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Blackpool, Video Games And Escapes – How Footballers Have Dealt With Coronavirus – The Sportsman

That date of April 3 for the Premier League to resume is looking increasingly optimistic day to day. 

Callum Hudson-Odoi becoming the first Premier League player to announce he had contracted the coronavirus virus, as well as Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, accelerated the postponement of top tier football in England.

It follows in the wake of the Serie A in Italy, Spanish La Liga, Dutch Eredivisie, Portugal’s Primeira Liga and the MLS in the USA having already taken measures to postpone fixtures for the foreseeable future, with all football-related activities being cancelled.

It’s not all doom and gloom, with the football community now devising a variety ways of keeping distracted as the sport takes an unfortunate hiatus. League Two side Leyton Orient have instigated a FIFA video game tournament with a widely circulated invitation that has attracted teams from across Europe. Starting with an aim of getting 64 clubs to participate, it wouldn’t be surprising if that number reaches well into the hundreds.

For the competition, 28-year-old Andros Townsend has become one of the first high-profile names to announce his involvement, representing his club Crystal Palace. The winger’s former team, Tottenham Hotspur has so far unaffected. Spurs’ first-team, lead by coach Jose Mourinho, and the academy were still in training, with no players so far showing symptoms of COVID-19 and thus avoiding a precautionary house arrest. 

Over towards west London however, it’s a different story. The side Mourinho won three titles at, Chelsea, have had a knock-on effect from Hudson-Odoi’s diagnosis. Hudson-Odoi’s teammate Mason Mount earned the wrath of the Blues hierarchy by leaving his confinement to go for a kick-about with West Ham United’s Declan Rice in north London. The 21-year-old, supposed to be in isolation for a fortnight after his contact with CHO, reportedly had to be “reminded of his responsibilities”. 

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The EPL’s most expensive player Paul Pogba is at least using his time well whilst the football season is postponed. It’s a double dose of donating and dabbing from the £89million Manchester United man. The France World Cup winner took to social media in conjunction with the World Health Organization to post guidelines to his 7.3 million followers,  instructing them to ‘Dab to beat coronavirus’: when you cough, and when you sneeze.

Those good deeds are coming thick and fast from the Frenchman. Pogba has now set up a fundraising page to support UNICEF to coincide with his 27th birthday (March 15). Pogba has appropriately set up a £27,000 target, a figure that he will personally double once it’s reached.

“The impact of a large-scale outbreak, especially on poor and vulnerable children, can be immense,” Pogba wrote.

“It’s my birthday and I’m always grateful that me, my family and friends are healthy. Nonetheless, not everybody is in good health right now. At times like this we need to come together.”

The full amount goes towards disposable gloves, surgical masks and vented goggles for health workers coping with the outbreak.

In other news, Pogba’s teammate Fred has been using his time a bit differently. The Brazilian midfielder has been spotted enjoying the wonders of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Reports that he popped over to the Sandcastle are currently unconfirmed.

Another South American Paulo Dybala has been applying himself by keeping fit at home, The Juventus star is embroiled in the Italy lockdown. His teammate Daniele Rugani was the first member of the Bianconeri to have contracted COVID-19. Dybala meanwhile is more upbeat: “Keep on working out! And keep on smiling!” is his message.

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Unfortunately, not everyone is Dybala and not everyone has their own private gym. Those with access to copious amounts of wine, however, can adhere to Dybala’s instructions by taking a leaf out of his Serie A rival Dries Mertens’ book. The Napoli striker took in the view of his glorious pad overlooking the sea whilst practicing his squats with a large bottle of el vino. How very, very continental.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has struggled for consistency in his Liverpool career, having been blighted by an injury that has reduced the opportunities for match-time. His absence from the pitch at the moment, is due to him going into self-isolation with girlfriend Perrie Edwards.

The Little Mix singer has been teaching the Ox some stellar dance moves, so he can at least employ those fast feet in a perfect synchronicity in a stair shuffle. 

James Milner has to wait a little while to get his hands on his third Premier League title. Liverpool’s all-action utility man has knowingly stayed true to form of his moniker Mr Boring and has been rationing tea bags for the week. The Leeds boy’s brand of choice? It couldn’t have been anything other than Yorkshire Tea.

The Liverpool squad in its entirety have contributed to a £40,000 donation in support of the Fans Supporting Foodbanks charity, in collaboration with the LFC Foundation and the Red Neighbours initiative. The charity is unable to conduct their food banks scheduled for Liverpool and Everton match days, which the donation will go some way to compensate.


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