Laurie Bell Syrianska 2500

Laurie Bell: A week in the life of a footballer during coronavirus

23 April 2020
Most professional football players around the world are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

But here in Sweden, where I play, there are fewer restrictions.

Written by Laurie Bell

After giving us some time off, my club Örebro Syrianska has followed government guidelines and called us back to training.

 

Monday, 13th April

I wake up around 7:30am and do a push up and stretching routine I developed during our short break. This evening, we are due back in training, which is a relief. Like most footballers, I go stir crazy sat at home without exercise.

However, things aren’t back to normal. Sweden’s football season – here we play in the European spring and summer – has been postponed from April until the end of May. So we’re stuck in a never-ending preseason that started back in cold, dark January.

It’s hard to focus on football during this pandemic but as long as authorities advise us to keep playing, we must trust it is the right thing to do. “Physical activity is good for public health, so sports and exercise should continue,” the Swedish Public Health Agency says.

Today, training starts at 5:30pm. It’s nice to see the lads. We don’t shake hands anymore but share nods and laughs before our coach comes in and welcomes us back with news of a potential preseason match on Saturday.

This sets the scene for an intense first session back.

Laurie Bell 03 1100

Tuesday, 14th April

Another morning of push ups and stretching, followed by peanut butter on toast and a walk to the grocery store with my fiancée Sara.

Nobody is wearing a mask here. Daily life is relatively unchanged, unlike what we see on the news and on video calls with family and friends in England and America.

As an Englishman in Sweden, it’s hard to know which country’s guidelines I should follow about coronavirus. Living with Sara, an American, adds another layer of confusion.

At lunchtime, I ride my bike from our apartment into town. Everyone rides bikes here. Restaurants and cafes are still open and the strictest public measures only limit gatherings of more than fifty people.

I try to socially distance when possible, and usually take food to go or make it at home.

“I feel guilty talking about the freedom in Sweden. I question whether I’m doing the right thing.”

But there’s nobody sat outside the restaurant that sponsors our team today. I take my lunch into the sunshine. Soup with fresh bread and salad to start, followed by vegan meatballs, potatoes, and lingonberry jam. Extremely Swedish and tasty.

Good news! At training, we are told our match on Saturday is on, and will be played behind closed doors. Our opponents are Örebro SK, a top division club from the same city. We play in the third division so it will be a good test.

It’s a cool and sunny night. We warm up with rondos and activation, before a pressing drill. The session ends with my yellow team winning the five-a-side tournament by 12 points to nine to six. Get in.

I cycle home with a smile on my face, briefly forgetting the problems in the world, grateful to still be playing football. We have the day off tomorrow and it’s forecasted to be the warmest of the year.

Wednesday, 15th April

Alongside football, I enjoy working for a sports technology company, which is how I start the day. I can work from home, which is convenient and recommended.

Soon, the spring sun begs us to get outside, so Sara and I take an early lunch. We cycle on sandy paths past tall pine trees until we arrive on the grassy shores of Hjälmaren, Sweden’s fourth largest lake.

Back home, I finish some work on my computer then head out for a run through the woods.

Later, my friends in England update me on life in lockdown when we video chat. I feel guilty talking about the freedom in Sweden. I question whether I’m doing the right thing.

It feels especially odd to announce I have a match this Saturday, but my mate Coxy insists he will tune in to the live stream.

“Will this season ever go ahead?”

Thursday, 16th April

The day starts with a punctured bike tyre. A punishment, perhaps, for all my outdoor adventuring.

My teammate Erik offers me a lift to training in the evening and warns me about the Swedish government’s latest press conference, which discussed tightening rules around sport.

It’s confirmed: Saturday’s match is off.

We train as intensely as we can, but the news affects our motivation, and it’s not a classic session.

I get home and translate the new guidelines: “To avoid the spread of covid-19, sports associations should postpone matches, training matches, competitions and cups.”

Will this season ever go ahead?

Laurie Bell 04 1100 Hjalmaren
Laurie Bell at the lake of Hjälmaren

Friday, 17th April

I sit in the sun and wait patiently for training. Tonight, we play. If motivation is an issue, our competitive instincts override it and it turns into a fiery session, where we sweat out our frustrations.

Eventually, my underlying rage – never far away this preseason – spills over into a crunching tackle on my teammate Eliyo. I get the ball first, but the impact somersaults him into the air and our coach calls a foul and ends the session.

Ideally, this period would be about building fitness and momentum, but a stop-start preseason has made finding flow impossible.

Once I cool down, I laugh with Eliyo about English tackling, and remind myself how fortunate we are to be healthy. People around the world are fighting for their lives, and healthcare workers continue to do heroic work.

All my team can do is stay positive and professional, enjoy our football and remain ready for this season, whenever it may arrive.