Time is running out for Valentin Eysseric, 28, confined to his apartment in Verona, a hundred kilometers east of Bergamo, one of the cities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic which is decimating the ‘Italy. With his wife and two children, the former midfielder of Monaco, Nice or Saint-Etienne adapts, as he can, to this very special period. On the phone, the Hellas Verona player delivers a poignant and edifying testimony.
How is your daily life in a particularly bruised Italy?
VALENTIN EYSSERIC. It’s long. It will last, I think, another moment. In Italy, the championship is not going to resume anytime soon. I even believe that the other countries will restart before us. Finally, if it resumes … Here, it’s been three weeks that we are confined, and the number of deaths is dramatic ( Editor’s note: the latest assessment this Sunday reports more than 10,000 dead ) even though the confinement is very well respected. Much more than at home, from what my family told me in France.
How can you talk to each other?
In the beginning, we were to resume training on March 25. Finally, we were told that we would make a point on the 30th with all the players, in order to see if it was feasible to make us practice a coronavirus test, with the objective of resuming on April 4 or 5. But given the terrible situation in the country, it is impossible that we resume training on these dates. We have a program to follow every day. We talk to the machines we have at home. You have to be professional, you’re not on vacation. I have a treadmill. We sweat a little in our living room, but it’s not worth a real workout.
What is life like at home?
I am confined with my wife, my five year old daughter and my two year old son. It’s going well, we can’t walk on it because we have a sufficiently large apartment with a small garden. I am so lucky, but I know that not everyone passes their confinement under these conditions, that it is sometimes much more complicated. What matters most to me are my children who need space, to go to the park, to go to school … All that, we cannot do. We try to go out a few times in front of our house, but it is always with fears. With my wife, we take care as best we can of the education of our children. We do coloring with them, we learn to count, to write numbers. But when they tell me: “Dad, we’re sick of the disease, we want to go out” … It’s complicated for them to understand, they also ask themselves a lot of questions.
Do you know more or less close people affected by the virus?
In my family, and I touch wood, no. One of my teammates still contracted it (Editor’s note: Italian midfielder Mattia Zaccagni). I have known him, I have spoken to him since then, he is getting better. He should not have to exert any more great efforts, because there are risks to raise his heart rate in this case there. So, we were all quarantined at home. We haven’t tested Covid-19 since, but I think we will do it before resuming training. And if the whole team does, I think there will be six or seven that will be positive, at least, even without having any symptoms. Obviously, especially with us in Verona.
In this context, were you shocked that certain clubs, such as Naples or Lazio, had expressed the idea of resuming training?
(He cuts). It’s scandalous. It is not realistic, people are crazy. So yes, we all love football, we are passionate about it and that is our job, but when we see that people die every day right next to us, you cannot tell yourself that you are going to resume training in a week. Of course these clubs have sporting and economic interests, this is normal. Lazio plays the title, Naples returned well. But at some point, you have to be human, you can’t think of football when there are lives at stake.
Was it irresponsible to have authorized the presence of the public in Milan for Atalanta Bergamo-Valencia, on February 19, in the Champions League?
Obviously. Whether in France or Italy, this virus, everyone took it lightly at the beginning, except the doctors. Everyone said, “It’s just a big flu”, me first. Even we, in Verona, where the Sampdoria Genoa played behind closed doors (Editor’s note: Sunday March 8 )… But we should never have played this match! We learned after the fact that several players from Sampdoria had the virus. What was the use of behind closed doors when taking the train, the plane or the bus, sleeping in the hotel, meeting with the referees, the staffs , stewards, stewards, security people, journalists? Everyone touches everything. And it is not because there are not 20,000 people in the stands that the virus is not there.
Should the championship go to the end, as seems to suggest the president of the Italian Football Federation, Gabriele Gavrina?
Even if we resume in three or four months, I think that it is absolutely necessary to finish the season. And for the next exercise, adapt, start it later, in October or November. That’s just my opinion. Because if not, what do we say? Juventus is champion, and Lazio second, while the two clubs stand in one point? It is not possible, nor for the teams which should be relegated if the championship stops there ( Editor’s note: Hellas Verona is eighth in Serie A ). I saw that in France, as everywhere else, you had a lot of debates on this subject! Afterwards, everyone preaches for their parish, it’s normal, it’s good war.
The Bologna players call their supporters who live alone confinement. Could you do the same?
For my part, I am not very active on social networks. I still have Instagram, and yesterday (Saturday), I interacted with many supporters via my stories. The confinement, I, too, is starting to hit my brain a little … (Laughs) It’s a good way to spend time together and discuss our respective lives with the people who follow us. If we don’t always have time to do it normally, there we can. It’s positive, the fans like it, especially in this complicated period. We all need it.