SINGAPORE - Tanjong Pagar United captain Faritz Hameed and his teammates were excited to return to the pitch again in late June, as phase two of Singapore's reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic saw the relaxing of some social distancing measures.
But the modified training regimens - in groups of five with no contact allowed -soon became "tedious and boring" and the footballers were itching to resume play in the then-suspended Singapore Premier League (SPL).
On Monday (Aug 31), they finally received long-awaited news as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced that full training for SPL teams would be allowed from Tuesday, offering players and coaches a glimmer of hope.
Faritz, 30, said: "We've been waiting for this day to come. We understand that it's a step by step process and we know that things have to settle down first.
"Two months (of training in small groups) can be quite tedious and boring, but it was beneficial and hopefully we can put whatever we've learnt into our games."
While no fixed date has been set for the resumption of the league, the FAS is looking at a tentative restart in September. The SPL kicked off on Feb 29 but was officially suspended on March 24 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
While Hougang United coach Clement Teo welcomed the news, he stressed the importance of sticking to safety measures.
"It feels (like) we've been training with five in a group for the longest time so this is good news," said the 54-year-old. "Naturally we're glad, but ultimately we need to be very cautious about this."
When full training begins, there will be regular breaks to allow players and staff to sanitise their hands and make sure that they are properly hydrated.
With the exception of goalkeepers, any handling or usage of equipment is to be kept to a minimum.
Physical contact should be minimised and drills such as those for heading that require players to pick up and toss the ball to another are not encouraged.
Changing rooms and gyms will stay closed and the sharing of personal equipment between players, coaches and officials is not allowed.
After five months without any competitive games, Tampines Rovers winger Jordan Webb is ready to get back onto the football pitch.
The 32-year-old returned to his native Canada from April to early July where he was able to train in groups of 10.
He resumed training with the Stags in late July after serving his quarantine order.
"I miss interacting with my teammates, playing actual games and that feeling you have when you win a game," he said.
"I feel excited. We're eager to start playing and doing what we love to do."
Fans may have to wait even longer to get back into the stadium. Geylang International supporter Rishi Raja, who has been an Eagles fan for a decade, was thrilled to hear the news but the 31-year-old said he is "not going to be full of hope that we can go down and watch if it does restart".
As SPL teams gear up in the coming weeks for a possible return of league games, Teo admitted that the season would be tough on teams after the long layoff.
He said: "Even though we push them on fitness and do many fitness drills, it's when you play games that fitness comes in."
Before the coronavirus-enforced break, Tampines Rovers led the nine-team table with nine points from four games. Holders Brunei DPMM were sixth on three points from winning their only game of the season.