Vancouver Whitecaps forward Yordy Reyna and defender Jasser Khmiri have entered 14-day self-quarantine and been fined after breaking physical distancing protocols.
Reyna, a Peruvian international, was captured on video Tuesday taking part in a pickup soccer game in a Vancouver park. The MLS club subsequently said that Khmiri, a Tunisia international, took part in the same game and announced he was facing the same sanctions.
Their fines will be donated to front-line workers, the club said.
The Whitecaps said the 26-year-old Reyna was doing a personal workout when he came across the game. He knew two of the participants and took part in the game for about five minutes after he was invited to join in.
The game was being filmed by Global-TV as part of a report on local residents not following physical distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Someone at the club saw the report, which did not mention Reyna but showed him briefly, and forwarded it to Axel Schuster, the club's sporting director, on Tuesday evening.
"He made a mistake, no question. He was very open about the whole issue," Schuster told reporters on a media conference call Wednesday. "He apologized immediately. He knew that he had done something wrong."
Still Schuster called Reyna's action unacceptable, especially when others are not following the rules when it comes to physical distancing as the weather improves and the public grows weary of restrictions.
"We have to be a role model," he said.
"It's even more important that we step up and say 'Hey, look how are we are doing these things,'" he added. "It was bad for a lot of reasons what he did. But at the end he's a human being."
Schuster said the club consulted the league before announcing the self-quarantine and sanction. And he reminded his players "to respect the rules and to be very careful."
Schuster's media call came before the club detailed the 22-year-old Khmiri's involvement.
MLS suspended the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, closing all team facilities. A league-wide moratorium on team training remains in effect May 15 and it's unclear when the season might resume.
As of Wednesday, the league opened the door to individual player workouts outdoors at team training fields but only under strict guidelines. Like the other Canadian clubs, the Whitecaps are in the process of consulting with local authorities and the league on their protocol for the individual workouts.
Reyna signed with Vancouver in January 2017 from Austria's FC Red Bull Salzburg, using targeted allocation money. He earned US$713,140 last season, fourth-highest on the Whitecaps payroll.
He has played 70 regular season games for Vancouver (including 55 starts) with 19 goals and 16 assists. The Peruvian had seven goals in 25 games last season.
The five-foot-seven 145-pounder arrived in Vancouver with the nickname Magic.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press