A German lower-league soccer club raised more than €70,000 ($76,000) on Saturday to help stay afloat during lockdown by playing a virtual match against "FC Corona Covid-19."
BFC Dynamo needed a late winner to beat "FC Corona Covid-19" 4-3 in a match played out on FIFA 20. They mounted a stirring comeback from being 3-1 down with just half an hour played after conceding two early goals from "Artur Viral" and another from "Quarantinho."
Berlin-based BFC Dynamo created a whole virtual matchday for their fans and "sold out" one of their former grounds, the Stadion der Weltjugend, in the German capital. The money raised will help the club -- a regional fourth-tier club that was the record champion of East Germany (GDR) before reunification in 1989 -- through the difficult time without any matchday revenue.
The match was broadcast live to over 4,000 following the coverage on YouTube after fans had bought virtual tickets priced between €1 and €50 as well as beers, bratwursts and schnapps to "bring to the stadium," which in reality was demolished in 1992.
The stadium, which once held 70,000 people, was torn down to make way for a new arena as part of Berlin's unsuccessful bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympic Games.
"We are playing at the Stadion der Weltjugend because you never know with people," the club told ESPN earlier this week, addressing concerns that supporters would congregate at their current Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn-Sportpark home if they made that the virtual venue. "We want to make it absolutely clear that it's a virtual match."
BFC Dynamo were the record champions of East Germany, winning 10 consecutive titles from 1979 to 1988. The club was backed by Erich Mielke, the head of the East German Ministry for State Security (more commonly known as the "Stasi"), and the team were known for their knack of scoring goals and having crucial refereeing decisions go their way late in matches.
"Just like in the old days, BFC wins in stoppage time," local tabloid Berliner Kurier headlined following the win against FC Corona Covid-19, "the most hated team on the planet."
Next month another former GDR great, Lok Leipzig, will play the "Invisible Opponent" in front of what they hope will surpass the record attendance for a live football match in Europe.
Having already sold over 130,000 tickets for €1 each, they now have in their sights set on the record set on April 17, 1937, at Hampden Park, when Scotland hosted England in front of 147,000 paying supporters.