West Ham United defender Pablo Zabaleta’s coronavirus experience shows the wild challenges provided to players in our international game.
The Argentine and his family live in Spain, but he obviously spends his workweeks in London. So when lockdown hit, West Ham gave him permission to head back to Spain to join his wife and kids. His parents are in Argentina, and many of his teammates in England.
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Zabaleta is allowed to leave the house for a half-hour a day, which is an upgrade on his previous experience of 24-hour lockdown with a spin bike as his only exercise option.
To top it off, he’s got his family under nearly 24-hour lockdown plus concerns with his parents, who are thousands of miles away. And his in-laws cannot come visit despite being just around the corner, relatively speaking.
“I have family in Argentina – my Dad is nearly 70 and of course we all are worried about this virus because my Dad is in a situation where he had a car crash seven years ago, he’s been in intensive care for maybe two months with pneumonia, so he knows and we all know that he has to stay away from people,” the defender revealed. “And the same with my parents-in-law. They are the only people that can probably help us with something [in Barcelona], but we cannot bring them into the apartment and we cannot go to see them with the kids, because of this, so this is what I’m saying.”
Zabaleta also spoke of the sporting side to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season is set to be his last in the Premier League, but looks unlikely to end with a final match in front of the home fans at the London Stadium or, well, fans anywhere.
And if Zabaleta returns to boyhood club San Lorenzo, there’s unlikely to be another meeting with a club in England (testimonials excluded).
“Realistically, it’s not going to be the same, The Premier League and all the countries I’m sure will try to restart the league, but nothing will be the same,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to finish that season in a different way, playing in front of the fans, having those emotions and that adrenaline you always feel you need for the games. I know this but I will find myself maybe playing in front of empty stadiums with no fans and with different emotions, but that is something I cannot manage myself.”