Magath looks to repeat magic at Schalke as Bundesliga kicks off

Having won the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg last season, Felix Magath will now try to work the same magic on Schalke 04 when the season begins on Friday eveing.

Magath looks to repeat magic at Schalke as Bundesliga kicks off
Photo: DPA

The 56-year-old, who won two league titles with Bayern Munich before he was sacked in February 2007, hardly put a foot wrong last season as the side he built swept the league.

While Bayern Munich faltered and eventually sacked ex-Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann in April, Wolfsburg picked up their first league crown in May, only for Magath to then quit to become coach and team manager at Schalke.

The Royal Blues spent most of last season in disarray and Magath’s first job has to be to build some team spirit and plug gaps in their defence before their first league game against newly-promoted Nuremburg on Saturday. His replacement at Wolfsburg, Armin Veh, won the league title with Stuttgart in 2007, and his first game in charge is against his former club in the season’s opening game.

Veh is fortunate Wolfsburg have managed to keep hold of key strikers Edwin Dzeko and Brazilian Grafite despite interest from some of Europe’s top clubs while on Wednesday they were boosted as Bosnian international midfielder Zvjezdan Misimovic extended his contract until 2013.

Between them Dzeko and Grafite netted 54 league goals, but it remains to be seen if the team can repeat their surprise success or handle the step up to the Champions League where they will make their debut.

“The team is very motivated. My initial impressions from the first training camp have absolutely been confirmed,” said Veh whose attacking options have been further boosted by the arrival of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins from Newcastle. “We are looking forward to the season and showing what we can do.”

The man with the highest-profile job in German league football is Dutchman Louis van Gaal who arrives as Bayern Munich coach to try to succeed where Klinsmann failed.

Previous achievements count for nothing at success-greedy Bayern where domestic honours are demanded and Champions League success is expected. The 57-year-old van Gaal has inherited an embarrassment of riches in attack with Bayern’s squad containing Germany strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose, as well as Italian World Cup winner Luca Toni and Croatia’s Ivica Olic.

Promising youngster Thomas Müller makes it five forwards pushing for two places in van Gaal’s starting line-up and the straight-taking ex-Holland coach is expected to stamp his mark on the side. Their club president German football legend Franz Beckenbauer is in no doubt of the quality of the present squad.

“This is the best ever Bayern side,” ‘The Kaiser’ proudly declared, though, his words may come back to haunt him. “We want to become German champions and at the very least reach the Champions League quarter-finals if not the semis.”

German national coach Joachim Löw does not share Beckenbauer’s optimism.

“It (the league title) will not be a formality,” said Löw. “There are several sides who have made progress in the past few years in terms of consistency and quality. Maybe there will be another surprise winner such as Stuttgart and Wolfsburg.”

Bayern captain Mark van Bommel said the players are responding to van Gaal’s direct approach.

“He clearly tells us what he wants to see. He’s a straight talker, he corrects you and urges you on.”

Raised voices on the practice ground from time to time are not a problem, says van Bommel. “It’s criticism to help you improve. It’s well-intentioned, to stop it happening again.”

The Dutchman’s first league game in charge is against last season’s dark horses Hoffenheim who led the league on their debut Bundesliga season at Christmas before falling off the pace.

The loss of striker Vedad Ibisevic with a cruciate ligament injury in the winter break was a devastating blow, but coach Ralf Rangnick can ill-afford another collapse which saw his side slump to mid-table.

Of the three sides coming up – Nuremberg, Freiburg and Mainz – Nuremberg can be expected to handle the move up after only two seasons out of German’s top flight.

Mainz by contrast hardly enter the season in a good state, though, they have already made Bundesliga history before a ball has been kicked after they became the first ever side to sack their coach prior to the start of the season when they removed Norwegian Jorn Andersen on Monday.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.