All league teams cleared to start group training in Spain

Sports

In this photo provided by FC Barcelona, Barcelona’s Gerard Pique runs with the ball during a training session in Barcelona, Spain on Friday May 8, 2020. Soccer players in Spain returned to train for the first time since the country entered a lockdown nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Miguel Ruiz/FC Barcelona via AP)

MADRID (AP) — All Spanish league clubs can begin group training sessions this week despite stricter lockdown restrictions remaining in place in parts of Spain because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cities like Madrid and Barcelona have not been allowed to loosen confinement measures like most of the country has done but teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona have been given the go-ahead to move into the second phase of training.

The league has told clubs that on Monday all players can start small group sessions regardless of the lockdown phase in their regions. Players had only been allowed to train individually across Spain until now.

The Spanish government has been gradually easing lockdown restrictions that had been in place since mid-March because of the pandemic, with different levels of clearances from region to region. Teams in Madrid and Barcelona theoretically would not be allowed to start training in groups if the government hadn’t created exceptions.

“It’s a good thing because it allows all teams to practice in a similar way,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas told league broadcaster Movistar on Sunday. “It’s important for all the teams to be able to start on an equal footing.”

Teams in regions with tighter restrictions will be allowed to practice with 10 players in the same session, while clubs in areas with fewer restrictions can use up to 14 players. Teams in the latter regions also can make greater use of their facilities, reaching up to 50% of their capacity. The rest of the clubs can only use up to 30% of the facilities.

Group meetings between players and the coaching staff are also now allowed in some regions if distancing guidelines remain in place, and referees are now being allowed to train in sports facilities.

The next training phase will allow for clubs to start full squad sessions.

Barcelona on Sunday showed the team’s training center being disinfected, with workers in protective suits spraying the dressing room and even what appeared to be the players’ soccer boots.

Clubs and players have been asked to follow strict health safety guidelines during training. Players, club employees and everyone else involved in the training sessions have to be tested daily for COVID-19. Five players from teams in the first and second divisions tested positive before the individual practice sessions resumed.

Tebas had said he hoped for the league to resume on June 12, with games in empty stadiums, but on Sunday he emphasized that it will be up to local authorities to decide when the league can actually restart.

“I want it to be as soon as possible, but the date will be determined by the health authorities,” Tebas said. “We have to wait for what they tell us.”

The government said media outlets will be permitted on site when the league resumes, but it wasn’t clear if it meant only broadcasters. The media has not been able to attend training sessions.

The Bundesliga this weekend became the first main soccer league to resume, and Tebas said he expects the Spanish league’s eventual return to competition to look very similar.

“We have congratulated the Bundesliga,” Tebas said. “They put in a lot of effort into this. It’s an example to follow.”

More than 27,000 people have died with COVID-19 in hard-hit Spain. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Saturday said he will ask Parliament for what he hopes will be the last extension of the state of emergency.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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