Players from the Chinese Super League team Wuhan Zall will arrive at Atocha station in Madrid, Spain on Saturday, February 29, 2020 Chinese premier league team from Wuhan begin their second month in Spain without knowing when to return home, it was not easy for the almost 50 members of Wuhan Zall's squad, but on Sunday they will take a break from their ordeal get when they participate in the Spanish league "Clasico" between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid (AP Photo / Manu Fernandez)
MADRID – It was a difficult journey for the first division club from Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the virus outbreak in China.
The team came to Spain for training before the season and doesn't know when they can return home.
Players haven't seen their relatives in over two months. One of them lost a family member to the virus.
Their arrival triggered fears among the residents in the midst of the rapidly spreading outbreak. They had to be tested repeatedly before concerns about their condition subsided.
It was not easy for the almost 50 members of the Wuhan Zall team, but on Sunday they will take a break from their ordeal by participating in the Spanish “clásico” league between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The team will also visit the famous venue in Madrid on Monday.
"It really is a well-deserved reward for them," José González, the team's Spanish coach, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It will be an experience you will no doubt never forget. They trained and trained every day, distracted from the situation at home. So it will be a nice break for them to watch a game like this between Real Madrid and Barcelona. "
The team will be at the Bernabéu at the invitation of Real Madrid and La Liga, which partner with the Chinese Super League, the country's premier soccer competition. The league was blocked because of the corona virus and is expected to resume only in mid-April. Wuhan Zall was originally supposed to stay in his preseason base in southern Spain until mid-February, shortly before the league's planned start. It is now expected to remain in the country at least until the end of March.
Other Chinese clubs are in a similar situation in countries like Thailand, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates, although Wuhan Zall actually lives in the city at the center of the outbreak that killed more than 2,800 people worldwide, most of them them in China.
Wuhan Zall came to Spain in late January, but previously practiced in the Chinese city of Guanghzou, nearly 1,000 kilometers from Wuhan. Although the team was far from the first outbreak, the Spanish health authorities had to announce publicly that there was no reason for local citizens to worry about the team's arrival. Three players later came from China and had to remain in quarantine and tested for the virus before joining the rest of the group.
"Obviously, there is always fear of the unknown," said González. “I understood those who felt reserved about the team that came to Spain. Over time, however, it became clear that there was no problem when the team was here. "
González, a former striker who played in China, said his focus was on distracting players from the situation at home. Visiting the "Clásico" was an option, as was the decision to grant them 10 days of vacation in Spain.
"I honestly try to talk as little as possible about the topic (virus)," he said. “Because they have been talking about it all the time, in their rooms, with their relatives at home. I don't want to talk about it every time I see her. I try to make the training as entertaining as possible so that I can see her smile a little. "
González also tried to schedule a few friendly matches every week to motivate the players and not get bored with endless workouts.
The Spanish coach said he was amazed at how the players dealt with the situation.
"You trained without knowing when the league would start again and coped with family problems at home," he said. “It would be very easy to part with your job, very easy, but you gave a spectacular lesson in professionalism.
"Your attitude was admirable," he said. "I don't think most of us would react the same way in such a situation. They haven't been home for more than two months, couldn't enjoy Christmas with their families, they talk to their relatives on the phone every day and see that they are closed Are locked in at home and cannot live a normal life, this must affect them psychologically. "
53-year-old González, who also played and coached in Málaga, Spain, said his experience with the Chinese club was unique.
"You think you have experienced almost everything in life over the years, but this case is special," he said. “I always learn from these players, about their behavior and how they deal with it. It lets you think about the limits of human performance and professionalism. "
Around 14 players from his squad originally come from Wuhan, and the grandmother of one was one of the deaths caused by the virus in the city.
"It brings you closer to the problem," said González. “It was a very painful moment for everyone. But like everything in life, you have to try to keep going. He couldn't go back to Wuhan. "
Wuhan Zall will play in the Chinese premier league for the second time in a row. It finished sixth in the Super League last season. One of his internationals is the Portuguese defender Daniel Carriço, who moved from the Spanish club Sevilla this month. Four of Wuhan Zall's players are on the Chinese national team and will leave the training camp with some staff to take part in a World Cup qualifier.
The team will move from its original training facility near the southern coastal city of Málaga to the nearby tourist destination of Marbella. Last year it also spent its preseason near Málaga.
González said the training conditions in Spain were perfect, but he hoped the team could leave soon.
Just not before the game between Real Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday, which will be the highlight of the team trip so far.
"It is very special for everyone who loves football to go to a" Clásico ", said González. “Imagine what a great experience it will be. It will be a very special day. "
More information on the new type of corona virus can be found here.
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