David Beckham’s Major League Soccer team made a welcome return to training on Wednesday even if a raft of coronavirus protocols brutally laid bare the problems of battling a global pandemic and resuming normal service.
Inter Miami was one of four MLS franchises to have players working out at its training facilities for the first time since the league was suspended on March 12 as the COVID-19 crisis wreaked havoc upon the sporting world.
MLS, which has suspended play until June 8 at the earliest, is allowing all clubs to have their players return based on advice from their local and State health authorities. Orlando, Atlanta and Sporting Kansas also took up the option yet during a video call with reporters, Inter Miami sporting director Paul McDonough, sounded a note of caution for anyone hoping top-level sport in the United States is heading for a swift return.
McDonough was delighted to have virtually a full squad reporting back for duty, with players only allowed on site after answering an MLS health and safety questionnaire that asked if they’d had a fever, felt ill or had a cough recently.
Players parked three spaces away from one another in the car park and were greeted by staff members wearing personal protective equipment. Their temperatures were then taken and once an individual, one hour training session was completed, they departed in a similar manner.
While the United Soccer League - which is effectively the second tier in the United States - had already introduced ‘non-contact training in small groups,’ MLS is moving forward with extreme caution. “We split the group into two segments and split the field into four,” said McDonough who has been in constant contact with Beckham via Zoom .
“There were two entry points to the fields and a trainer in PPE would come to the car, take their temperature, sanitize their hands and then the players would then put on a face mask and go to their assigned quadrant in the facility. We funnelled them all through, they did their work and the coaches were present while respecting social distancing barriers. No player was allowed in our building.”
There have been more than 38,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida with just over 1,500 deaths, according to statistics released on Wednesday.
“The players have found the last seven weeks very difficult,” said McDonough, who stressed squad members wouldn’t be in every day and would continue to supplement their training schedules at home.
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“The parks have been closed and there was nowhere to work out but as soon as the parks started opening, we thought about everything because if they are in a park, you can’t protect them from people coming up to them and recognising them and wanting selfies. So we know we have great facilities and can put them in here in a protected environment while social distancing to keep them safe.”
MLS commissioner Don Garber has not set a firm date to return although the lack of action hasn’t stopped Beckham’s team from being linked to the kind of superstar signings the fans are desperate for.
Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale and Barcelona’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal have both been mentioned recently as potential targets for the club, which is in its debut season after an agonising string of setbacks to former England star Beckham’s bid to get an MLS team off the ground.
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“It’s great to have so many linked to us,” said McDonough, who admitted admiration for both La Liga based stars. “But we are just looking for the right couple of pieces to finish it off.”