In a home video gone viral, Lionel Messi’s son Ciro is doing sit-ups as his father lifts bars. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos has posted a video of his training session that has his three kids playing by his side. Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen is skipping in the backyard. Formula One racer Fernando Alonso has picked a new hobby, painting. England striker Marcus Rashford is learning German. With the COVID-19 lockdown bringing sports to a grinding halt, the globe-trotting elite athletes, so used to the draining hotel-stadium schedule, are adjusting to a relatively sedentary life. It’s a difficult adjustment, a challenge they have not faced before.
April has always been that time of the year when sports gets more intense. This is when the calendar gets busier, the title race heats up and the relegation battle intensifies. If not for the pandemic, footballers would have been busy with the Champions League knockouts. Managers of international football teams would have started to finalise their combinations and strategies for the European Championships and COPA. Cricketers would have been hopping from one city to another while being part of the Indian Premier League circus. The Olympians, who had spent four years dreaming and planning, would have intensified their workload. Now, they must rejig — the four-year plan has become a five-year chore. It’s a bolt from the blue. No athlete would have factored in the probability of a pandemic while drawing out a path to the top of the podium.
Now, both the goals and goalposts have changed. Dreams have been downsized and the bars of achievements dragged down. Forget titles and medals, glory and honour, players would trade anything to be just on the field. In such grim times — when sport has peripheral relevance — the athletes sitting at home have only the uncertainty of their next game as company.
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