Germany captain Manuel Neuer says Bundesliga footballers have an “enormous responsibility” after the league announced Wednesday it will restart from May 15, having been granted permission to resume from Angela Merkel’s government.
The German Football League confirmed the restart date for the top two divisions, with the clubs to finalise details in a video conference on Thursday.
Earlier, German Chancellor Merkel gave permission for the Bundesliga to resume behind closed doors, amid strict hygiene measures and regular testing of players.
It will be the first of Europe’s top leagues to restart since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“People will be looking at us from other European countries, indeed all over the world,” Bayern Munich goalkeeper Neuer told Frankfurt-based newspaper FAZ. “This is an enormous responsibility for us, which we must be aware of with every fibre. It is now up to us.”
He said the players must ensure the league returns successfully. “Now it is up to each individual at each club to bring this concept to life in a disciplined manner,” added Neuer.
“We are particularly responsible for tens of thousands of jobs in diverse industries that live with, and through, football. And we are responsible for all those fans for whom football is a big part of their lives.”
Bayern, chasing an eighth straight league title, were four points clear when the Bundesliga was halted on March 13.
However, there remains fierce debate in Germany whether football should return. The virus has claimed over 7,000 lives in the country.
Hertha Berlin striker Salomon Kalou was suspended by his club on Monday and slammed by politicians for shaking hands with team-mates in a video, flaunting social distancing guidelines.
Neuer said the Kalou incident should be a “warning sign” to all players, who he urged to become “social role models”.
“We were the darlings of an entire nation when we became world champions at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on 13 July 2014,” said Neuer. “Now we’re wearing a different jersey – that of our social role models.”