SG Ripdorf/Molzen II deemed the conditions of play unsafe after learning that players from Holdenstedt, their opponents in the 11th tier of German football, had been in contact with a player who had been infected with COVID-19 in a previous match.
They avoided punishment for abandoning the match by fielding seven players, all of whom played little active part in the contest beyond returning the ball to Holdenstedt, allowing them to average more than a goal every three minutes.
Patrick Ristow, the co-chair of Ripdorf, thanked the seven volunteers for helping the Saxony club to avoid a damaging fine of around $235.
“That’s a lot of money for us – especially amid the pandemic,” he told ESPN.
“We tried to postpone the match but Holdenstedt wanted to play. When the game kicked off, one of our players passed the ball to the opponent and our team walked to the sidelines.
“They did not go into direct duels and observed the social distancing rules, keeping two meters between them and Holdenstedt players.
“The Holdenstedt players did not understand. But we did not want to risk anything. For the rest of the match, our players returned to the field but they only stood on the pitch.”
Footage of the no-contest accumulated tens of thousands of views on YouTube. “Just ridiculous, this corona panic,” said one observer. “They shouldn’t even start if they already think that the players could be at risk.”
Another viewer who claimed to have knowledge of the local league said that other matches encountering similar problems had been canceled, replying: “They wanted to embarrass [Holdenstadt] because there was a corona case on the opposing team.
“I can’t tell you how high the fine is, but especially in the [lower divisions], money is pretty tight.”
Figures released by FIFA this week estimated that the sport has lost around $14 billion because of the three-month enforced hiatus earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.
Olli Rehn, the governor of the Bank of Finland appointed to lead the committee tackling the effects of the pandemic, admitted that he was “very concerned” about the impact on youth academies and lower division clubs and feared that the situation would worsen without the virus being tamed in the foreseeable future.
Ristow called Ripdorf’s approach “a catch-22”. “There is no perfect solution for it,” he accepted. “We went down this route. We wished Holdenstedt no harm.”