Thursday's soccer news starts with the latest round of professional sports leagues attempting to predict the future. The Bundesliga is the current outlier, pushing to resume their games in May. In what might be optimistic thinking, their clubs are already back in training. Whether or not this works in our current atmosphere of stay at home orders and social distancing is a question in the same category as asking about a return to normal. Eventually, but not quite yet.
Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick explained how he is preparing his squad. "We have to avoid physical contact right now so we're focusing on technical skills," he said. "After three weeks of cyber-training at home, the players are adapting to it well and it's a welcome change for them. You need a certain amount of time before you get into your groove again and it's important to get used to all that again. We'll also have to get used to matches taking place behind closed doors. We want to do so in a professional manner."
While the idea of the team at the top of the Bundesliga table working on technical skills should be cause for concern for the rest of the league, it raises a simple point. What else are they supposed to do? The societal restrictions still apply to soccer clubs, even if it's in the public interest to offer some indication that regular life will reemerge. The basic logistics of staging games are still problematic with the mass gathering component removed. That's what is leading Major League Baseball to consider putting all of their teams at the spring training complexes in Arizona. The better to control the environment, or at least attempt to if the reports are accurate.
That raises the question of how normal an abnormal situation gets before it just feels wrong for the viewing audience. NASCAR has had some success with virtual racing, but that has more to do with the potential for a driver rage quitting a video game and talking trash to each other from the comfort of their own homes. Entertaining, sure but it's probably not even a short-term solution. The WWE staged Wrestlemania at its practice facility with their biggest event occurring in front of the cameras in a setting that only highlighted a bizarre situation.
How soccer returns to action is now the biggest question. It's wrapped up in the basic economics of the game, with pro soccer clubs as businesses seemingly unable to financially tolerate even a limited break in the schedule. All of this is certainly worth addressing in the big picture on the other side of this situation. For now, it's leagues and clubs attempting to make pragmatic choices in a situation that may not reward that. It's worth the reminder that the Chinese
Yahoo Sports' Doug McIntyre with what a successful Bundesliga restart would mean for other sports leagues. Inside World Football's Samindra Kunti on reports that clubs aren't in agreement with the league about a restart in the Netherlands. The Telegraph's Jason Burt reports on the English Football League's plan to finish the season. FIFPro looks at the increase in interest in Belgian's players union. Inside World Football's Samindra Kunti on reports that clubs aren't in agreement with the league about a restart in the Netherlands. Reuters' Simon Evans explains what has happened to English soccer over the public rift about club finances. SI.com's Grant Wahl argues that FIFA should take action over the Qatar World Cup voting allegations.
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