Israel’s Premier League men’s soccer teams begun full squad practice sessions on Sunday ahead of the season’s resumption on May 30 as a pause imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak was lifted.
No games have been played since March 1, when the 26-game regular season was frozen.
At the time, attendance was up 25 percent over the previous season, and the league was poised to set a record of over two million fans in a season.
With the virus lockdown measures on the country gradually easing, players are now permitted to train together without maintaining two-meter social distancing gaps between them, and with all of the team together on the field at the same time.
The rest of the season will play out in empty stadiums, as in South Korea, Germany and other countries restarting games this month.
Players will live in home quarantine with their families. Any player to test positive for coronavirus will force teammates who came into contact with him over the previous 14 days to go into isolation.
The first team to return to their training field was Hapoel Tel Aviv, which began practice at the Wolfson Football Field in the city.
Team manager Nir Klinger said, “It is very exciting to return to training and regular games after a very long period, it is something that we very much missed,” Channel 12 reported.
Hapoel Tel Aviv, currently fifth in the Premier League standings, will play its first game in the restarted season on June 10 in a national championship semifinal match against Maccabi Petah Tikva. Defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv is currently leading the league.
The shutdown in global sports meant a big game for Israel’s national team was also postponed, likely until October.
The national team was to travel to Scotland for a 2020 European Championship playoff match on March 26. The Israel Football Association joined UEFA in 1994, and its teams enter European competitions because of political complications playing many Asian nations.
Amid the sustained drop in infections, the government has increasingly rolled back restrictions meant to curb the outbreak, opening some schools and allowing many businesses to reopen.
The Health Ministry announced Sunday morning that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen to 16,458, an increase of only 14 over the previous 24 hours.
One person died during that period, taking the country’s death toll from COVID-19 to 248.
The tally of 14 cases in a single day is the lowest recorded since the Health Ministry began publishing daily updates on the spread of the virus on March 11.
So far, 11,384 people in Israel have recovered from the virus, while 4,826 are still sick.