Montreal

Quebecers can play team sports again — as long as they're physically distancing

Quebec soccer and baseball players will be able to step back onto the field and practise their sports by June 8, but they won't be able to play competitively until the end of the month — and even then, they won't be playing by the rules they're used to. 

Supervised training sessions and skills competitions for soccer, baseball can start as of June 8

Team sports like soccer have been shut down in Quebec due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not for much longer. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

Quebec soccer and baseball players will be able to step back onto the field and practise their sports by June 8, but they won't be able to play competitively until the end of the month — and even then, they won't be playing by the rules they're used to. 

"We have to remember that we are in a context of a pandemic, so we have to reimagine sports as we used to practise them now," said Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater and the minister responsible for sports. 

So while teams can resume practising outdoor sports, they will have to be supervised and modified, to make sure that players are staying two metres apart from one another, Charest said Thursday.

That means Quebecers can take part in training sessions or skills competitions, with physical distancing, but for now, actually playing games will not be allowed.

Games and matches could begin by the end of June, Charest said, but it will depend on whether the COVID-19 situation continues to improve.

In the meantime, Charest said, she hopes players will find ways to work on their skills and practise. She said she wants to see young people — and all Quebecers — moving their bodies. 

"What we want is … to give them a way to do it safely," she said.

Isabelle Charest, the Quebec minister responsible for sports, announced Thursday the government is easing restrictions on team sports like soccer and baseball, although the sports federations have to come up with plans on how players can stay two metres away from one another before games may resume. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Supervised activities such as yoga will also be allowed as of June 8, as long as they take place outside, and pools in places such as private campgrounds will also be allowed to open on that date.

The province had already allowed many non-contact sports, such as golf and singles tennis, to resume before Thursday's announcement. 

Activities such as open-water swimming, jogging, cycling, hiking, rock-climbing, kayaking and canoeing are also already permitted.

'We have got to get going'

Once teams are allowed to compete again, sports like hockey or soccer that require some contact between players will have to be adapted, said Quebec Premier François Legault. 

Several sports federations, including hockey, soccer and baseball associations, are already working on ways to adapt play, in order to respect physical-distancing directives.

"This is a big step forward that will mainly allow our players to return to the field, to the soccer ball, to their friends and their teachers," said Mathieu Chamberland, the executive director of Soccer Québec. 

Christian de Serres, president of the NDG Soccer Association, says he was happy to hear that members of his soccer club will soon be able to start training again, at last.

"It's better than what the kids have been doing up to now, which is by video conference — doing some physical training with their coaches," said de Serres."But we're all waiting for games." 

De Serres says he's not sure how a soccer game will work with players maintaining physical distancing, but he hopes more information becomes available soon. 

"We're all waiting for the real thing," de Serres said. 

Baseball enthusiasts are excited — and relieved.

"In the last three months, we didn't know where we were going, and now we know there's a start, and it's soon," said the executive director of Baseball Québec, Maxime Lamarche. "I'm just glad for 35,000 baseball players all around the province."

Lamarche said he's impatient for baseball season to get underway. 

"We have got to get going!" Lamarche said. 

While hockey players will not be lacing up their skates any time soon, the executive director of Hockey Quebec, Paul Ménard, said Thursday's announcement means players can prepare for a hockey season and begin training.

With files from Radio-Canada

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