These are crazy times we are living in. Football is suspended across the world and Ronaldinho is in prison, observed one writer this week.
The reference to the Brazilian legend, who is languishing in a Paraguayan prison over charges of using a fake passport, is quite symbolic at a time when we’ve all been denied the pleasure football brings.
Sadly, the former Barcelona playmaker celebrated his 40th birthday in jail last week.
It is indeed crazy times. A drive around the Kaizer Chiefs Village precinct on the eve of the nationwide lockdown this week told the story of life unusual.
The state-of-the-art facility in Naturena, south of Johannesburg, is normally a hive of activity every day, but an eerie silence greets you as you walk along the short street that leads into the home of the Absa Premiership log leaders.
Instead, the posters of Amakhosi legends commemorating the club’s 50th anniversary line the street that would normally be buzzing with the players’ sports cars as they arrive for or leave the morning and afternoon training sessions.
There is also no sign of the club’s supporters who frequent the Chiefs store at the village to stock up on their favourite official team merchandise.
Chiefs and other PSL clubs finally sent players away as per government’s directive this week so that everyone stays at home to observe the 21-day national lockdown to help flatten the curve of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Coach Ernst Middendorp has called for his charges to be professional, and Chiefs have now turned to modern technology to keep the players “sharp and fit”.
Amakhosi were four points ahead of trailers Mamelodi Sundowns in the race for the championship title when the league was suspended on March 17.
“I miss being on the field with my brothers,” Amakhosi goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune posted on Twitter this week.
Khune and his colleagues have been handed individual training programmes to follow while under lockdown.
Chiefs goalkeeper coach Lee Baxter has devised a lockdown workout, and he is able to monitor the progress of his charges via video link from their respective locations.
“Obviously, the situation is new to everyone and everyone must comply [with the social distancing protocols]. But it’s good that we can do online workouts,” Baxter told City Press.
“The worst thing is that, when you have too much time [on your hands], you end up doing nothing. So the guys have been given programmes to train, but there is rest between individual workouts.
"Although the guys are now confined to their houses, us goalkeepers still do the kind of work we normally do on the training ground. The only thing is that no one is allowed to jog or run.”
Some players have admitted though that training without their teammates around has not been easy as it leads to boredom at times.
However, Baxter, said they have come up with ways to make the online sessions exciting – by sharing their workouts on social media.
“It doesn’t cost anyone any money but our fans can join in if they want to. The players also have a social responsibility. I always remind them of that and that’s why I have challenged my colleagues in the PSL to showcase their training programmes.
Orlando Pirates legend Tebogo Moloi observed this week: “I just love modern technology and how coaches can keep track – if a player is training or not – through different social media platforms.
“Is it not wonderful to see your players following a programme at leisure in their homes? How football has changed.”
Apart from exercising, Khune has also been presented with a chance to bond with his newborn baby as the Bafana Bafana keeper noted that “daddy duty is an every day thing”.
But fun can also be had during the lockdown.
Online streaming platform Netflix has plenty to offer when it comes to entertainment, and sports-people and football fans can indulge in video games that are a common way to pass the time for many. Some clubs have also been engaging in virtual football games.
Orlando Pirates “played” Bidvest Wits last weekend. The match was played through their official Twitter accounts. The game ended goalless.