The riches, glamour and glory of playing football in packed stadiums attracts the world’s top players, but with the European game in lockdown, many have been left isolated from their families.
The coronavirus has forced governments across Europe to impose severe restrictions on travel and personal freedoms.
Footballers’ routines have been upended with no games to play for the foreseeable future and training sessions now conducted alone at home or via video-conferencing to maintain some semblance of team spirit.
“It is a way to keep in contact with each other, to start a little bit of routine because I think that is important,” said Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter, who has his squad doing communal morning sessions via video.
On some of his side’s foreign players, he added: “They are away from families, they are missing families and that is something we understand.
“We sympathise with that, but we felt it was right to limit international travel and to stay at home and be safe.”
Other clubs allowed their stars to jet home.
Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar and Thiago Silva returned to Brazil and Edinson Cavani headed to Uruguay before France went into lockdown.
By contrast, Chelsea’s Spanish winger Pedro Rodriguez was stuck in London as he and the rest of the Blues squad were forced into self-isolation when teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive.
“It’s hard not to be able to see my children. I imagine there are many people like me,” Pedro, whose children live in Barcelona, told Spanish radio station Cadena SER.
“I tell them to stay in the house and that I miss them.”
Birmingham City boss Pep Clotet sent his family back to Spain before a state of emergency was declared there, but he remained in England.
“I am caught between two worlds,” said Clotet.
“I feel I cannot do my job properly. I keep thinking, ‘Maybe I should go back?’ But I cannot go back because I am working.”
For others, the greatest concern is filling time and the void left by the absence of football.
“I am obviously a little bored since two weeks have passed since the beginning of the quarantine at home,” Juventus’ Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny told Sky Sport Italia.
“I am alone in Turin because my family went to Poland. Having said that, however, I must say that I am having a peaceful time. I sleep a lot.”
No one knows how long European football’s unprecedented stoppage will last, but when it does end, players will return with a fresh appreciation for why they travel far and wide to play the game.
“You wake up and you don’t know what to do. Right now it is just a different life. You realise how life is like every day without football. I miss football,” said Celtic’s French defender Christopher Jullien. – AFP