Soccer teams in Israel allowed to return to training

Professional players get Ministry of Health green light to get back on the pitch, with distance and contact restrictions in place.

WHILE SOCCER training will resume in Israel, it will be quite a while before goal-celebrations like this will be happening again (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
WHILE SOCCER training will resume in Israel, it will be quite a while before goal-celebrations like this will be happening again
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Israel’s Ministry of Heath on Wednesday approved the Premier and National League teams to return to group training, the league administration announced. According to the statement released, “the professional soccer teams can return to hold contact-less training, with the pitch divided into two halves and in each of the halves the teams can train with 10 players, including the use of a ball, but without contact between the players.”
Since mid-March all soccer activities had been suspended due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and, even for a couple of weeks prior to that, teams had been playing in empty stadiums with no fans.
Israel Professional Football Leagues chairman Erez Kalfon said: “I welcome the decision of the Ministry of Health to return to group training, first in a reduced format, which is the first stage in the return of the professional soccer teams to activity and eventually real games. I am encouraged by the decision made at this time, with our goal now being to resume training without any restriction in early May, which will prepare teams for resuming their respective professional leagues.
“I have said all along and I still declare that we will do our utmost to resume the games and end the football season on the field, with sportsmanship and not in any other way, as much as possible while conforming to the Ministry of Health guidelines,” added Kalfon. “Beyond the tremendous sporting importance of ending the season on the pitch, the moral debt to the large fan bases and creating a cultural alternative for watching games, it is important to recognize that the soccer industry is a growth and employment engine for thousands of families in Israel whose income has been stopped and in need of unemployment money and other benefits from the government.
Kalfon made sure to emphasize that it is not just the teams and players that will benefit.
“In addition to the hundreds of professional players and teams in the team, there are hundreds of other families making a living from the soccer industry, ranging from photographers, production personnel, technicians, hair and make-up crews, team administrators, stadium workers, gardeners, concession personnel, food suppliers, clothing suppliers, security companies and more.”
While the theme of Kalfon’s announcement was joyous, he also stressed the need for safety amid the still rampant pandemic.
“I urge the players and teams taking part in training, please heed the Ministry of Health’s safety instructions on the field and even more so off the field and avoid contacting other people beyond the team and your nuclear family to avoid possible contagion. The responsibility on your shoulders when it comes to resuming games is great and everyone has to behave in a mature and responsible fashion.”
Notwithstanding Wednesday’s news, there is still no indication of when actual soccer games may resume, and even when they do the extreme likelihood is that they will take place without fans in the stands for the foreseeable future, possibly even until a COVID-19 vaccine is found and widely distributed.