geisterspiel (ɡaɪstər-spēl)

Bundesliga is set to continue its season on May 16 without spectators. (photo from https://time.com/5836077/baseball-covid-coronavirus/)

COVID-19 has put a damper on sporting events around the world. All sports and gatherings of more than six people have been prohibited since March.

When sports are played without spectators, they are usually referred to as “behind closed doors.” Sports can be played behind closed doors depending on a number of reasons such as civil unrest, potential clashes between fans, and pandemics. Without fans, the passion of a sporting event is severely diminished.

A unique word from German describing this phenomenon is geisterspiel. The word geisterspiel once referred to soccer games that were so blanketed in winter fog that the players looked like ghosts and the fans had no idea where the ball was on the field. Geisterspiel contains two German words – geister, which means ghosts, and spiel, which means game. A geisterspiel is a game that is played completely in front of cameras, with no spectators in the audience.

This year marks the first geisterspiel of the Bundesliga, a professional soccer league in Germany, due to COVID-19. The season, which was suspended on March 13, will continue on May 16. German fans are being told to stay away from the stadium since no spectators will be allowed inside.

Due to COVID-19, several other notable sporting events will be held behind closed doors. Other leagues that plan to hold geisterspiele* are the K League of South Korea, and the J League of Japan. In the United States, NASCAR will return this weekend with a new set of rules and no audience members. Major League Baseball (MLB) is also set to hold games in the beginning of July with no fans present.

COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt. However, the massive disruption in the sporting schedule around the world has been unprecedented. What sport are you looking forward to watching in person after quarantine is over?

*plural of geisterspiel

2 Comments

  1. I saw this little blurb in the New York Times today:
    P.S. The word “geisterspiel,” — German for a “ghost game,” or a match without spectators — appeared for the first time in The Times on Saturday, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s