For footballers across the world, these are trying times indeed, as sport and society do their best to cope with the ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak.
The virus has swept across Europe and suspended virtually all major sporting leagues, with life in many cities coming to a standstill as phrases like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ become commonplace in our vocabulary.
One country who took precautionary measures early was Cyprus, who, after just 19 confirmed cases, shut their borders and schools with a state of emergency declared over the weekend. Pharmacies and supermarkets remain the only everyday amenities open.
It’s all a bit surreal for 20-year-old Jozsef Keaveny, who plays for AEK Larnaca in the Cypriot First Division. Keaveny joined the side from Leicester City in the summer.
“I’ve watched everything I’ve wanted to watch on Netflix twice over at this stage!” he jokes. “It’s not like I can flick on Sky Sports either because there’s just nothing.”
Keaveny like all on the island is under lockdown, only allowing himself the odd trip to the supermarket or run on the beach.
“It’s a weird situation,” Keaveny tells Pundit Arena.
“The league has been suspended until the end of this month but whether that goes beyond that we’ll see. The country has gone into lockdown a lot faster than it has done in some other countries
“I think it was after only 20 reported cases they started to shut everything down trying to control it. My dad was over, he came over on Thursday and he ended up catching a flight back home on Sunday because flights were getting cancelled. I
“t was looking at one stage like he might be stranded here. I ended up dropping him off at the airport, it was the quietest airport I’d ever seen. They’ve closed the country off to foreigners now. We’re under instruction not to leave the country.”
Keaveny continues outlining that even before the league was suspended the club had taken precautions and advised their players to stay in the country over the coming weeks.
“That was something, even whilst we were training we were told. I think it was last week we had a meeting with the board before training and they told us that none of us were to leave the country during the international break.
“I think it’s sensible enough. It’s just strange. We’ve been told to stay in our houses as much as possible. We’ve got some gym equipment here and have been given a programme to follow for the next three days. Then I think they’ll reassess the situation. We can still go to the supermarket but we’re just trying to stay indoors as much as possible.”
Unable to play and in most cases even unable to train, there is a worry for players that as long as this continues there’ll be the struggle to maintain optimum fitness and sharpness.
Many clubs have advised their players around how to train and keep working during times of lockdown and isolation with the Ireland-eligible striker keen to praise Larnaca’s work in helping the squad in these difficult times.
“The priority for the club is just to make sure that everyone’s health is being looked after and everyone’s families health is too. Before they announced the suspension we were going to play behind closed doors but only a day or two later they suspended it altogether.
“They’ve given us some gym programs alright because the gyms here are closed. It’s a bit like a home-based programme. The good thing is that they’re staying in touch with us. You send a message to any of the coaches or the staff and you blink and get a response. It’s brilliant. They’re constantly telling us if we’re feeling anything to get in touch immediately and we’ll get you seen to.”
The key to containment and ‘flattening the curve’ it seems, is everyone working together to do their part and stop the spread of the virus.
In Ireland, the closure of pubs and restaurants on Sunday evening has taken away the option of social gatherings for many,3 a necessary move designed to restrict.
Keaveny outlines that as far as he’s aware everyone in Cyprus has been ‘sensible’ in their work to look after themselves as well as the most vulnerable in society.
“Everyone over here is being very sensible. It’s a small island so if sensible measures aren’t taken then there is quite a scope for it to become a problem here. I think it’s good that everyone is on board and taking care of number one. You could have people going out but when it comes down to it it’s elderly people, family members (who are affected).
Three years on the sidelines robbed striker József Keaveny of the chance to be a part of Ireland's promising generation of players coming through the ranks.
Now playing in Cyprus, the 20-year-old still harbours dreams of playing international football.https://t.co/ojU50KTV2n
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) December 10, 2019
“You might be able to fight it yourself but if you’re passing it on to people more vulnerable and susceptible to falling ill from it, it’s not sensible.”
Although Keaveny is optimistic – he spent the morning running on the beach in weather that would make any Irish native jealous – the worrying thing for him and most is not knowing when it all will end.
“The main thing is not knowing when it’s going to end and how long it’s going to go on for and how long we can’t train and play for. It’s very frustrating.”