Logging into the virtual world lately has made Harry Shipp feel uneasy.
“I’m trying to find toilet paper; I’ve gone to four different stores. … I can’t waste a roll juggling it around,” the Sounders FC midfielder said of the popular #StayAtHomeChallenge where soccer players around the globe post clips of skillfully bouncing the rolls on their feet, chest and head.
Amid quarantines mandated by governments in efforts to slow the coronavirus pandemic, athletes and entertainers have utilize social media to connect with fans and each other. NBA star Stephen Curry held a Q&A with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Instagram Live to share information about COVID-19 while DJ D-Nice used the site to hold a #ClubQuarantine party last weekend that at its peak had more than 150,000 viewers.
The Sounders linked with their broadcast partner, JoeTV, to replay the club’s best games and last weekend aired the 2019 MLS Cup victory with former winger Steve Zakuani being the host on Twitter with Shipp, Cristian Roldan and keeper Stefan Frei among those joining to offer commentary and answer questions from the nearly 10,000 fans who followed along.
Roldan and forward Jordan Morris spent Friday afternoon playing “Fortnite: Harley Quinn Birds of Prey” on Twitch with two fans while Frei played “Call of Duty” with select fans on Shotcall over the weekend.
Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz and midfielder Nico Lodeiro, who celebrated his 31st birthday at home last week, are the more consistent social media posters on the team. Ruidiaz and his two children have salsa danced and serenaded followers while Lodeiro and his two children have uplifting messages and playful challenges.
“We have free time and it’s something to do,” said Sounders defender Jordy Delem of posting Instagram Stories of him doing the #StayAtHomeChallenge. “It’s a movement, anyway.”
MLS extended its moratorium on training through Friday. The league hold includes international travel – although some countries have their own bans – which impacts players like Gustav Svensson.
The defensive midfielder is from Gothenburg, Sweden, where as of Friday 92 people have died from coronavirus. Svensson’s father has a heart complication and his sister is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, both quarantining together at the family’s summer home to protect against the virus.
“If anything happens, I’m scared that I don’t have enough time to get back to Sweden,” Svensson said. “Me and my family want to go back and we’re trying to find a way to make sure I don’t miss any time here as well. But no one knows when this is going to end and we start our normal life again.”
Svensson, who played in only one of Seattle’s four matches this season due to a calf injury, said the two weeks since the team last trained doesn’t compare to this past offseason after the Sounders won the MLS Cup. He was a slouch during a winter vacation in Tanzania with 14 family members to celebrate his father’s birthday.
“It’s a weird mixture between emptiness and motivation to just come back to start again,” Svensson said. “The most difficult part has been the mind because it feels very empty without the soccer. I love the extra time I get with my family but you want to go back to training. You want to feel that motivation, that adrenaline in your body again. … I would love to have a set date when we’re going to start again.”
Svensson opts for group chats with teammates rather than following along on social media. He and his wife Sara helped their two children build a movie theater in their living room, selling tickets and popcorn to see “Frozen 2.” The couple also shopped and checked on older neighbors.
Shipp represents the Sounders for the MLS players’ union and relays updates in Spanish and English to his teammates via texts. The overriding message is MLS wants to complete its 34-game season beginning May 10, but will only do so if every team’s market has the outbreak under control.
As of Tuesday, New York has the most confirmed cases (75,795) and deaths (1,550) in the U.S., according to the state’s Department of Health, and is on a “stay at home” order through April 15. That applies to two MLS clubs in the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC. The state of Washington, meanwhile, has 5,250 cases and 211 deaths from the virus, as of Tuesday.
“This gets lonely and boring in a sense because you’re so used to this life that’s fast-paced with competition every weekend,” Shipp said. “Both sides (league and players) are interested in the players being in a situation that’s safe and feeling comfortable and safe to go back to work while also coming up with multiple contingency plans depending on how this is going to go.
“The last couple of weeks have felt like a couple of years in terms of the news cycle. A couple weeks from now, we don’t know where it’s going to be.”
But hopefully, the Shipps find toilet paper.