Saskatoon soccer players 'buzzing' as they play real games again

At Weaver Park in the Queen Elizabeth neighbourhood, you can hear the sounds of kids soccer again.

“Soccer is a great sport and we just haven’t played an actual game in a long time, so this is real exciting for us,” said 11-year-old Yossi Macmillan, who plays for Eastside Arsenal in the East Side Youth Soccer Association.

Winston Lin, 13, is also excited to be back on the field playing real games.

“It’s really great to play right now,” said Lin, who also plays for Eastside Arsenal.

Youth sports teams have begun playing again with outdoor sports permitted in the province’s reopen plan.

“I think the word that’s going around is ‘buzzing.’ Everyone is so excited to get back and play,” said Mike Gramiak, technical director for the East Side Youth Soccer Association.

He added for some kids, it’s their first real game soccer action since March 2020.

“We’ve had people that have been very patient and very eager to be playing in some form. But getting back to actually playing games, that’s what they love.”

Saskatchewan’s reopen plan says participants cannot compete if they are not feeling well.

League play is allowed but tournaments are not permitted - the province's website says that is going to be revisited in step two of the reopen roadmap.

Gramiak says teams are taking precautions for COVID-19 on the field and the sidelines, such as allowing any player to wear a mask if they like during gameplay.

“In terms of masking, so masking isn’t required however we’ve put it out there our aim is to make sure that everyone feels safe and everyone has a chance to play,” Gramiak said.

He also says there is hand sanitizer on the sidelines and each time a player comes off the field, they must clean their hands before taking a drink of water.

In addition, there is an app used for scheduling games that can track attendance by having spectators indicate if they will be attending a soccer game.

For MacMillan, he says the COVID-19 precautions make it feel a little different than before the pandemic.

“It feels a little bit more different than normal soccer, but I mean, it’s still great to be back."

Gramiak is excited for kids across the city.

“We are just so thankful to actually have the chance to get back and play the game we love.”