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All Spanish league soccer teams cleared to start group training

They can begin this week though stricter lockdown restrictions remain in parts of the country.

MADRID — All Spanish soccer league clubs can begin group training sessions this week despite stricter lockdown restrictions remaining in place in parts of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cities including Madrid and Barcelona have not been allowed to loosen confinement measures like most of the country has done, but La Liga teams including Real Madrid and Barcelona have been given the go-ahead to move into the second phase of training.

The league has told clubs that Monday all players can start small group sessions regardless of the lockdown phase in their region. Players had been allowed to train only individually across Spain until now.

The Spanish government has been gradually easing lockdown restrictions that have been in place since mid March, with different levels of clearance from region to region. Teams in Madrid and Barcelona theoretically would not be allowed to start training in groups if the government hadn’t created exceptions.

“It’s a good thing because it allows all teams to practice in a similar way,” La Liga president Javier Tebas told league broadcaster Movistar on Sunday. “It’s important for all the teams to be able to start on an equal footing.”

Teams in regions with tighter restrictions can practice with 10 players in the same session; clubs in areas with fewer restrictions can use up to 14 players. Teams in the latter regions also can make greater use of their facilities, reaching up to 50 percent of their capacity. The rest of the clubs can use only up to 30 percent of their facilities.

Group meetings between players and their coaching staff are also now allowed in some regions if distancing guidelines remain in place, and referees are now being allowed to train in sports facilities.

The next training phase will allow for clubs to start full squad sessions.

Barcelona on Sunday showed the team’s training center being disinfected, with workers in protective suits spraying the dressing room and even what appeared to be the players’ soccer boots.

Clubs and players have been asked to follow strict health safety guidelines during training. Players, club employees and everyone else involved in the training sessions have to be tested daily for the virus. Five players from teams in the first and second divisions tested positive before the individual practice sessions resumed.

Tebas had said he hoped for the league to resume June 12 with games in empty stadiums, but Sunday he emphasized that it would be up to local authorities to decide when the league can actually restart.

“I want it to be as soon as possible, but the date will be determined by the health authorities,” Tebas said. “We have to wait for what they tell us.”

The government said media outlets would be permitted on site when the league resumes, but it wasn’t clear if it meant only broadcasters. The media has not been able to attend training sessions.

The Bundesliga this weekend became the first main soccer league to resume, and Tebas said he expects the Spanish league’s eventual return to competition to look very similar.

“We have congratulated the Bundesliga,” Tebas said. “They put in a lot of effort into this. It’s an example to follow.”

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