CF Montreal announces its return to Saputo stadium before receiving federal approval
CF Montreal and Major League Soccer (MLS) announced publicly on Wednesday that they will host FC Cincinnati at Saputo Stadium on Saturday, July 17. However, Health Canada and the federal Department of Immigration had not yet given the green light.
Confusion reigned on the web on Wednesday, while Radio-Canada announced that the match would not take place in Montreal, after confirmation from the federal Department of Immigration. A few minutes later, CF Montreal declared that the meeting would indeed take place. The club was based on directives introduced on July 5 by the federal government, allowing the cross-border passage of fully vaccinated workers, without them being quarantined.
With the border between the United States and Canada still closed, professional sports organizations wishing to resume cross-border meets should in principle develop a comprehensive public health plan. This must be accepted by Health Canada, then validated by the Department of Immigration.
CF Montreal and MLS believe they do not need these approvals since American players should be considered skilled workers. According to Kevin Gilmore, the plan requested by federal authorities allows players to be exempted from mandatory quarantine in the event that they are not vaccinated.
“Now we have enough vaccinated players for the game to take place on Saturday,” he adds. We are still in discussions with Health Canada so that unvaccinated players can also come and play in Canada under a modified quarantine protocol. Kevin Gilmore says vaccination is a personal choice.
Why, then, have you waited so long to announce the match? Some American players had not yet obtained the necessary visas, according to Mr Gilmore.
On Wednesday evening, the Trudeau government finally released a press release relayed by Radio-Canada journalist Romain Schué, on Twitter. The Government indicates that no request for exemption has been sent. However, American players will be able to cross the Canadian border without observing a quarantine if they are fully vaccinated.
CF Montreal ensures that FC Cincinnati will be subject to a rigorous public health protocol, which includes screening before traveling to Canada, as well as upon arrival in Montreal. Players, coaches and technical staff adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 will not be required to quarantine.
Since April 6, CF Montreal has been training and playing in Florida, United States, for its so-called home games in order to avoid travel. The team led by Wilfried Nancy is back in Montreal and has been training outdoors at the Center Nutrilait since July 13th.
“For top athletes, structure is essential in their mental and physical preparation,” says Kevin Gilmore. I appreciated the sacrifice made by the players over the last three months, I am very proud of them. »
In a video press conference on Wednesday, defender Zorhan Bassong and striker Mason Toye both spoke of their happiness at having returned to Quebec. The same morning, the players completed their third day of training in Montreal.
Used to dealing with the uncertainty of the health crisis, the players still did not know where they could play their game against FC Cincinnati. “It would be great for us to play here,” said Zorhan Bassong, who grew up in Montreal. Since the start of the season, we have been in the dark. We left for Florida not knowing when we would be back. We do with it, we adapt. »
For his part, Mason Toye underlined the incredible efforts made by his team, over the past year, to face adversity and the lack of information. “I have never played for Montreal in Montreal, it will be the first time and I can’t wait,” he said in English.
A tedious process
“Protecting the health and safety of Canadians is the Government of Canada’s top priority,” said Anne Grenier, spokesperson for Health Canada. We are slowly and cautiously starting to reopen and relaunch activities that had been put on hold due to the pandemic. »
CF Montreal plays in the MLS, which also had to obtain the approval of regional public health officials.
« The Montreal Regional Public Health Department formally supports the return of CF Montreal to Montreal soil with the federal government and we are working with the club for the implementation of health measures for the holding of the first matches, » confirms the advisor by email. media relations Eric Forest, on behalf of the Direction régionale de santé publique de Montréal.
The club will give 350 tickets to essential workers and their families, to whom it is dedicating this first home game since September 9, 2020. The other tickets will be sold exclusively to subscribers.
In accordance with Public Health directives for public activities and events outside Quebec, the maximum number allowed will be 5,000 spectators.
According to MLS, two other games can be played on Canadian soil in Toronto. Toronto FC will host Orlando City SC on Saturday, and the New York Red Bulls on July 21.