“We’re doing this because other clubs in our area have been doing it for a while and if we don’t our players will go to other clubs,” said Anthony Benvenuto, president of Oceanside Breakers. “That’s the last thing we want. But we don’t want to put a child in danger either. “
These teams will continue to cross borders this weekend in the Desert Super Cup tournament in the Phoenix area, which is expected to feature more than 500 teams – including hundreds from other states – even as Arizona and most of the country see a surge are in coronavirus cases and hospital stays.
Arizona reported more than 4,500 new cases and 51 deaths on Tuesday. A report released by Arizona State University last week predicted the state’s hospital capacity could be reached as early as Dec. 13 if no additional efforts are made to reduce transmission.
Amid the second major wave of infections in the state, the Desert Super Cup continues a schedule that sees major youth sporting events happening this fall. The baseball tournament is booming in Yuma, and an estimated 800 youth teams have competed in soccer, softball and lacrosse tournaments in Maricopa County in the past week alone. This has raised alarm bells for some health officials, who have claimed that youth sports have been directly linked to spikes in some cases, and fear that events like the Desert Super Cup, even with health logs, could help spread the virus on the spot .
“It’s incredibly bad timing. I can’t think of a worse time to do something like this. … What’s so stupid about it is that we are now seeing exponential growth in the virus, “said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. “I don’t understand why city officials would approve something like this under the circumstances. I can see they approve this in September or early October. But for my life, I just don’t understand what the hell they’re thinking. “
Ed Zuercher, Phoenix city manager, said Tuesday that the city approved the tournament for the use of two facilities in the city – games will also be held near Mesa and Scottsdale – and that contestants and spectators must follow strict guidelines . The teams agreed that an on-site compliance person would work with city officials to ensure protocols were followed. When asked if he was concerned about the number of teams traveling to the tournament from outside of the state – a memo received from the Republic of Arizona is expected to have 460 such teams in the two fields in Phoenix alone – he told People, follow the rules.
“The tournament officials are responsible for this,” said Zürcher, who added that the city council would discuss guidelines for the use of sports fields next week. “You have agreed to follow these rules. Your teams agree to abide by these rules. They put in place the protocols we expect from field marshals, police officers, signage, and hand sanitizer. You’re going beyond this weekend, just like us. “
The director of the Desert Super Cup tournament, Michael Rocca, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Rick Kelsey, CEO of the Arizona Soccer Association, said his organization approved the event and had sponsored similar tournaments during the pandemic, including an event that was attended by about 400 teams in the Phoenix area last week.
“We get emails every week both of which say, ‘Hey, what are you doing? ‘as well as saying, “Hey, thank you for doing what you are doing.” Because when you look at what our children are losing, I think there is some normality about that. I think this is important, not just for our children, but for all children. We set up the protocols, ”Kelsey said.
While some California clubs compete exclusively in Arizona – a popular San Diego tournament, Surf Cup, recently relocated to Phoenix – Benvenuto said his club may be the toughest in his county. All of his players were aloof during training, and while only a fraction of the organization’s teams had traveled to Arizona, they would have to be quarantined for three days upon their return.
But it is well worth traveling to events like the Desert Super Cup for some parents, he said, because college scholarships and emotional support are at stake, although many members of the organization conflict over them.
“We’re not all 100% comfortable,” said Benvenuto, “but it’s almost something we have to do for our players.”