Former Socceroo Erik Paartalu says he is struggling to cope after having been confined to a hotel room in India for the past seven months, allowed out only to train and play for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Premier League, due to the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
Though the Indian domestic competition ended two months ago, Paartalu has not been allowed to leave the team’s biosecure bubble. For the past seven weeks, Bengaluru have been preparing for a continental qualifying match that has no confirmed date.
And if the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City midfielder was thinking about fleeing back home to Australia, he now faces the prospect of five years in jail after the government imposed a ban on travel from the COVID-ravaged country.
“As an Aussie that has lived and worked in India for four years now I have never felt so far away from feeling Australian. I don’t know how you can deny citizens to return home especially when there are hotel quarantines in place,” Paartalu said on social media.
“I understand everyone’s concern with the level of infection over here and the possibility of a new variant. But isn’t that the purpose of hotel quarantine for 14 days?”
With his family in Sydney and his wife is back in her native Scotland, Paartalu has no route to freedom, with both the UK and Australia having imposed restrictions on travel from India, where nearly 400,000 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on Sunday. While other foreign players in India left the country when the league finished in March, Paartalu was required to stay on for Bengaluru’s AFC Cup qualifying campaign.
Those commitments were supposed to extend his trip for just another few weeks, but Bengaluru are still waiting to play their qualifier against Club Eagles from the Maldives. The Herald has sought comment from the Asian Football Confederation about the schedule and the players’ welfare.
“It’s a horrible thing to say but I don’t think anybody is coping,” Paartalu said. “You get past a point where it just becomes exhausting. We are all past that point now and it just becomes a really sad normality. You have a set routine every day: you wake up, have breakfast, go to training, go to the gym, come back to the hotel, eat, sleep.”