Durham soccer programs staying connected from afar amid coronavirus pandemic

Social distancing doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon but some soccer programs in Durham Region have found ways for players to connect from a distance.

Kicking the soccer ball around from 20 feet is the closest Chase Mason and Andreas Vassiliou have been in almost two weeks.

Soccer is what these under-16 boys eat, sleep and breathe but the coronavirus pandemic has changed things.

“I can’t be out here on the field with my teammates and stuff, so I’ve been doing work at home but just not the same,” said Mason, an FC Durham fullback.

So over the past few days, the FC Durham club has created a video. It’s an idea Vassiliou came up with after seeing similar toilet paper challenge videos online and gives them all a reason to reconnect from home.

In the video, players juggle toilet paper in a series of shots spliced together to make it appear as though they are passing the toilet paper to each other.

“They could do any tricks they want, I just let them know where the toilet paper should come in from and exit,” said Vassiliou, FC Durham midfielder.

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“It was actually a lot of fun because we’ve been pretty bored at the house,” said Mason.

FC Durham Academy manager Tom Croft was impressed with the final result.

“When I seen it I was quite happy, skill level was good,” Croft said.

It’s been a difficult transition since the academy temporarily closed. Most of the players have been together for the past five years.

“Missing our training sessions, just our time together and everything, it’s the worst,” said Vassiliou.

Croft feels for the players.

“They’re energetic, they love the game, they want to get out and play and now they’re pretty much stuck in the house making it out for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes a day. So I feel really bad for them that they’re missing that time,” he said.

Juggling toilet paper is one way to continue building team camaraderie, but in Pickering, the football club has issued its own video challenge to its players to keep them active and their skills sharp.

Pickering FC grassroots director Hollie Babut created the PFC challenge, in which participants send in videos of themselves performing a variety of skills.

In just a few days, she says the club has received over 200 participants.

“I think using the social media platform to keep them engaged with each other has been a good thing to keep them at least involved with each other,” said Babut.

The club won’t run out of challenges in the near future.

“We have our keep-up challenge,” said Babut.

Pickering FC hopes they can return to the pitch soon.

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