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Soccer Stadium

Major League Soccer Welcomes Back Fans After Five Months

This Tuesday Major League Soccer’s ‘MLS Is Back’ tournament will conclude in the Orlando, Florida bubble that MLS has been operating out of for the past month. Now, FC Dallas is taking on the hosting role to compete against Nashville at Toyota Stadium this Wednesday and Sunday, where they’re not only going to be gearing up for the return of a standard MLS season, but will also be welcoming fans back into the arena. 

There’s still major risk with attending any sporting event right now, as the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much an issue all across the globe but especially in the United States. However, all of those risks are explicitly written out in the 1,438-word legal waiver that fans will need to sign in order to enter the stadium. Essentially, the waiver states that you are aware you’re putting yourself at risk of exposure to Covid-19 if entering the arena, and MLS or any party connected to the games will not be held responsible for any new cases that appear as a result of attending a game. 

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Luis Dollar is the president of El Matador, a supporters group for the FC Dallas team, and he recently spoke with the media about his excitement to see his favorite team in person again, but is also fully prepared to adhere to any and all health and safety procedures put into place by MLS. 

“We’re going to be on our best, most safe behaviour, but if Wednesday night for some reason the protocols aren’t kept in place, or we don’t feel they’re being run in a way that we deem fit, we might not show up on Sunday. As of right now we’re confident.”

The NBA, NHL, and MLB are all currently operating in a “bubble-type” of environment; essential personnel only with no fans in the stadium. However, those three major sporting leagues have more prime time/lucrative television deals that allow them to make up any revenue through at-home viewership. The MLS is much more reliant on money they make from fans who are actually in the arena, buying the tickets and memorabilia. However, the fact that MLS is restarting their “regular season” in Texas, one of the most infected states in one of the most infected countries in the world, is raising a lot of red flags for experts.

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Texas in general has been under major scrutiny within the past month due to their severe strain on hospital staff, inadequate ability to contact trace/test everyone, and excessive spread of the virus in every community. Currently the state has a weekly average of 7,800 new cases. Zach Binney, an epidemiologist recently expressed his concern over MLS’s premature decision to move back into Texas. 

“I think MLS is showing a complete disregard for the health and safety of their fan-bases and the communities in which they play. I think it’s ridiculous that they’re talking about having fans.”

Binney is not alone in this, other epidemiologists throughout the country believe that opening stadium doors to fans is “irresponsible” and doesn’t hold any real value. MLS claims they will be consistently testing players and staff members as they return to competitive games, and responded to all the criticism by claiming that they’re being incredibly careful and have “consulted with state and local officials and their medical task forces to be committed to having the proper precautions in place,” according to Gina Miller, an FC Dallas spokesperson. 

Miller went on to claim that MLS staff in general is already very familiar with the health and safety protocols they have in place as they’ve been experiencing it for the past few weeks. However, the US’s general lack of response to the virus is sparking major debates about the future of all major businesses and industries within the country. Sports, universities, and public schooling systems in general being at the forefront of these debates, only time will tell how much worse it needs to get for our world leaders to make more of a severe change in the way we contain this virus.

Girls Playing Soccer

Study Finds Kids Value Having Fun and Working Hard in Sports over Winning

A longstanding myth has held that when it comes to sports, girls consider the social aspects to be the most fun, whereas boys most enjoy the competitive part of sports. However, a recent study published by Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal contradicts this claim, finding that both boys and girls consider trying your best and working hard to be the key to having fun, ranking winning as 40th in the list of things they find fun about sports. The findings suggest that kids have an intuitive understanding of the values that ensure organized sports remain enjoyable for all participants, and that boys and girls have more similar attitudes surrounding sports than is commonly assumed.

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According to Amanda J. Visek, an associate professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, “what counts most for girls and boys are things like ‘trying your best,’ ‘working hard,’ ‘staying active,’ and ‘playing well together as a team.’ These findings are the same for athletes at younger and older ages and across recreational and more competitive levels of play.” The recent study expands on a previous study involving soccer players between the ages of 8 and 19 which attempted to map all of the factors that contribute to sports being fun for kids. The older study uncovered 81 “fun-determinants” within 11 “fun-factors,” and the newer study more closely analyzed this data, finding that of the 81 fun-determinants, winning was ranked 40th on the list, far lower than anyone had expected.

