Soccer will soon be following other seasonal sports in Manitoba like baseball, softball, and golf in returning later this month from the coronavirus shutdown that occurred back in mid-March.
The Manitoba Soccer Association announced on Wednesday it will be launching Phase One of “Return to participate in sanctioned soccer” on Wednesday, June 17.
MSA Executive Director Hector Vergara says this initial phase — following several weeks of discussion with Soccer Canada, Sport Manitoba, and provincial health officials — will involve small group training that will range from 12 players on a quarter of a field to a maximum of 50 players on a full pitch.
And, in addition to the COVID-19 protocols of screening, signing waivers, and avoid coming to practise if you’re not feeling well, Vergara says there will be a list of soccer-specific protocols to follow. “Make sure you play with your own soccer ball, make sure you only play with your feet and don’t touch the ball with your hands. Make sure you get notified by the coach before you go to the session and find out if you are a dark or light colour so you don’t have to wear bibs from the facility.”
Vergara says 10-15 minute in-session breaks will also be recommended to allow players to wash their hands and face with their own supplies. Making sure backpacks are kept 2 metres apart and players only using their own water bottle are also part of the regimen to remember.
Phase 2 of the return to play plan will include games with limited contact, and Phase 3 will be a full resumption of competition. But Vergara says no dates have been established for those next two stages. “Simply because we don’t know how it’s going to go. We obviously hope that it is very positive and that we have no recurring incidents of the pandemic in our sport. But we have to be ready if that happens.”
Vergara says about 90 per cent of the teams playing in the MSA do not compete at a level that would see them traveling out of the province. As for the elite squads who do, that will be an issue to be decided in late June when it will be determined if a National Competition in Canada will even be played. “It’s a situation where we would have a number of clubs who would travel to that.” says Vergara. “However if it doesn’t happen, the MSA would not even host a provincial championship.”
Vergara is urging patience and big-picture thinking from players, coaches, parents, and everyone involved with the beautiful game.
“The normal that we used to know four months ago, it’s totally different going forward. The reality we all have to understand, we’re not even sure if we’re going to get a 100 per cent return of the players to come back and play the game. There are people out there who will not see enough restrictions, that may be concerned and rightly so. To be quite honest, we’re not predicting to see more than 60-75 per cent of the players return at this time.”