Gary Lineker Reflects on Soccer’s Return in Germany

Soccer fans worldwide are rejoicing as the German Bundesliga heads back to the pitch this weekend. But the stadiums will be empty, and the teams will play behind closed doors. To discuss the impact of coronavirus on soccer and the sporting community, Christiane speaks with soccer legend Gary Lineker, who has scored the most world cup final goals of any English player.

Read Transcript EXPAND

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Let me just start by asking you, are you excited that the German top leagues are going to start playing again?

GARY LINEKER, FORMER ENGLISH FOOTBALL PLAYER: Nervously excited, I think. I think we’re all looking at the German league as — well, they’re setting the tone for everybody else, aren’t they? Because I think every league in Europe that wants to try and finish the season that was obviously interrupted is looking to Germany to see how it goes. Obviously, the Germans have been, you know, pretty much very clever during this thing. Their testing has been brilliant and they’re ahead of everybody else in Europe really. So, it would be interesting to see how it pans out. But what happens if three or four players test positive and then everybody else in the squad has to isolate? Then you’ve got a problem. So, yes, excited but at the same time a little bit apprehensive.

AMANPOUR: So, we understand that they’re in effect quarantined, they basically go from the stadium to their hotel, I think, and back and forth and there will be testing. But there will also, as we said, playing behind closed doors. How does that strike you? I mean, we still don’t know whether it’s going to be a health issue. But is football football or soccer soccer if there are no fans? What’s the psychological impact of that?

LINEKER: Well, it’s not quite the same. I have played in one game behind closed doors in my entire career because we had some fan problems in the crowd and it was a very strange experience. I imagine after a few games they’ll get used to it. But even watching football on television, soccer, obviously you American viewers, is very much different if you’ve not got the crowd. In fact, that’s the same for pretty much every sport. Because the crowd adds to it, it adds to the atmosphere and it becomes more exciting to watch on the television. So, players — it will be a little bit like training in many ways but more important than training. But I imagine they’ll get accustomed to it. It’s whether the television audience is accustomed to it because it’s very different. I think in Germany they have got things like cardboard cutouts, lots of thousands of fans that will be noise put through the P.A. systems, et cetera, to try and generate some kind of atmosphere. So, I think Europe is watching very closely to see how it pans out. And, you know, fingers crossed it’s acceptable because I think it’s better if the European leagues were interrupted with about — generally about 10 matches to go. So, I think in terms of fairness, et cetera, it would be good to finish out the season. Now, there seems to be a little bit of a rush to do it because they want to start next season on time.

About This Episode EXPAND

Ed Yong, staff writer for The Atlantic, joins Christiane Amanpour to explain how American exceptionalism could be exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis. Soccer legend Gary Lineker discusses how the pandemic is impacting his sport and the greater athletic community. Tom Nichols joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the death of expertise in American society.