Jeonbuk 1, Suwon Bluewings 0.
On most days, that score would be lost in a sea of others from soccer matches around the world. On Friday, it carried great import: The South Korean soccer league was back underway, becoming the most important league to play games since the coronavirus pandemic began.
South Korea also started its baseball league earlier in the week, to outsized attention: ESPN plans to broadcast games in the United States almost every day. The soccer league got equally international notice: The game was live streamed on YouTube, and both the BBC and The Guardian live-blogged the opening game.
The game was played in a teeming rain in front of no fans, but it delivered drama, as Lee Dong-gook, 41, who played in the 1998 World Cup, scored the winning goal in the 84th minute. It was a great start for Jeonbuk, the defending champion.
The stadium was empty and silent, although crowd noise was pumped in on occasion. Players and coaches on the sidelines wore masks — Jeonbuk’s had team logos. Players bumped fists instead of shaking hands. Even excessive conversations on the pitch were discouraged.
The league had originally been scheduled to start on Feb. 29 and run through early October. Now it will be extended to Nov. 8. In preparation for the resumption, more than 1,000 players and officials were tested for the virus and cleared to participate. There will be three more games on Saturday and two Sunday, early morning U.S. time.
Yet Another Rugby Road Bump
We’re not picking on the National Rugby League in Australia, really. It’s just that as a league in the forefront of returning to action, it is demonstrating the pitfalls that other leagues around the world may also eventually face.
The players were told by their team, the Gold Coast Titans, that they would not be able to rejoin the squad without the shots. One of them, Nathan Peats, then said he had changed his mind and would get a shot, noting that he was not anti-vaccination, but had been the victim of a bad reaction to a flu shot a few years ago.
Another player, Bryce Cartwright, defended his right not to get a shot: “I stand for freedom to choose what goes into our bodies. I am pro-choice, pro-informed consent and pro-medical freedom. I have nothing against people who choose to vaccinate, so to label me an ‘anti-vaxxer’ is spreading misinformation.”
Several players from other teams were reported to have also declined flu shots.
In the midst of the rugby hubbub, the Australian rules football league said it would merely recommend flu shots, not require them.
Let’s hope the next bit of rugby news from Australia is, well, a game of rugby.
Youth Baseball is On
Youth baseball is returning on Sunday in St. Louis. But the games will look a little different.
Players, coaches and umpires will have to stay six feet apart, and only three people will be allowed in the dugout at a time. There will be no high-fives or fist pumps. Instead, players will be encouraged to tip their hats to each other. Coaches will not be allowed onto the field to argue a call. The benches will be sanitized between games and the balls will be cleaned between innings. Players will also not be allowed to share equipment or water bottles, and spectators will have to sit in the outfield.
“The parents are really mixed,” Worstenholm told The Post-Dispatch. “I’ve heard everything from, ‘Man, I’m ready to play, like, yesterday,’ to ‘I’m not playing at all this year.’”
The tournament usually has about 160 teams, but only 54 are expected to play this weekend. GameTime has games scheduled every weekend through the fall and plans to use the same set of guidelines. DANIELLE ALLENTUCK
Soccer Practice, Without Passing
Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer League players began individual practices at team facilities on Wednesday, the first step toward the M.L.S. resuming its season and the N.W.S.L. starting game play. They were the first professional sports leagues in the United States to allow organized workouts.
Nine M.L.S. teams have held outdoor workouts so far, with more expected to follow.
Players are given staggered arrival and departure times and have to undergo symptom tests, including a temperature check, before they are allowed into team facilities. They are not able to enter locker rooms or weight rooms or physically interact with each other in any way, even passing the ball.
Every Orlando City S.C. player showed up for the voluntary workouts on Wednesday, each practicing in their own designated area on the field.
“Here in Orlando, our only options for working outside was going to parks or areas where potentially there are other people or the ability to come in contact with other people,” goalkeeper Brian Rowe said. “I think the club has done an extremely detailed and good job.” DANIELLE ALLENTUCK