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Indian sportspersons stuck abroad due to coronavirus pandemic 

From Germany to Glasgow, Indian athletes are self-isolating across Europe
From Germany to Glasgow, Indian athletes are self-isolating across Europe
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 31 Mar 2020
Feature

With European countries shutting down their borders, and India suspending commercial international flights till April 14, 2020, some of the country's renowned athletes have been forced to take refuge in foreign land till the national lockdown is officially revoked.

The athletes in question travelled to different countries to participate in various international tournaments and leagues. Two of them couldn't leave Germany, after the country shut down its international borders for both entry and exit on March 16, 2020.

While certain Indian athletes such as Neeraj Chopra (Javelin) and Vinesh Phogat (Wrestling) were able to return from their training camps in Turkey and Norway respectively, others were not so fortunate, due to rules put in place by specific countries.

That being said, all the sportspersons mentioned on the list are currently self-isolating and are being assisted by their respective federations till the situation gets better. However, the biggest challenge is staying away from family, without the uncertainty of knowing when their return will be possible.

Viswanathan Anand (Frankfurt, Germany)

Anand at the 82nd Tata Steel Chess Tournament
Anand at the 82nd Tata Steel Chess Tournament

The five-time world chess champion is the highest-profile name on the list to be stuck abroad in Frankfurt, Germany, after travelling there to participate in the Chess Bundesliga league for SC Baden OOO.

The 50-year old was scheduled to leave Germany on March 16, however, the closing of the country's international border and the safety around travel left him with no choice, but to self-isolate in Frankfurt.

Currently staying in an apartment assigned by the club, Anand took up an unlikely role as a commentator for the FIDE Candidates tournament being held in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Ironically, this was one of the only sporting tournaments taking place, but it had to be stopped midway on Thursday after the Russian government took the decision to suspend all international flights.

The tournament would also act as a decider for Magnus Carlsen's opponent at the World Chess Championship later this year.

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Speaking from his apartment, Anand said, "To play chess all you need is an internet connection, that's the beauty of the sport, so it was great when I was offered this role. I approached it like as a fan and it was great experience to watch some of the world's best chess players."

He added, "I'm in constant touch with my family and friends, to be honest, there is no difference apart from not staying at home, I video call with my wife and kids and try to spend as much time with them as possible. This is a unique situation for the world and the best thing to do is to stay safe indoors."

On March 22, the Padma Bhushan awardee posted a picture of him playing chess and watching the cartoon series 'Snoopy' with his son, Akhil via video conferencing.

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He added, "It's very important to stay positive, even though I want to go back to India, World Health Organisation (WHO) has termed Europe as the new epicentre, so it won't be safe for me to travel. That being said, Germany is responding well to the lock-down and maintaining proper social distancing."

Anand also keeps aside at least 45 minutes for exercise, so that he can himself fit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bala Devi (Glasgow, Scotland)

Bala Devi signed a two year contract with Rangers WFC Fouaad qualified for Tokyo 2020 in late 2019
Bala Devi signed a two year contract with Rangers WFC Fouaad qualified for Tokyo 2020 in late 2019

The first Indian women's footballer to play for a first division club professionally in Europe, Bala Devi's debut for Rangers WFC on February 23, started with a bang as she would go onto register an assist against Hearts of Midlothian FC. However, as fate would have it, the Scottish Women's Premier League (SWPL) got postponed till April 30.

The 30-year old was forced to extend her stay in Glasgow and is currently in self-isolation. With India on lockdown and Air India suspending all flights to UK till April 14, it remains uncertain how long the history maker will have to stay there.

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Bala Devi's agent Anuj Kichlu confirmed this development, he said, "If the league starts again on April 30, she can stay there and continue playing, but if there is a further postponement, we have to see if she can take any flights and come back. Right now all flights to UK have been suspended. We have to wait and take a decision accordingly."

The 2020 Asian Footballer of the year nominee was feeling safe about her stay in Scotland. She told Sportskeeda, "The club is taking good care of me, as of now there is no training and we are staying indoors as much as possible, let's see what happens next. I'm doing as much exercise as I can indoors."

Rangers currently sit on top of Group B in the SWPL standings with six points from two games, but with the number of cases in the UK increasing at a rapid rate, resumption of the season looks like a bleak possibility.

Fouaad Mirza (Ganderkesee, Germany)

Fouaad qualified for Tokyo 2020 in late 2019

India's first-ever Olympic equestrian participant since the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Fouaad Mirza is currently self-isolating with his five horses, at a ranch in the small town of Ganderkesee, situated between Bremen and Oldenburg in Germany. The 27-year-old was another victim of Germany's international border closure on March 16.

Mirza was training for his final one-horse Olympic qualifier to be held in Poland, which got cancelled days before the international border closure. The Federatione Equestre Internationale (FEI) decided to suspend all tournaments till April 10, with a likely extension on the cards.

Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda from Germany, Mirza said, "I have stocked up on supplies that should last me till about April 15, everything is shut here and I personally don't see it improving any time soon. The Tokyo Olympics getting postponed is a big thing and all our sport's tournaments have been suspended as well. Even if I want to go back I can't."

Mirza affirmed that his parents back in Bengaluru are worried, but also understand the restrictions on travel currently. The upside of the situation is that he can train in a relatively empty ranch with no human contact around him.

Published 31 Mar 2020, 11:13 IST
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