PEI

Pro soccer players grateful to be on P.E.I. doing what they love

About 300 professional soccer players, coaches and staff are preparing for a season in a way they’ve never done before, but so far, they say it’s better than they imagined.

Canadian Premier League's COVID-shortened season begins Thursday at UPEI

Robert Gale, head coach and general manager of Winnipeg's Valour Football Club, puts his team through a practice at UPEI on Monday. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

About 300 professional soccer players, coaches and staff are preparing for a season in a way they've never done before, but so far, they say it's better than they imagined.

"Let's be honest, there's a lot worse places to be in life and we're very happy to be in this beautiful province," said Robert Gale, head coach and general manager of Valour Football Club in Winnipeg.

"It looks a little bit different but we're delighted to be here."

Charlottetown was chosen to host the Canadian Premier League for a shortened season with restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

The eight teams arrived at the Charlottetown on Saturday and were ushered directly to the Delta Hotel.

Soccer players board a bus for the Delta Hotel in Charlottetown, where they are isolating between games and practices. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

The teams are self-isolating, each on a floor of their own. Valour's players have been tested for COVID-19, and all results have come back negative, Gale said.

They will be tested one more time before play begins Thursday at the University of Prince Edward Island.

We're just lucky we're back doing something we love.— Robert Gale

Gale said the teams leave the hotel only to practice, but nobody's complaining. He said the players are just relieved they were able to salvage some kind of season after it was postponed in the spring.

"I think it's better than everyone expected — the quality of the hotel, the organization behind it by the league and everybody involved," he said.

"We're just lucky we're back doing something we love and able to compete in competition so we have to be grateful for that opportunity."

'We're very pleased we're going to be able to bring ... soccer to all of our fans and to Canadians in general,' says commissioner 5:51

The eight teams will play a round-robin, with the top four teams advancing to the semifinals. The winners will meet in the final.

The first game is Thursday at 2 p.m. AT with a rematch of the 2019 season finalists, Forge FC versus Cavalry FC. Spectators will not be allowed to watch the games on-site but can view the games online or on TV.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Nicole Williams

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