Despite the relative similarities across ages and genders, however, the researchers did uncover some interesting differences in fun priorities between demographics. For instance, young players felt that it was important to have a coach who allowed them to “play different positions,” whereas older players were less concerned about this factor. Additionally, boys felt that “copying the moves and tricks of professional athletes” and “improving athletic skills to play at the next level” contribute to whether or not they have fun more than girls did, suggesting a difference between how boys and girls learn to improve their athleticism.

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Researchers hope that the results of the study will be useful for sport organizations looking to improve their programs, making them more fun for kids and encouraging them to play sports for longer throughout their childhood and into adulthood. While sports are popular among elementary school students, kids who drop out of sports tend to do so around middle-school age, complaining that they no longer consider sports fun. This trend is of particular interest to researchers and medical professionals, as continuing to engage in sports throughout adolescence is linked to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as kids age. Exercise is connected to a wide range of health benefits for both body and mind, and as habits can be ingrained into a person’s personality for life starting in childhood, encouraging the healthy habit of exercising in children is a priority for public health officials. This concern is of particular urgency considering the rising trend of obesity among Americans and the decline in US life expectancy that began several years ago.

Despite its promising results, the study had some limitations which are worth considering. For one, all of the participants were soccer players, and as such it is possible that players of other sports have differing views on what makes sports fun. And as the study relied upon children’s self-reported interests, it may be possible that some participants were biased towards giving the researchers the answers they thought they were looking for. Nevertheless, the research supports the claim that reinforcing gender stereotypes and emphasizing the importance of victory reduces kids’ enjoyment of sports, suggesting that methods of coaching that focus on having fun are more effective when it comes to instilling healthy exercise habits in children.

Soccer ball in stadium

Upcoming FIFA 20 Offers Players a More Realistic Soccer Simulation

EA has published their series of soccer simulation games for several decades now, with each new release iterating on the previous one to maintain the same core gameplay mechanics that players love while introducing new elements to enhance the game’s sense of realism and accuracy. Using the tagline “Experience football intelligence,” EA plans to continue this trend with the September 27th release of FIFA 20. The newest installment in the series features a host of improvements to the game’s core simulation engine, attempting to provide the most convincing facsimile of the sport yet.

Chief among these improvements is the game’s introduction of a mode titled “VOLTA Football,” which allows players to simulate street football in addition to the traditional matches associated with the series. This mode will allow for smaller games, with 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5 matches, and enables players to customize the gender, clothing, shoes, and tattoos of their avatars. This mode includes a storyline mode, allowing players to insert themselves into a narrative about a football player rising to fame and glory.

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The game also features a revamped career mode, which includes several additional features tailored to responses and criticisms about previous iterations of the game. These include interactive press conferences, in which players can decide how to approach the media, and the simulation of conversations between players. As in previous installments in the series, the game features real-life football leagues, teams, and players, and approximates the various levels of skill of each player based on their real-world performances. The game also integrates 90 fully licensed real-world stadiums from 14 countries.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the newer entries of the FIFA series, especially FIFA 20, is the convincing and realistic physics and animation engine. Players move about the field realistically, as animations blend into one another seamlessly, and physical contact between players is portrayed dynamically and believably. Additionally, FIFA 20 features enhanced ball physics, and the movement of the ball on the field is governed by a physics simulation that takes into account the contact between the ball and various elements present in the game environment, including the players as well as the ball’s spin and trajectory.

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Another improvement in this year’s entry is the addition of mechanics to give advanced players more control over the ball, further simulating the tactics and techniques employed by real-world professional athletes. These additions include strafe dribbling, affording players more agility while on the ball, controlled tackling for taking back control of the ball, and composed finishing, creating more realistic shots at goal. While these new mechanics may take time to master, they are sure to reward dedicated players with the satisfaction of greater maneuverability and immersion in the game.

Though fans of the series will have to wait nearly two weeks to get their hands on a copy of the game, they can treat themselves to a free demo released today, September 10th, for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC. The demo showcases the new Volta Football mode as well as offering players a chance to try out the new game mechanics. Unfortunately, Nintendo Switch owners will not be able to access the demo, and the version of the game released on Nintendo’s less-powerful handheld will lack many of the features that separate FIFA 20 from previous entries. Initial reactions to the game to the game have been mostly positive, although the game’s representations of each professional players’ skill levels have been met with some criticism. As reviewers have not yet had a chance to get their hands on a copy of the retail version of the game, only time will tell whether FIFA 20 will be as beloved as earlier games, or whether fans will reject the changes in this year’s update.