Pacific FC became the first Island team to return to officially practising in groups Monday in perhaps a sign of the turning of the tide for sports following the phased-in lifting of provincial COVID-19 restrictions.
The first voluntary training session took place at the club’s Indoor Island Training Centre in Langford with groups of three working out during staged times throughout the day.
“It’s a blessing to be back on the pitch,” said Pacific FC head coach Pa-Modou Kah.
“It’s great to see the boys after a couple of months. They have done all the work asked of them as true professionals [through online team-directed virtual individual training]. Nobody expected this pandemic. But we had total buy-in from the players, who never lost faith.”
PFC captain Marcel de Jong, capped 56 times for Canada, has seen a lot in a 14-year pro career with FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga, Roda JC in the Dutch Eredivisie and Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS. But he’s never been through anything as unusual as this.
“It’s great to be back on the pitch with the team after such a long break,” said de Jong.
“It makes you appreciate what you love to do when you haven’t done it for a while.”
Pacific FC received approval from the provincial and municipal health authorities and the Canadian Premier League to return to training.
“As a club and league, we have done everything in our power and taken all the measures, to keep it going safely,” said Kah.
“We control what we can control.”
Also returning to practice Monday were the CPL’s HFX Wanderers in Halifax. The six other teams are expected to begin training this week. The CPL has a protocol featuring a phased-in approach that begins with non-contact individual or small group workouts.
“Full-team practices are not priority at the moment,” said Kah.
“Right now it’s about small groups getting touches on the ball. It’s day-by-day. We look forward to tomorrow and the day after that. This virus has given us a different perspective.”
Hosting the entirety of an abbreviated 2020 pandemic season at Westhills Stadium over August and September, or in Prince Edward Island, is being considered by the CPL.
Provincial authorities in both B.C. and P.E.I. are reviewing the proposals.
“If it’s Victoria, the Island is fantastic and secluded with a low number of cases,” said Kah.
“Holding it here would be amazing. If it’s elsewhere, that would also be amazing, too. That’s for the league and owners to decide. Our job is to play football. My job is to be ready and have the players ready to go whenever or wherever that is.”
Pacific FC was set to open April 11 against FC Edmonton at Westhills Stadium in Langford before the CPL season was postponed due to the pandemic.