Dedryck Boyata denies kissing Hertha Berlin teammate Marko Grujic

Hertha Berlin defender Dedryck Boyata apologised yesterday 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 last Saturday after a two-month break due to the Covid-19 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 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 last 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. We have to adapt our way to play or celebrate."

Soeder, who is a front-runner to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor, meanwhile, told broadcaster Sport1: "Football has an extreme function to be a role model, so we should stick to our instructions and pay attention to it next week.... The players must also obey the rules."

Some Borussia Moen-chengladbach players also hugged after their team scored two early goals in the 3-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt.

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