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AP photo by Ina Fassbender / Cardboard pictures of fans are in their seats for a German soccer league match between host Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — How's this for devotion: Even when German soccer fans are stuck at home, they can still be seen in the stadium.

Approximately 13,000 cutouts filled the stands Saturday as Borussia Mönchengladbach hosted Bayer Leverkusen in a Bundesliga game that could help decide Champions League qualification.

Gladbach fans took pictures at home in a team shirt or scarf and paid 19 euros ($20.70) to be turned into one of the "Pappkameraden" or "cardboard companions." Fans with season tickets have their cutouts placed in their usual spots, though some fan groups denounced the idea.

"It's better to play in front of dolls than nothing at all," Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz said before the game.

It was Gladbach's first at home since the Bundesliga restarted without spectators amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The cutouts didn't do Gladbach much good on Saturday. Leverkusen won 3-1 to overtake Gladbach for third in the standings, with Gladbach missing good chances to score late.

"Despite that, it still looks really super," Gladbach right back Stefan Lainer said. "It creates a certain atmosphere."

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AP photo by Ina Fassbender / Soccer players observe a minute of silence before a Bundesliga match between host Borussia Moenchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday.

Coach Marco Rose and some of his players were also in the stands in two-dimensional form, along with greats of the club's past. They include Günter Netzer, who won the West German title with Gladbach in 1970 and 1971 and the World Cup in 1974. There's even a visitors section with pictures of supporters from Leverkusen and other clubs.

Gladbach said it was a nonprofit initiative with proceeds going to charity.

Not all of the real-life fans like their cutout counterparts. Some groups oppose continuing the season without spectators and believe the cutouts legitimize that.

"Football without fans is nothing," read a large banner placed at one end of the stadium on Saturday.

"For Borussia, against ghost games," read another.

"The bleak backdrop of empty stadiums is exactly what these games represent and deserve," the Sottocultura group of Gladbach fans said in a released statement. "We consider the initiative with the cardboard figures to be counterproductive. We understand the well-meaning, charitable idea behind it, but we consider the signal to be the wrong one."

Gladbach isn't the first soccer club to try replacing fans with doppelgangers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Bundesliga restarted, Belarus was the only country in Europe playing league games. Champion club Dynamo Brest printed off photos sent by supporters abroad and attached them to shop mannequins wearing a motley variety of old shirts.

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