German Handball Ends Season Early

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THW Kiel wins the regular season title; SG Flensburg-Handewitt second place.  20 teams expected for 20/21 Premier League season

KIEL- After ice hockey and basketball is the 1999/20 season for the professional German Handball League (DHL) officially over. All 36 teams in the premier and second leagues voted unanimously to discontinue the season instead of playing in empty stadiums (Geisterspiele) through June, the month when the season would’ve ended. The decision to end the season early is the first ever in the history of the DHL and it comes in response to the Corona epidemic and the lack of measures needed to contain the spread of the virus.  To add to the misery, all large-scale events including sports matches have been banned in Germany through 31 August.

The decision to end the season comes less than eight hours after the decision was announced to cancel the Oktoberfest in Munich by the Bavarian government and Munich’s city mayor (see here for article).

According to German public radio station NDR Info, the teams that started the 19/20 season will remain in their respective leagues for the coming season, however the top two teams will be promoted, thus having a total of 40 teams in two leagues when handball resumes play in the fall.  In the elite league, the newcomers for the upcoming season will be HSC Coburg and TuSEM Essen. The last two teams in the league, Nordhorn-Lingen and Ludwigshafen will remain in the top league for the upcoming season.  The plan is to have four teams demoted to the second league by the end of the upcoming season.

With the season being over, the zebras of THW Kiel have been crowned season champions, with second place finisher going to its archrival, SG Flensburg-Handewitt. Both teams will play in the Champions League this fall. SC Magdeburg, TSV Hanover-Burgdorf and Rhein-Neckar Lions will play in the Euro League.  Due to the Corona Virus, it is uncertain when league play will continue on both the national and international levels. There is a possibility of starting the season later than usual. League play usually starts in September.  At the same time, Geistespiele for at least part of the season may have to be introduced- a concept that is rejected due to the fact that a fair share of the revenue comes from the fans.

After the announcement to cancel the season, all eyes are now focusing on the German soccer league and its three tiers. There the debate over if and when to continue the season is fanning the flames both within the league but also with the local and national governments and health experts. This includes the continuation of the season through Geisterspiele versus cancelling the season. Already there is a sharp divide between those who favor the former and those for the latter.  And the question of the financial status among all the teams in the three leagues is the fuel for the firey debate.  With the DHL canceling the season, chances are likely that the fire will be extinguished through a concerted decision from the Bundesliga and the public officials that will satisfy the teams, fans and the cities that have the profi-teams.

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Munich Oktoberfest Cancelled

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MUNICH- The Munich Oktoberfest is the world’s largest beer and volks festival. If there is one word that first comes to mind when it comes to German culture, this one is at the very forefront. Established by King Ludwig I in 1810, the festival takes place from the middle of September until the first Sunday in October- a span of 16-18 days- attracting over 10 million visitors from around the world to the venue of the event, the Oide Wiesen.

In the 210 years the Oktoberfest has been running, it has been cancelled 24 times. The last one was in 1949 because of World War II and the reconstruction efforts in the American zone that followed.

Because of the Corona-Virus, make this year the 25th time the event has been called off.

Because of the high risk of infection and the inability to keep to the hygiene standards, Bavaria’s minister Markus Söder and Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter in a press conference  has called off the event for this year. This is confirmed by German news channel NTV. Also the Gäubodenvolksfest in Straubing, which is the largest Volksfest in Bavaria and attracts 1.5 million visitors annually has been called off. Tat was supposed to take place on the second Friday in August.

At the time of this article,Bavarialeads the way in the number of Corona Virus cases, with 37,849 infected.  Nationwide, Germany has a total of 147,065 cases. As many as 4862 residents have died of the virus, 1286 of them in the second most-populous state in the country.  Over 2.48 million infected cases have been reported worldwide even though that number could be even higher.  Germany has been gradually restarting its businesses and returning to normal but under certain circumstances.  Mouth-masks are required by law (even in Bavaria) while in public. Distance between people at 1.5- 2 meters are still in place, travel by plane or train has been at a snail’s pace due to reduced numbers available. All in an attempt to keep the reproduction rate at below one person.  Still it will take some time before a vaccination is created and adminstered to the population. Experts are predicting a timespan of 2-4 years before they can be available to the public. In the meantime, medication to treat Covid-19 have been made available but only partially. Tests are also being carried out to determine how immune people are to Corona.  Yet, officials have made it clear that until a vaccination has been made available, restrictions will need to be kept in force to protect everybody from getting infected, for the virus not only targets the most vulnerable- the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, but also younger people, including the healthy.

And that will make it more difficult for organizers of the Oktoberfest to heed to the requirements for the next festival, which is scheduled to take place September 18th to October 3rd, 2021. Should the vaccination not be made available, visitors will have a difficult time keeping a distance from one another to avoid getting infected while at the same time, enjoy a big mug of beer, a pretzel and white sausages, the cornerstone of a nutritous meal at the Oide Wiesn. Yet Germans have learned to be creative when it comes to products made in Germany. After all, many of them have originated from the Oktoberfest. Perhaps some inventor will find the best of both worlds to solve this unique problem in time for the 2021 festival.

Prost und bleib gesund! 🙂

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Here are the years where the Oktoberfest didn’t take place:

1813 because of the war against Napoleon

1866 War versus Prussia. A peace treaty on August 23rd didn’t hinder its cancellation that year.

1870 because of the War with France

1873 because of the Cholera Epidemic

1914 – 1918  World War II

1919/20 Fall Festival

1923/24 due to Inflation

1939 – 1945  because of World War II

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In 1980, a terror act on September 26th in Munich forced the closure of the Oktoberfest for only one day.
Despite the Terrorist Attack in New York and Washington, DC on 11 September, 2001, the Oktoberfest went on as scheduled.
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