Fitness, focus, frustration: Life in lockdown for Europe’s footballers

FILE – FC Copenhagen’s players cheer their fans at the end of the UEFA Europa league last 32 first leg football match between Basaksehir and FC Copenhagen on March 12, 2020 at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim stadium in Istanbul. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira is learning to play the piano, La Liga clubs are facing off on PlayStation and Atalanta’s Robin Gosens has been revising for exams in psychology.

Yet as thousands of footballers, from the highest levels to the lower leagues, remain on lockdown while coronavirus spreads across Europe, all of them are tasked with keeping themselves fit, as well as entertained.

“Everyone needs to be ready so that when the health advice says resume, we can resume straight away,” Emmanuel Orhant, medical director of the French Football Federation (FFF), told AFP.

Nobody knows when that will be and with the global death toll from coronavirus passing 13,000 on Saturday, there is little appetite yet even to address the question.

But within football, the absence of a deadline only enhances the sense of urgency. In theory, the season could restart in a matter of weeks and clubs are determined to be ready.

“Players may even need to get their summer break in now,” Brighton striker Glenn Murray told AFP. “We might finish the 2019/20 season and then roll into 2020/21 without any break at all.” Asked if the players would accept that scenario, Murray said: “We don’t have any choice.”

It means fitness coaches and club doctors are creating week-to-week conditioning programs, personalized for individual players, explained through Whatsapp and Skype, and dependent on both technology and trust.

“Every one of our players has been given the guidance they need from our coaches, nutritionists and doctors,” Real Betis head of medical Jose Manuel Alvarez told

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Ryan Araña spends birthday sharing food to COVID-19 frontliners

MANILA, Philippines—Rain or Shine guard Ryan Araña made sure to share his blessings to those in need at the most opportune time.

Araña celebrated his 35th birthday on Monday by preparing food which he personally gave to frontliners and the homeless during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is how I celebrated my birthday. Instead of having a party, I planned on making it more meaningful by celebrating with our heroes in the streets. Thank you to our frontliners, security guards, policemen etc. It was a simple act yet seeing their big smiles made it fulfilling,” Araña, a two-time PBA champion, posted on his Instagram.

“I hope we can spread kindness and positivity especially at a time like this. Special thanks to all the people here at home who helped me with all the preparations.”

Just two months ago, Araña signed a contract to return to the Elasto Painters, the team that made him the 12th overall pick in the 2007 PBA Draft.

The veteran guard played his first eight seasons with Rain or Shine before having stints with San Miguel Beer, Kia and NorthPort.


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Love, travel and serendipity merge in heady dating show

(First of two parts)

Tony Zarsky

We initially had doubts when we were asked to check out TLC’s 10-episode, 30-minute reality dating show “Travel for Love,” a “social experiment” that sends five romantic hopefuls across Southeast Asia as they attempt to make meaningful connections with three local strangers on blind dates.

After all, there are way too many TV programs these days that bank on the “randomness” and “frivolity” of their participants’ meetups just to draw viewers’ attention—the most recent being Netflix’s intoxicating binge, “Love is Blind.” However, their viewability quickly dissipates as soon as the novelty overstays its welcome.

But, the elements thrown into “Travel for Love’s” heady mix of romance, travel and culture are too tantalizing to resist. Just by watching the first episode of the show, we were instantly drawn to the “influencers” chosen for its match-making trial run because their individual issues and concerns are often relatable and hit close to home. They aren’t just aspirational tales far removed from the Asian reality.

From the Philippines, there’s hopeless-romantic island girl Samantha del Carmen, who wants her dates to get along with her parents and five other siblings. That’s a very Pinoy trait! Sam will meet her matches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Mariska Setiawan

Honey Khanum

Polish-Korean pretty boy Anthony Zarsky, who just moved from New York City to Singapore, is flown to Da Lat, a scenic mountain town frequented by honeymooners in southern Vietnam, to go on dates outside his usual preference of Korean girls. Despite his good looks and striking personality, he says even he wonders why he has remained single all these years.

Also tasked to “date out of her comfort zone” is free-spirited musician-artist Mariska Setiawan of Jakarta who has been single for a year. She travels to the remote jungles of Sarawak

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