“A Luxurious Prison” A Look At Soccer’s Return In America

Nathan Tucker

Just days after the Bundesliga returned to action in empty stadiums across Germany, MLS minds have hatched a scheme to resume the soccer season on this side of the Atlantic.

Like many “reopening sports” schemes, the MLS wants to create a “bubble city” for the whole league. The UFC long-rumored “Fight Island”, capable of housing all the UFC’s fighters and necessary staff. Australia’s National Rugby League, or the NRL, also proposed housing all its athletes and staff on a remote resort island off the coast of mainland Australia. 

MLS wants their “bubble city” to be in beautiful Orlando, Florida. Specifically, at Disney’s ESPN Wide World Of Sports, which holds enough athletic fields for all teams to train and hotel space for all. 

No word on if teams will be staying in the All-Star Sports Resort there as of yet, but if they do, the most prestigious soccer players in the United States will be staying a month in a novelty hotel with gigantic football helmets and baseball bats lining the exterior. Outside of those silly features, and the baseball diamond swimming pool, locking down the whole MLS in a Disney resort to hold a tournament for an extended period of time isn’t sounding like a good deal to its players.

“This all feels a little bit rushed.” Said Philadelphia Union star and former US National Teamer Alejandro Bedoya, talking to Taylor Twellman for ESPN this week. “The players are the ones taking all the risk here.”

“By going down there, being isolated, it’s a strong term, but I’d say it’s like being in a luxurious prison.” Bedoya continues. “Essentially, we’re going to be sequestered in a hotel at Disney. This isn’t like a normal preseason, we can’t go to dinner with the guys or go to a movie or even a quick run to CVS to get essentials.”

While MLS and ESPN are more than eager to fulfill their television obligations, players involved risk everything while in lockdown to put games on.

Back across the Atlantic, several players in England’s Premier League are refusing to start training sessions, worried that they could potentially spread Covid-19 to their family members. 2017 Player Of The Year, N’Golo Kante of Chelsea, cited his brother who suffered a heart attack two years ago as a reason why he wasn’t rushing back to training.

As always, and has continued to be a trend in the discussions of “reopening” the world, there’s a level of cognitive dissonance between the realities of a pandemic and people really wanting “normal” again. Players, and all people gathering for events at this point, exacerbate the risk of a potential second spike. Many players, like Alejandro Bedoya, realize this but want to get on the field and not be living in quarantine. 

While being cooped up in a Disney resort being paid six figures to play soccer may not be a prison for a normal schlub like me, for a pro who’s accustomed to their world outside the sport just as much as the one inside, the life balance is necessary. Maybe, just maybe, sports could wait a while instead.

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