Player celebrates with hug for driver he says saved his life

The Canadian Press

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — Soccer players in Germany aren't allowed to celebrate with hugs during games in the pandemic. Dimitrij Nazarov made an exception for the man he believes saved his life.

Nazarov ran to the sideline after scoring from a header for Erzgebirge Aue against Nuremberg in the second division on Friday and embraced team official Thomas Romeyke.

Nazarov explained on Saturday that Romeyke's quick reactions saved the Aue team on the journey to the game. Romeyke was at the wheel of the team bus the day before the game when it was struck by flying debris from a car crash.

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“He saved our lives, simple as that,” Nazarov told the MDR regional broadcaster. “If he hadn’t reacted as quickly as he did, who knows what would have happened.”

The Azerbaijan international player said he hoped the German soccer league, known as the DFL, would “turn a blind eye to (the hug)” given the circumstances.

The league recommends social distancing during celebrations, which generally means polite elbow bumps rather than bear hugs. The league reminded players in the top two divisions to keep their distance after German political figures criticized some players' hugs and backslaps during the restart last week.

Coach Dirk Schuster told MDR the Aue team was driving along when “suddenly a car comes flying a meter in front of the windshield.”

The bus was damaged and Schuster said he was left covered in glass. News agency dpa reported that no one on board the team bus was hurt, although two people in the car were hospitalized with serious injuries. The team eventually finished the journey in smaller vehicles.

Schuster said Aue didn't consider calling off the game though it was a challenge for the squad to stay focused.

Aue and Nuremburg drew 1-1, leaving Aue sixth in the league and still with a slight chance of winning promotion to the top division for next season. Nuremburg is 15th and trying to avoid relegation.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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James Ellingworth on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jellingworth

James Ellingworth, The Associated Press

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