It’s been over a month since Columbus Crew SC and Major League stopped play due to the coronavirus. Since that time, all players and fans have received from the league are updates extending training moratoriums and pushing back a date to return to play because the truth is, the future of the 2020 MLS season is uncertain.
“Obviously it’s a very challenging time for everyone, especially in the broader sports landscape,” Crew president Tim Bezbatchenko said on Wednesday while on the Virtual Sports Report via a Zoom conference call. “We don’t really know when we will return.”
This uncertainty is tough for fans, many of whom just want to watch their favorite team during this stressful situation. But it’s also difficult for players.
The likes of Gyasi Zardes, Pedro Santos, Artur, Jonathan Mensah and their teammates are used to a routine during the season. They typically attend practice and go through film sessions in the morning, maybe get a lift in after training, eat and head home. On the weekends, they play games. That type of regular schedule is important for players, especially during a season.
There are also players such as Vito Wormgoor, Chris Cadden, Derrick Etinne Jr. and others who just recently moved to Columbus and are now locked down in a city they do not know.
But in many ways, this mirrors the way Crew fans, and people around the country, have been affected by the coronavirus. Like the Black & Gold stars, people are asked to social distance and shelter in place and, for those who can, do as much of their job as possible from home.
“It’s a strange time because preseason kicked off in January and we went to three different locations and you’re gearing up to get ready for the season,” Bezbatchenko said. “And then we played two games and then it just stops. And I know everyone feels that same feeling because our lives just, in some ways, stopped where as they just kept on going.”
Sometimes it’s hard for fans to think of professional athletes as regular people. These stars are viewed as larger than life and that makes it difficult to relate to what they do. But in a situation like this, where people across Columbus are doing what they can to continue to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including Crew players, it makes it easier to see themselves in Black & Gold shoes. When Zardes or Santos are working out with their kids, it can be a reminder to fans of being at home with their kids during this pandemic.
There is also the mental side of it and trying to stay positive. In a difficult time, when people are dying and losing their jobs and life isn’t any form of normal, there is a depression that can set in for Crew fans and players alike.
“There’s also the mental side of the game and making sure that the players are cared for,” Bezbatchenko said. “We have a number of new players that moved into the market who don’t know Columbus, from Argentina, a couple from Holland.”
One of those players, Eloy Room, recently saw his first child come into the world. The goalkeeper was able to get home to the Netherlands before travel restrictions began and was there for the birth of his baby daughter earlier this month. For families that are pregnant, or know others who are, during this health scare, they can relate to the difficulties of that situation.
For the Crew, like everyone else, it’s about getting through this hard time. Staying at home, not being able to work, not knowing when life will return to normal is challenging for everyone.
“The players are in the same situations in many ways (as we are) and the challenge that we have is sort of now to make sure that we continue with team unity, togetherness,” Bezbatchenko said. “The chemistry that we felt like we built through preseason and in the first two games, how can we pick that up or continue that during this period?”
This is what Crew fans must do too and know that one day soon, they will be back in a stadium, cheering for their favorite soccer team.