the Faroe Islands’ Betri League will for once be in the spotlight when its season kicks off on Saturday.

The windswept north Atlantic archipelago, with a population of about 50,000, is among the first countries where professional soccer is resuming after the coronavirus outbreak though matches will for now be played in empty stadiums.

The Faroe Islands are minnows of European soccer. But officials say its 10-team top division is attracting more attention than usual as soccer-starved fans seek out games to watch as they await the reopening of the world’s top leagues.

“There has been some international interest in the league and that is new for us, but we have a very good league and a lot of foreign players from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Serbia,” Roin Schroter, chairman of the competitions committee of the Faroe Islands Football Association, said in an interview.

He told Reuters a deal had been reached for matches to be televised and shown abroad but gave no details.

South Korea’s K league was starting on Friday.

In Europe, Germany’s Bundesliga has been given the green light to resume on May 16 and the Belarusian Premier League, one of Europe’s less glamorous competitions, carried on with matches despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Situated about 600 km (370 miles) north of Scotland, the Faroes has reported no deaths from the coronavirus but plans are in place in case a player tests positive for the virus.

“If someone in one of the teams gets infected, we have breaks built in to the competition that we can use, or we can move up the dates of the competition,” Schroter said.

He said “all the clubs understand what we are doing, and they agree with the things we are doing.”

Joannes Bjartalid, a 23-year-old midfielder for champions Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag, shrugged off any concerns about catching the coronavirus.

“I am very much looking forward to the season,” Bjartalid said. “There was a lockdown here, but we only stopped training for 10 days. Then we trained in groups of five, then half and half, and then all the players have been training together for about a month now.”

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