Angela Merkel gives go-ahead for Bundesliga to resume in mid-May

The empty stadium Signal Iduna Park of the Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund is pictured on May 5, 2020, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. German football is waiting for the green light to resume. (AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2020

Angela Merkel gives go-ahead for Bundesliga to resume in mid-May

  • The political blessing makes the German top-flight the first of Europe’s five major leagues to return to the field.
  • The season was suspended in mid-March

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders on Wednesday gave the Bundesliga the green light to restart behind closed doors from mid-May after weeks of shutdown imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The political blessing makes the German top-flight the first of Europe’s five major leagues to return to the field.
“Matches will be allowed under the approved rules,” said Merkel at a press conference in Berlin, referring to a plan by the German Football League (DFL) for the Bundesliga to resume in empty stadiums and with players regularly tested.
Permission was granted on condition that strict guidelines are followed — with a hygiene officer appointed to each team — to prevent contagion of the virus.
The DFL must now set a date for the restart with either the weekend of May 16-17 or the following weekend earmarked.
Representatives from the clubs will finalize those details in a videoconference on Thursday.
With 13 of the 36 teams in Germany’s top two divisions reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy, the league desperately needs to claim around 300 million euros ($325 million) from TV contracts if the season is completed.
The season was suspended in mid-March. The league has long urged restarting play, which it says is vital for a sector that employs 56,000 people in Germany.
Teams returned to training on April 6 although sessions have followed stringent social distancing rules and players are not allowed to change at training grounds.
The league says its intensive testing plan allows matches to be relaunched with low risk to health.
So far, clubs in the top two divisions have returned 10 positive results for coronavirus from 1,724 tests since training resumed.
Three of the cases are known to be from the Cologne club and two from Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has argued that the testing regime “makes sense and can serve as an example for other forms of professional sport,” although he warned “it has to be lived up to.”
The league and politicians reacted with consternation when Hertha Berlin player Salomon Kalou filmed himself shaking hands with teammates this week, flaunting the social distancing rules that clubs have put in place.
“The video has done the German league and professional football a disservice,” Anja Stahmann, who chairs Germany’s regional sports ministers, told RBB radio on Wednesday.
Hertha have suspended Kalou, and the 34-year-old former Chelsea player has apologized profusely.
Bayern Munich, seeking their eighth consecutive title, were four points clear at the top of the table when play was halted.
Leagues across Europe are taking different approaches to the unprecedented crisis.
The French league announced last week it will not resume the Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 seasons, with Paris Saint-Germain being awarded the top-flight title.
The Netherlands abandoned its season a week earlier.
The Premier League, Europe’s richest league, has said it aims to restart in June, but deep differences have emerged over plans to use neutral stadiums.
Players in Italy’s Serie A returned to training this week and in Spain, Barcelona say players will undergo coronavirus tests on Wednesday as La Liga clubs begin restricted training ahead of a proposed resumption of the season next month.
The Serbian and Turkish leagues have also announced plans for matches to resume.


Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

Updated 23 September 2020

Murray to the rescue as Nuggets hold of Lakers

  • The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99

ORLANDO: Jamal Murray scored 28 points as the Denver Nuggets held off a ferocious late fightback from the Los Angeles Lakers to roar back into contention in the Western Conference finals series on Tuesday.

Murray nailed two crucial late three-pointers in the closing minutes as Denver held on for a 114-106 victory in game three to reduce the Lakers’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

But the Nuggets — who looked in complete control for long periods of the contest — were given a mighty scare by the Lakers in a thrilling fourth quarter battle.

The Lakers had trailed by 20 points with just over 10 minutes remaining but whittled away the Denver lead to just three points with 3min 53sec left on the clock in Orlando.

But just as it looked as if LeBron James and Anthony Davis were poised to complete a remarkable comeback, Murray regrouped to take the game away from the Lakers.

The 23-year-old Canadian’s three-pointer from 26 feet gave Denver a seven-point advantage at 106-99 and he then provided the assist for Paul Millsap to make it 108-99.

With less than a minute on the clock, Murray struck the dagger blow with a 29-foot three-point jumpshot to make it 111-99 and effectively seal victory.

Denver coach Michael Malone said his team — who had suffered an agonizing buzzer-beater defeat in game two on Sunday — were determined not to go 3-0 down in the series.

The Nuggets have already overturned 3-1 series deficits en route to the Western Conference finals.

“I had no doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Malone said.

“We have won six straight elimination games. Everybody always has us packing our bags and leaving, but we’re not ready to go. They’re a very resilient group and they have proved that time and time again.”

Asked about his late flourish, Murray said he had set out to lead by example.

“That’s my whole energy, my whole approach to the game, not getting down if I miss a couple of shots,” Murray said.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive ... but the most important part is the energy I bring when I’m talking to my team-mates, being a vocal leader, getting up and down and pushing everybody so they tend to follow. I just wanted to see them have a lot of fun today.”

The Lakers, meanwhile, were left reflecting on an uneven display which ultimately left James and Davis with too much to do.

James led the scoring with a triple double comprised of 30 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, with six turnovers. Davis had 27 points, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12) and Kyle Kuzma (11) the only other Lakers players to crack double figures.

Murray, who also had 12 assists, was backed with 26 points from Jerami Grant while Nikola Jokic weighed in with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

“You put yourself in an 18-point hole, it’s tough to climb out of that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.

“I thought Denver played with great energy throughout the game. We didn’t match it early, we matched it late. They’re a great basketball team so credit it to them for the win. They played a really good basketball game.

“We were not as sharp as we could have been on both ends of the floor. We were playing at a high level, but were a little bit off in the first half.

“But I liked the spirit that the guys competed with down the stretch to try and make it a game.”