The current nationwide lockdown, which was put into effect in a bid to counter the coronavirus pandemic, has certainly been a shock to the system for all of us. Its implications have been extreme and wide ranging; we’ve all pretty much had to abruptly adopt a new way of life for the duration of these measures.
Of course, footballers are no different. Both matches and training have been postponed indefinitely, denying players their regular routine but leaving them the obligation of staying as fit as possible.
It’s a tough adjustment to make, and it seems that George Puscas has been particularly inventive in his own adjustment. In an interview with Romanian outlet DigiSport, he claimed that he broke into Reading’s (closed) training ground to do exercise:
“The club has given us a programme, but everyone is doing what they like. Today I thought about running outside. I wanted to go to the training ground, but probably everything is closed there. I managed to infiltrate it one day when no one saw me and I ran 100 metres. In the house I have no way [of doing that]; I have nowhere. It’s more convenient to go [to the training ground], but now I don’t think I can do it anymore because they banned me. I’ll run around the house.”
Puscas also explained that he’s been able to transfer some of his other exercise routines from the gym to home, due to the nationwide lockdown.
“I have mattress, ball, dumbbells, elastic. I’m doing everything possible to maintain my muscle tone. I do strength, genuflections, floats, whatever I find. I used to do this at the gym before; now I do it at home.”
I’m certainly no fitness expert, but I’m the sure the transition that Puscas - and indeed all other footballers - are going through is a tough one. Staying in shape at professional standard is gruelling and requires a lot of discipline, so building up certain routines and habits - in a familiar environment - is key.
Having to make do without those for a matter of weeks or months won’t be easy. Puscas supposedly breaking into the club’s training ground - just to do a 100-metre run - shows the lengths that some players will go to in order to stay in shape.
Puscas also told DigiSport about the psychological toll that lockdown is having on him, and he’s remarkably honest about his own situation:
“I am alone, I have no contact with the world, I do not think I would have anything to do. They first told us that we had a week off and I couldn’t go to Romania, because if I stayed in quarantine I couldn’t go back. After that week we came to training and they announced that [break from training] will be extended by another ten days.
“After I started thinking about what I would do alone, I said that I better go to Romania and spend time with my family. They were just telling me that flights could be suspended, the borders could be blocked, and for the time being they are still here. I don’t know if I’ll be home again, because they won’t let us know we have a month off.”
With regards to that last sentence, I assume Puscas means that Reading players are being given time off a week or so at a time - rather than in month-long blocks - so he can’t commit to going home. Mark Bowen confirmed as much himself, telling GetReading: “I didn’t really want to say to them - see you in three weeks’ time. I wanted to keep a little bit of a focus there because things are developing every day.”
It’s worth bearing in mind here that Puscas is in a tough spot personally. He’s still only 23 years old, and this is his first time living so far from home. Although he played in Italy for a number of years, that’s fairly close to his home country of Romania - much closer than England. At this point he probably isn’t fully used to living in England and may not have fully adjusted.
Puscas also admitted that the boredom is getting to him:
“I have days when I spend a lot of time on the phone and I wish I didn’t. I watch movies, I try to find better TV series, I talk to my family, my friends. I would like to do something productive, to read more, to do things that I probably could not do during the season.”
I’m sure that last section is something that an awful lot of us can relate to. Even with things like watching movies and TV shows, it can still be a tedious process to pass the time.
For me, Puscas’ comments show just how important it is to support everyone at the moment. Lockdown is a mentally tough, gruelling period for all of us, and that’s no different for footballers, certainly not young players who are living a long way away from their family.
That doesn’t just stop when lockdown does though. When the coronavirus pandemic eventually subsides, it’ll take a while for all of us to readjust to normal life and regular routines, so cutting Puscas - and indeed all other players - some slack is only fair.
The quotes in this piece have been Google-Translated from Romanian, but I’ve tweaking the wording here and there to make them read better. You can find the original interview here.