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As baseball season kicked off in South Korea this week, excited fans cheered on their teams from the stands at Incheon’s Happy Dream Ballpark. Yes, those fans were made of cardboard, but paper people don’t have to abide by the same social-distancing requirements as their flesh and blood counterparts.
The coronavirus pandemic has, of course, canceled or postponed major sporting events around the world. The Korean Baseball Organization, or KBO, was originally scheduled to start on March 28, but its opening day was pushed back to Tuesday, when the SK Wyverns battled the Hanwha Eagles.
Players, umpires and other personnel wore face masks, as did cheerleaders on hand to pump up crowds watching the game via video and displayed on a giant screen overlooking the field. Even the spectators pictured on banners in the stands can be seen diligently donning face coverings.
The 10-team KBO is scheduled to play a full 144-game schedule this year, but if a player or coach tests positive for COVID-19, the league will shut down for at least three weeks, CNET sister site CBS Sports reports.
South Korea isn’t the only country where sports events have proceeded without (living, breathing) fans in attendance. In Taiwan, cardboard cutouts of fans have attended Chinese Professional Baseball League games. Some carry signs in support of their teams, while others point their cardboard cameras at the field.
In Germany, as part of a “Stay at home. Be in the stands” campaign by German pro soccer league team Borussia Moenchengladbach, fans have purchased cardboard cutouts printed with their likenesses to be displayed in the stands at west German stadium Borussia Park.
These “pappkameraden” cost 19 euros (about $20.80, £16.50 AU$ 31.90) and will spare TV viewers and professional players the dispiriting sight of empty stadium seats when Germany’s pro soccer league, the Bundesliga, returns on May 16 after been suspended since March.
It still has nine match days left to complete the season.
The league has said no more than 330 people can assemble at a stadium for matches, but Simon Rolfes, sporting director of the team Bayer Leverkusen, said most of those would be security personnel to prevent fans from gathering.
Borussia Moenchengladbach currently ranks fourth in Bundesliga standings. Orders for its cardboard cutout fans exceeded 8,000 as of April 30, the team says, with more than 2,000 already placed in the Borussia Park stands.
The smiling fans look happy to be cheering on their team. They cannot, however, be seen doing the wave.
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