There is renewed hope for thousands of local soccer players who have been barred from the pitch since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

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There is renewed hope for thousands of local soccer players who have been barred from the pitch since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Local authorities are targeting a possible relaunch next month, albeit with severe restrictions.

"As of June 1, individual sports may be able to get back on the field or the court, depending on the sport," said Manitoba Soccer Association executive director Hector Vergara Thursday.

"We would hope that we are granted permission to do small-sized groups in June sometime. I can't commit that that's gonna happen. That's our hope and we're going to work with the health authorities to see if we can make that a reality.

The gradual lifting of restrictions applies only to outdoor facilities at this time.

JOHN WOODS / FREE PRESS FILES

The gradual lifting of restrictions applies only to outdoor facilities at this time.

"The most important thing for us is to make sure that our players and parents and coaches and administrators, referees and so forth are returning to a safe environment."

On Thursday, Canada Soccer released a five-step plan for a return to play. The MSA's return-to-play scenario, which will be tailored to health conditions here in Manitoba, must receive approval from the provincial health authority and Sport Manitoba.

"We don't know how quickly they're going to come back to us with either questions or approval," said Vergara. "We know other sports have done the same and in some cases, their return-to-play protocols have been approved fairly quickly. In other cases, it's taken a little bit more time."

When that approval comes, there will be no immediate return to competition. Vergara said an early step would likely involve small groups at practices while still adhering to the guidelines for physical distancing.

A framework has been to created to establish whether individual clubs are capable of resuming activity.

"The most important thing for us is to make sure that our players and parents and coaches and administrators, referees and so forth are returning to a safe environment," Hector Vergara said.

THEMBA HADEBE / ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

"The most important thing for us is to make sure that our players and parents and coaches and administrators, referees and so forth are returning to a safe environment," Hector Vergara said.

"As an example, making sure someone has sanitizers," said Vergara. "Making sure that someone is cleaning the equipment. Do you have those resources to be able to do that? I'm sure all our clubs will make every effort to do so because they want to see the children back on the field but they will have to do that analysis internally."

The gradual lifting of restrictions applies only to outdoor facilities at this time.

"We're going to have somewhat different protocols for the indoor season," said Vergara. "We're also going to have to have more discussions with the health authority about what is going to happen with indoor facilities. Obviously, there's many sports that play indoors and they'll have take a look at that. It all depends on how flat this curve stays in Manitoba."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.