Football fans around the world were rejoicing over the weekend as top-level football finally returned, with Bundesliga teams taking to the pitch as their season restarted.
But while the chance to watch elite sides such as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund after a few weeks with little action to watch was welcome, it all felt a little bit flat.
Safety measures due to the coronavirus crisis means all the matches had to be played behind closed doors, meaning the vibrant culture German football is known for was sadly absent.
Clearly, some major compromises had to be made due to the pandemic – which has been handled fairly well in Germany – but the lack of crowd noise made for a strange atmosphere.
Players appeared unsure how to celebrate with Erling Haaland’s well-taken opener for Dortmund in a crushing derby win at home to rivals Schalke leading to immediately iconic snaps.
Many football fans will have turned to esports during the break, so how do they compare to the Bundesliga’s return this weekend?
Training ground feel to live action
German football is world-famous for its passionate fans, so playing without supporters was always going to feel different. The sight of substitutes social distancing on the sidelines, wearing club-branded face masks, also cast a rather eerie feel over the proceedings.
It did not help that few of the matches were closely-fought affairs. The weekend’s high profile opener saw Dortmund blow away Schalke 4-0, with title rivals Bayern Munich cruising to a 2-2 victory at Union Berlin on Sunday.
Hertha Berlin beat Hoffenheim easily and Borussia Monchengladbach brushed Eintracht Frankfurt aside after scoring a brace of early goals.
The return of football in Germany has also been controversial with polls showing the majority of people felt it was too soon for footballers to be returning to the pitch.
Nonetheless, millions of people tuned in to watch games in Germany, though television figures in the United Kingdom were more modest.
According to a report in the Mirror, more people watched a repeat of Midsomer Murders than the average of 500,000 who saw Dortmund beat Schalke.
It should be noted that Bundesliga games in the UK are on a subscription channel – BT Sport – and live football matches that are behind a paywall often have surprisingly low viewing figures.
But the number of people who watched the Bundesliga over the weekend does not compare favourably with the biggest esports events.
Over two million people watched last year’s inaugural Fortnite World Cup final, which was won by American teenager Kyle Giersdorf.
Fans can usually tune into esports for free, which gives it an advantage over the Bundesliga.
Even pro players get nervous playing esports
One of the major criticisms of esports is how little is on the line, despite the fact top events now usually come with prize pools worth millions of dollars.
But while the real-life Bundesliga was paused due to COVID-19, many top players took part in the Bundesliga Home Challenge in order to fill the gap in their schedules.
Augsburg’s Marco Richter was among the players to impress and he even revealed how picking up a pad to enter the event made him feel.
“I was so nervous,” Richter told bundesliga.com in an interview. “It had been so long since I’d played FIFA. I’ve played in front of 80,000 at the Signal Iduna Park [home of top Bundesliga side] Borussia Dortmund] but I was more worried about this. I just didn’t want to lose 9-0.”
Betting on esports outstrips Bundesliga wagers
Recent weeks have seen increased interest in betting on esports, but many would have guessed the return of the Bundesliga would see people turn back to live sports.
But that does not seem to have been the case. EveryMatrix CEO Ebbe Groes claims esports betting activity actually rose over the weekend even though there was a lot more live sport to gamble on instead.
Writing in a post on LinkedIn, he said: “We had a new record on esport turnover last week despite Bundesliga taking betting volumes.
I think this will continue even as sports come back and that operators investing in esport right now will see a long-term effect, not just a short-term one. We’ll know soon.”
If the return of the Bundesliga did not affect esports betting volumes, it seems likely that gambling on the events and tournaments is going to be here to stay.
So that is just another reason why esports are better than the Bundesliga right now!