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Mar 26, 2020, 6:16:00 AM

Coronavirus Making Life Difficult for Spanish Football

As the pandemic continues to plague society, more and more sports leagues are finding it difficult to cope with the reality that their season may not end.

Spanish football officials announced that La Liga will hold its games behind closed doors after coach Francisco Garcia, 21 years old, passed away due to the coronavirus two days prior. Two days later, they suspended the season indefinitely. This didn’t bode well with fans, especially the hardcore, die-hard ones.

‘A 21-year-old boy, with all his life ahead? There are no words; there cannot be’, said Sevilla director Ramon Rodriguez in a letter. ‘For his memory, for the memory of the thousands of Spaniards who have died, for the thousands of people who are having a hard time in the world due to this virus, we must be responsible’.

It isn’t just La Liga that’s going through a rough patch. Other football leagues have also suspended their season or are finding ways to play matches in controlled environments. Australia’s A-League is carrying on with their season, playing matches behind closed doors. The rest of the world’s football leagues have suspended their season.

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The ‘shutdown’ has left players with a lot of time on their hands - too much time if you ask them. Other than that, the pandemic has also left them isolated in their homes, far away from their teammates, their fans, and the sport they loved to play. ‘Nobody is immune to this virus’, said Sevilla captain Jesus Navas. ‘Soccer is my profession, I love this sport with all my soul. Soccer has given me everything. But the most important thing is our health’.

Other than China and Italy, no other country has been affected by the virus more than Spain. As it stands, there have been more 2,320 fatalities in the country alone and this number just keeps growing every day. ‘The best we can do now — not only footballers, everyone — is isolate ourselves’, said Navas. ‘The Spanish, in general terms, we are setting a great example of responsibility’. This responsibility that the players speak of has been taken to heart by clubs such as Real Valladolid, Osasuna and Eibar. Instead of accepting the testing kits purchased by the league, they chose to donate these to people who were showing the symptoms.

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Players are finding ways of keeping themselves busy and fit all while within the constraints of their home. ‘Monchi (Raom Rodriguez) made it clear to us that this was not a vacation, that he wanted us all to do our best not to lose shape’, said Navas.

However, if the challenge of staying fit is difficult, then the mental toll of a pandemic is much worse. ‘We are professionals and now more than ever we have to prove it’, said Navas. ‘I take this as a challenge for self-improvement. As captain, I want to be an example for my teammates. This situation is a challenge for every elite athlete. Difficult and adverse times are when people bring out the best in themselves. We as professional footballers must now give our best’.

The suspension could not have come at a worse time for Sevilla who were having a heck of a season. They were behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in the chase for the league title. They also made the Round of 16 in the Europa League. The last time they were in the top three of La Liga was back in 2009, and their last European tournament win was in 2016.

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Words: Carlos Corpus

Image: PA