In these times of social distancing, sport is a casualty. Tournaments stand cancelled, seasons suspended and sport worldwide is almost at a virtual standstill. ESPN will be bringing you serialized accounts of Indian athletes, cooped up in homes or training camps, on what their lives are like now, with calendars scrambled, competitions on hold and plenty of time to kill.
Goalkeeper, Indian men's football team
How has this whole period of Coronavirus outbreak been?
It's really weird. Especially for the ones whose matches are cancelled and they are affected by this. Right now, everyone just needs to take care of themselves because this is no longer about being a sportsperson, a journalist, a writer or being Prime Minister. Everybody can be infected by this virus, and it's important to listen to all the authorities about what to do.
What was your immediate concern when the cases started coming out?
I was most worried about being vulnerable to it. As footballers, you travel and you come across a lot of people. Even in stadiums -- I was very concerned when we played against ATK [the second-leg ISL semi-final on March 8] as well in Kolkata. We had more than 50,000 people over there, while major gatherings were getting cancelled all around the world. It felt surreal.
In the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, what were the first things that you started doing? I know you sketch often -- was it something you turned to?
Not really. Like everyone else, I was just trying to watch news and get more information, because I was supposed to come here [with family to Sydney]. I had to cancel and reschedule my plans before Australia stopped people coming in. Just now at 4 pm in the evening, they announced that non-residents can't be travelling to Australia from all over the world [Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday that all foreign travellers will be banned from entering Australia starting 9 pm AEDT on Friday]. That was something I had predicted before, and was made aware by my family.
What concerns you the most about this situation?
This breaks the usual rhythm of everybody in their regular life. Everyone goes to office. We as footballers have a month's break, and then we are supposed to join pre-season. All of that is the first concern -- when are things going to get back to normal?
Have you devised any fitness methods to ensure you stay mentally and physically sharp?
I am still trying to figure that out. Trying to work from home is very limited when you are a professional sportsperson. First, I am just trying to be informed about what's happening all over the world. The other thing is, when you're not on the pitch and you're at home, the usual norm is that you are relaxing. But now you have to mix it up and ensure you try to do something at home as well. It's still too early to figure out how to do it, but I am trying my best.
How has the communication with teammates been? Who are the best informed players, and those that try to keep everybody positive?
I think Chhetri bhai [Sunil Chhetri] is one of the most informative people. He keeps himself updated, but on the other hand, I get to read about the players from Spain. They are in quarantine, and as you know, Europe is the worst affected area in the world right now. They are the ones who are facing the biggest problems.
It is very unnerving to know what they are going through. I don't even know how or when I will see them again.
Would you have any message to fans, your followers and the wider world?
Just be safe. This is an extraordinary time. Please make sure you are listening to your government advisories. Stay wherever you are, because the message that they are sharing is very important. Not for everyone, but for you, because this can happen to you. And you can also spread it, if it happens to you.
Isolate yourself, whether you have symptoms of the virus or not, because self-isolation is the best possible way to avoid this.