Lockdown diaries: Australia’s not as bad as other countries, says Gurpreet Singh Sandhu

The India international, who is in Sydney, is keeping busy with his Nintendo Switch and PlayStation as well as cooking and gardening.

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Off-season training is key for any athlete and Gurpreet is trying to keep up with a routine.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

India international footballer Gurpreet Singh Sandhu realised the magnitude of the COVID-19 outbreak when he had to swiftly make arrangements to leave earlier than planned for Sydney, Australia, last month. “I had to change my flight tickets two-three times to come here. I had planned to fly out much later,” Gurpreet said from his home in the New South Wales capital, where he stays with his girlfriend.

When he landed Down Under on March 18, the National Rugby League, the A-League and the Australia Football League were all being held behind closed doors. It was only five days later that all sporting action came to a halt. “I was surprised at that. Four or five days since I landed here, all these matches were still taking place. I felt it should have been suspended earlier. When something like this happens, sports does not matter as much. As the FA (English Football Association) chief (Greg Clarke) was saying in an interview this week, it’s not about football any more, it’s about human life,” Gurpreet told Sportstar.

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While the lockdown was enforced in Sydney only on April 3, the Bengaluru FC goalkeeper feels the situation is now under control. “It’s not as bad as other countries. The curve has slowed since the time I have been here. It’s a partial lockdown in Sydney, wherein you can go out to get your essential items. People here realise that we are in a pandemic and can’t go out without good reason while social distancing is being maintained,” he said.

Despite being in a different time zone from his home in Chandigarh, the 28-year-old makes it a point to stay in touch with his family every day. “I speak with them every day and I watch the news to keep track of things,” he said.

Gurpreet tries to see the lighter side of being confined indoors. “I didn’t have a social life before either,” he quipped, before adding, “You also feel the kind of resistance as well to not go outside during these times.”

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An avid gamer, Gurpreet is making the most of his downtime after a hard-fought Indian Super League season. “Right now, I am holding on to my Nintendo Switch controller. I play FIFA on Nintendo and Grand Theft Auto on PlayStation. Nowadays, I see videos of fathers asking their sons to sit at home and play video games, which wasn’t the case earlier.”

Besides gaming, the towering goalkeeper has taken to gardening. “Well, the grass looks good now. I cut the grass and I do things here and there around the house, and I clean as much as I can. I like to cook, for example. I sauté the veggies to make pasta,” he said.

Off-season training is key for any athlete and Gurpreet is trying to keep up with a routine, but he admits he is finding it difficult to get the motivation to “train alone and without any equipment.”

The two-time ISL Golden Glove winner made an appeal to everyone back home in India to stay indoors to help fight the pandemic. “We need to listen to our government for the best and please work hard to follow it. Maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and only go out to buy the essentials. All of humanity is facing this pandemic and we need to work together to fight this and let this pass,” he said.

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