• Kyodo

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With the J. League first division set to resume in a month, several clubs held their first full-team practices Monday since the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of play in late February.

Reigning champions Yokohama F. Marinos were among the sides who hit the training ground for the first time in around three months.

“It’s great to see everyone smiling. Finally we can all play soccer together,” 2019 J. League MVP Teruhito Nakagawa said.

Although the government lifted Japan’s nationwide state of emergency last week, paving the way for professional sports to resume, J. League sides are taking precautions against the pneumonia-causing virus ahead of the J1 restart on July 4.

At the Marinos session, players trained in two groups and stuck to non-contact drills. They avoided sharing water bottles and entered the dressing rooms in four separate groups to prevent overcrowding.

Though the safety measures made for an unusual atmosphere, the players were enthusiastic about getting back into the swing of things.

“At one point I had wondered whether playing soccer was really that necessary, but it plays a big part in some people’s lives. If there is someone who it encourages or inspires, I want to do it for them,” Marinos captain Takuya Kida said.

Kashiwa Reysol and Consadole Sapporo also held their first practices Monday, while Vissel Kobe, Gamba Osaka, Cerezo Osaka and Nagoya Grampus held their first full-team sessions after previously training in smaller groups.

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