RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – After nearly 150 days off the field, North Carolina FC soccer players are touching the ball again at WakeMed Soccer Park – but without fans in the stands because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Games came to an end in March and resumed in mid-July. The team has games scheduled through early October.
Captain and Raleigh native Nazmi Albadawi said having no fans in the stands is the biggest change for them.
“Things are completely different now. We have to walk out onto the field staggered. There’s no real handshake or anything like that after the game,” Albadawi said.
Off the field, things look different than a normal season as well. North Carolina FC requires players to fill out a daily checklist about their symptoms and players must follow a list of safety protocols.
“The protocol list is like 50 pages long about what we are allowed and not allowed to do,” Albadawi said.
Players are staying out of lockerrooms and wearing masks when they aren’t training. For Nazmi Albadawi, the times are strange, but they are happy to do what they need to in order to stay safe and play soccer.
“As professionals, it’s on us to find that motivation every single day, not only in games but in training to get better, so that’s the biggest challenge for us right now,” he said.
The Raleigh native is the team’s captain. According to NCFC, he’s one of the most accomplished players in club history. He holds the record for all-time assists and ranks fourth in club history with 25 goals. He played for Athens Drive High School, N.C. State University, and made his professional debut in 2014. The 2020 season will be one that stands out in his career.
“I didn’t even think that there would be a pandemic like this so it’s pretty unprecedented for us, all of us,” he said. “I can’t tell you how much we miss having everyone out there. Our fans are always so supportive and that’s what’s amazing about them. There are highs and lows in soccer. This is definitely low, but we’re going to make the playoffs and do our best to bring home a trophy.”
NCFC hits the road Wednesday to play Charlotte Independence at 7 p.m.
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