VfB Stuttgart fires coach Babbel after dire draw

Struggling Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart has confirmed the sacking of coach Markus Babbel just a few days before their crucial Champions League clash.

VfB Stuttgart fires coach Babbel after dire draw
Photo: DPA

Former Tottenham Hotspur boss Christian Gross was named as Babbel’s successor on Sunday evening and the 55-year-old has signed a contract until June 30 2011.

“I am here to save what still has to be saved,” said Gross. “I want to get the team back on the road to victory.”

Stuttgart need to beat Romanian champions Unirea Urziceni at home on Wednesday to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

The 37-year-old Babbel was sacked less than 24 hours after his side drew 1-1 with Bochum, which left them third from the bottom of the German league with just two wins to their credit all season, and 12 points from 15 games.

“I wish the new coaching team all the best,” Babbel said. “I hope they find the way to get the best out of the team so they can play well again – I never found it.”

A group of several thousand angry Stuttgart fans, demanding Babbel’s resignation, squared off with police wearing riot gear outside Stuttgart’s Mercedes-Benz Arena on Saturday after the draw with Bochum.

Despite being crowned German champions in 2007, Stuttgart have now gone eight league games without a win. Babbel, who took charge in November 2008, is the fourth Bundesliga coach to be sacked this season.

He joins Marcel Koller (Bochum), Dieter Hecking (Hannover 96) and Lucien Favre (Hertha Berlin) who also were dismissed by top-flight clubs here.

The departing boss had to be escorted away from Stuttgart’s ground by police on Saturday and the ex-Liverpool defender admitted he was shocked by his treatment from his own fans.

“I had never experienced such scenes as I did on Saturday,” said Babbel who admitted he was disturbed by such behaviour in the wake of Robert Enke’s tragic suicide on November 10.

“Even the so-called football millionaires do not deserve to be subjected to so much hate and even murder threats,” he added. “After the Robert Enke tragedy many people spoke up and talked about what we had to learn from this. But what happened on Saturday shows me that it is all just hypocrisy.”

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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.