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Bundesliga Buachaillí

Bayern Munich. Borussia Dortmund. Hoffenheim. Schalke 04. The Bundesliga. That Community Shield they give out for winning it. Them big yokes of beer. Never really gave much time to the Bundesliga prior to this past two weeks outside of them playing an English team in the Champions League. Sometimes when you're bored you go on a little digital adventure across the major divisions on the Sky Sports app to see the current league standings. There was about 5 minutes in the 00's when Germany provided a bit of craic on this - with Wolfsburg and Stuttgart offering up their day in that sweet 21st century sun. Of course Klopp's Dortmund were trumps at one point of the last decade but it's Bayern, Bayern, Bayern since. I wouldn't say this if it was my club - but it's boring seeing a team win year after year, as Bayern have been doing since what, 2014? I'm making a point of not researching that because of how boring it is. 6 years? 7 years? Who cares.

Bundesliga memories are few and far between to say the least. Being 5 I was too young for '99 and those glorious cúpla minutes in The Nou Camp for MUFC, but I do have very vague memories of Leverkusen knocking United out of the Champions League semi final in '02. First time I can definitely remember giving any iota of thought to the German league was of United's relentless pursuit of Owen Hargreaves. I remember thinking how clunky their shirts were and how many nationalities this Hargreaves had. How was he English again? Right. But he's Canadian and he's only ever played for a German club? Right right, I'm with you now. But is he good? This pursuit of Hargreaves was particularly exciting for a young fan as United hadn't particularly splashed the cash the years prior - well, not in the same way Chelsea were doing it and the fan letters sent into the teletext said this lad was the bollocks. He was decent for England at the World Cup two years prior and in fairness to whatever he offered United, he earned his due in 07/08 at least. Injury done him out of it to a point where he'd try find a new club by videoing himself kicking a football off the gable end of the house and putting it on YouTube - ended up going to City off the back of that.

After that, to the best of my memory, I resumed not paying attention until Louis van Gaal's Bayern came to town and sickened United coming back from 3-0 down - to then lose 3-2 and progress on away goals. This was just about the start of Bayern being a force - not only in Germany but again on the major European stage after last winning the Champions League in 2001 on penalties vs. Valencia. After that - for me anyway - German football became slightly more interesting especially with that Borussia Dortmund side of Gotze, Lewandowski, Gundogen et al. knocking about. I always admired German players like Lahm, Muller, Schweinsteiger but more so for their achievements with Germany than anything, having not watched much of the Bundesliga. I was happy out with United signing Schweinsteiger. But that midfield of him and Schneiderlinn - Jesus. Milk turned quicker.

Funny with the announcement of German football being the first major league return, we all scramble to side with a team in an attempt to connect to it. I've seen all sorts of articles and flow charts telling you who you should support based on comparisons to your own club, what your footballing beliefs are or even whose jersey is nicer. But why bother? I don't think it's particularly easy to force this feeling and it takes nearly some accidental or unintentional lure to find your club generally - as any Irish NFL fan could probably attest. I do see the point though, it might only be a month or so as the standout league and having your own focal point of watching is a bonus. For me the Premier League is my main point of interest. But providing Manchester United don't add any more lead to the line I often couldn't less care for watching a Burnley - Norwich match. So in a sense - by not picking a club to gravitate towards I can see the Bundesliga being a weekly who's who of German Burnley vs. German Norwich. So, I've landed on Schalke 04. I already possess a Schalke jersey and a German friend once told me the people of Schalke are sound skins. That will do. Raul togged for them also so that's the cool box ticked. Although Manuel Neuer was their #1 once, who for whatever reason I just don't care for. Reminds me of a German Joe Hart. Most definitely off the Neuer family Christmas card list for that.

Last weekend's action did fill that void of football for a few hours at least - although it was extremely weird without fans. What's also interesting (or uninteresting, depending) is the increased play time to not only one or two matches - but across the board. Referees blowing less fouls and thus the game flowing more efficiently. Either refs were pissed off sitting in the past two months and willing to implement astro rules, or the crowd has a massive effect on play and decisions. I'm guessing the latter. Obviously. The stand-out thought is clearly how much the lack of a crowd will hinder the play - but it will also be interesting to see whether some players will have the opposite reaction and really go for it without that lack of pressure. Pegging it back to own experience - how many times have you seen lads be Van Basten in training and Van Wolfswinkel on Saturday? That kind of thing, except a community of bandwagoners like myself watching the training session.

That image of Haaland and the Dortmund players celebrating staying 2m apart is one that will resonate for years to come. The eeriness of those players confused of what to do in what should be a moment of pure elation. The empty stadium backdrop. How weird these times are - 'you can slide tackle and man mark at a corner but that's that, Erling'. But I'm guessing that's not the point. The point being the message they are conveying and not being all over each other at every possible juncture. Substitutes benches split up and managers wearing masks are part of that too I'd imagine, I don't know. Anyway, I'm willing to get stuck in for the time being at least - and partake in Schalke 04's underwhelming race for European football. Familiar.

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