The HFX Wanderers are returning to their stomping grounds on Natal Day for the soccer team’s first home game since before the pandemic.
“We’re just really excited. It’s been a long 16, 17 months for us and for everybody,” said Derek Martin, president of the HFX Wanderers.
“We’re just really fortunate that we’re able to have a game and put this on on Natal Day.”
The team’s first home game will be played at the Wanderers Grounds on Aug. 2, during an event that’s expected to draw about 4,000 season ticket-holders.
Martin said he’s working with the province and Public Health to adhere to public health measures. They will create 16 zones of 250 spectators each, and within those zones there will be space to allow for 50-people cohorts.
There will be independent gates for each section, along with washrooms and food and drinks, so people won’t have to leave their sections.
“And that really allows us to keep contact at a minimum, which helps Public Health, if there ever were a case that was in the venue, then they’d have much fewer people that would be at risk.
“That, in addition with, obviously, our vaccination rates in here Nova Scotia and the fact that we’re outdoors.”
As a fairly young team, the Wanderers only had one season under their belt before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Last year, rather than hosting traditional games at packed stadiums, the Canadian Premier League operated a “bubble” league in Charlottetown.
Case numbers were low at the time, and by the end, a small number of spectators were allowed to watch – but it was mostly a “made-for-TV event,” said Martin.
That’s why the team’s players are “chomping at the bit” to go out and play a game in front of their fans.
“I think it means the world to them. There’s been a number of players who have come to play for the Wanderers in 2020, and now again in 2021, that have never had the chance to play here,” Martin said.
“I think there’s a number of them that are excited to finally step foot on the Wanderers Grounds.”
The Wanderers will play against Atlético Ottawa on Natal Day. They will also compete against York United at the Wanderers Grounds on Aug. 7.
Martin said the team is grateful to their fans for helping them get through a difficult year.
“We’re really thrilled with the response from our fans,” he said. “It’s especially sweet to be able to welcome them back here on Natal Day.”