Hertha defender sorry for ‘close encounter’, denies kissing teammate

Boyata (left) clarified on Instagram that he did not kiss Marko Grujic. (AP pic)

BERLIN: Hertha Berlin defender Dedryck Boyata apologised on Sunday for his up-close encounter with Marko Grujic but denied kissing his teammate after a senior German politician criticised players for breaching the league’s strict hygiene protocol.

The German Bundesliga restarted on Saturday after a two-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic with clubs having agreed to draconian hygiene guidelines in a plan approved by the German government.

However, Bavarian state minister Markus Soeder said he expected the league to “tighten up” instructions on how to celebrate goals after some players hugged with teammates.

Players were told to avoid contact whenever possible, especially when celebrating goals.

That was ignored on a few occasions although a repentant Boyata said he was simply uttering instructions to Grujic at a corner.

The Belgium international had appeared to kiss Grujic on the cheek on Saturday before Hertha scored three quick goals in a 3-0 win against Hoffenheim.

“I apologise for putting my hands on (Grujic’s) face,” Boyata wrote on Instagram, explaining that “it wasn’t a kiss” or “a celebration” when he grabbed the Serbia midfielder.

“I was giving him instructions about a set-piece.

“We must definitely be careful now that we play under this situation,” added the 29-year-old.

“We have to adapt our way to play or celebrate.”

Earlier this month, Hertha had already suspended ex-Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou for posting a video of him shaking hands with teammates in the dressing room before training.

“Football has an extreme function to be a role model, so we should stick to our instructions and pay attention to it next week,” Soeder told broadcaster Sport1 on Sunday.

Also on Saturday, some Borussia Moenchengladbach players hugged after their team scored two early goals in the 3-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt.

“The players must also obey the rules,” added Soeder.

The German Football League (DFL) has said it would not sanction any players for not sticking to the guidelines at the weekend – but that could change.

Hertha coach Bruno Labbadia defended his players, who hugged in celebration after their goals, insisting it is part of the game.

“We’ve been tested so many times that we can allow it,” said Labbadia, who was taking charge of Hertha for the first time.

“If you can’t celebrate anymore, the whole thing breaks down.”