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The Bumpy Road to Restarting Even Small Sports Leagues


When you restart a major sports league with carefully constructed safety rules, make sure the players get the message.

Salomon Kalou, an Ivorian soccer player who plays for Hertha Berlin, was suspended by his club, and blasted by Germany’s health minister, for shaking hands with his teammates at a training session. Kalou was caught after posting a video of the greeting on his Facebook page.

In Kalou’s favor, the handshakes did take place after the entire team had tested negative for the virus. He apologized and deleted the video.

“It was important that the club show there were consequences after this video,” the German health minister, Jens Spahn, told Deutschlandfunk radio on Tuesday. “And I hope that everyone has now understood that this is about something serious.”

Of course, it takes two. “The fact that other team members returned the handshake shows that the regular information on the distance and hygiene rules must be even more intense,” the team said in a statement.

And in another setback for German soccer, which is expected to get the go-ahead from German authorities on Wednesday to restart on May 15, Erzgebirge Aue, a second-tier club, sent its entire team into isolation after a staff member tested positive.

We’ve been following the travails of Australia’s National Rugby League as it tries to restart on May 28: players being fined for violating social distancing, other players coming down with flulike symptoms. In the latest blow, a city where a team had planned to train decided to yank away the welcome mat.

The Melbourne Storm had expected to start training in the city of Albury in New South Wales, Australia, on Wednesday. But the City Council rejected the plan on Tuesday, citing health concerns. The state of Victoria, where the Storm are based, had already ruled the team could not train there, either.

Craig Bellamy, the team’s coach, said that he was itching to get started … somewhere, anywhere. “I think we are going to be able to start contact on Saturday,” he told News.com. “You’d love to be able to start it on Wednesday. We’re not going to just let them go bashing into each other straight away. They are going to have to let their bodies adjust, but come Saturday I think there’s only about two and a half weeks before the first game.”

On the plus side, Coach Trent Robinson of the Sydney Roosters, who was feared to have the virus, has tested negative. It was just a sore throat. The league will take any good news it can get.

Slowly, slowly, world soccer creeps back. For so long it was only Belarus and Nicaragua. Now a few more countries are ready to play games this weekend.

South Korea, which has started its baseball season, will get soccer rolling on Friday, 6 a.m. Eastern time, with a match between the defending champion, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, and Suwon Samsung Bluewings. The opening had been postponed since Feb. 29.

And we’ll have Premier League soccer on Saturday. We’re talking Faroe Islands Premier League soccer, to be exact. The league is starting earlier than most in Europe in part because the remote Faroes, 200 miles north of Scotland, have been almost untouched by the coronavirus, with no deaths thus far. And there’s a great game to start the season: the defending champion, Klaksvikar Itrottarfelag, hosts B36, last year’s runner-up.

The National Women’s Soccer League is moving closer to beginning its season. The league announced on Monday that clubs could allow players to use outdoor playing fields for individual workouts beginning Wednesday. Players will have to undergo daily symptom tests, and a staff member will be allowed to oversee the workout.

Players will not be allowed to enter locker rooms and weight rooms. Training rooms will be open for players who need medical treatment.

The N.W.S.L. season was supposed to begin on April 18. There is no new date set. A leaguewide ban on team training is in place until May 15. DANIELLE ALLENTUCK

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