The forced hiatus left many foreign players stranded far from their families and loved ones. Technology has kept them sane, but insecure future has some worried.
If Maritzburg United striker Jeremy Brockie and Cape Town City goalkeeper Peter Leeuwenburgh had their way, they’d be at their respective homes in New Zealand and the Netherlands during the lockdown.
But, as fate would have it, the pair is among a sizeable group of PSL players from far-flung countries outside Africa who find themselves confined in a foreign land owing to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak of the virus in South Africa in March saw Stellenbosch FC’s Dutch goalkeeper Boy de Jong leaving in panic.
Just before the lockdown, the 27-year-old terminated his contract to be closer to his family in the Netherlands.
Bidvest Wits Scottish striker Simon Murray also took the last flight out of Johannesburg before the nationwide lockdown kicked in.
He’d also cancelled the remainder of his contract while he was in the process of completing rehabilitation for a knee injury.
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Brockie, Leeuwenburgh and the rest had no option but to stay put on these shores as sporting events, including football, remain prohibited until further notice, even under eased lockdown regulations.
Brockie is in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, which is about 27 flying hours away from his home town of Nelson, a city on the south island of New Zealand, while Leewenburgh is locked down in the Mother City, which is worlds away from his home in Lelystad, a town near Amsterdam.
The on-loan Mamelodi Sundowns marksman, Brockie, admitted that life under lockdown had been a bit strenuous, and his situation was made even more difficult after he arranged for his wife and their three kids to leave the country to be with his in-laws in Australia.
Worse still, the bearded marksman said he was facing an uncertain future after his loan arrangement at Maritzburg.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone. It’s a little bit more difficult for me because I am coming to the end of my contract.
"There is an option that needs to be taken by Sundowns, but they are waiting around.
"Uncertainty doesn’t help the situation,” Brockie told City Press from Pietermaritzburg.
He is in the company of his compatriot and team-mate Daniel Morgan, who moved in with him for the time being.
“I would have loved to join my wife and kids in Australia, but it’s a bit of a waiting game regarding when the league [Absa Premiership] is going start again.
“The more the days tick by, the more I’m missing all the little milestones my seven-month-old baby is making.
"It’s already been close to six weeks away from them now. The only annoying thing is the [eight- to 10-hour] time difference, so I have to either speak to them late at night or in the morning [South African time].
“It’s been nice, though, to spend some time on video chats with my brother and his kids, [talking about] what they are doing during the lockdown,” he said lightheartedly.
Leewenburgh said it would have been “nice to have family around you while in lockdown”, but he avoided the risk of returning home, especially when his fiancée is expecting their first child and most international flights remain grounded.
“We are expecting a baby in June, which makes it impossible for us to fly during this time. We don’t want to be in a situation where she’s back home with the baby and I’m in Cape Town.
“We are feeling safe here for now and so far it was a good decision to stay. We’re convinced that South Africa will deal with the virus,” the former Ajax Amsterdam goalie told City Press.
The Netherlands has recorded more than 38 000 cases, with close to 5 000 deaths. It is against these statistics that Leewenburgh said his country had probably experienced the worst of the virus and was on its way back to normal.
He said that his family was “safe and healthy, and working from home”.
“The Netherlands is in a situation similar to that of South Africa’s level of lockdown. Overall, it hasn’t been too bad for me in South Africa. I can only imagine [how hard it is for those] people who are alone in a different country,” the big goalie added.
Brockie said New Zealand had a “stricter lockdown than South Africa” and his country seemed to be coping well with the virus. The Oceania nation has eased its lockdown regulations and is in the process of reopening its economy.
For now, Brockie and his Maritzburg team-mates continue to train in isolation, but he finds time to challenge Morgan when they play video games.
On the other hand, Leewenburgh says he is utilising the lockdown period to learn Spanish whenever he is not engaged with Cape Town City’s virtual training programme.
City is home to many European players in the PSL, including Leewenburgh’s compatriot Chris David and defender Giannis Potouridis from Greece.
In Johannesburg, the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns’ Gastón Sirino and his fellow South Americans – Brazilian Ricardo Nascimento and Venezualen José Alí Meza – are fortunate to be in the company of their families during this uncertain period.
Their continent is experiencing alarmingly high infection and death rates.
Sundowns striker Mauricio Affonso has been back home in Uruguay since March, recovering from surgery on his ankle and groin.
Others such as AmaZulu striker Miloš Lacný don’t have their loved ones around. The 32-year-old striker is still adapting to life in Durban while his family remains in Slovakia. He signed for Usuthu in January.
Kaizer Chiefs striker Samir Nurkovic, who arrived in South Africa in July, admitted that he was concerned about his family and had dedicated time to following the developments back home in Serbia.
“So far, I am satisfied to learn that my family is safe and healthy. I wish them all of the best each day,” the 27-year-old told the Chiefs website this week, adding that he had to get used to training from home.