News | Jason Pettigrove

FCPS Trio In Lockdown

The onset of Covid-19 certainly turned the world upside down, with all members of society having to quickly adjust to the trials and tribulations of a 100-year pandemic, searching for the ‘new normal.’ For most, that meant working from home where possible, as well as trying to teach those children for whom going to school was now no longer an option.

An incredibly stressful time for the vast majority has meant considerable adjustment, and no walk of life hasn’t been spared by the pandemic. Football across the world, particularly in Europe, has been hit incredibly hard. Obviously, the financial burden for leagues and their member clubs will probably not be truly known for some while yet.

The market value of players as well as various other important criteria will almost certainly have to be reviewed again too. At Fan Owned Club/FCPS, certain plans that were already in place have had to be revised, and though this has been an inconvenience, the Club's robust business model has meant that this is not an insurmountable situation.

Whilst off-pitch matters are attended to, Manager Christian Ziege and his coaching staff communicate with players remotely and ensure that they are continuing to keep themselves as fit as possible.

There will come a time when the team can get back out and smell the fresh, Austrian mountain air as they’re put through their paces, but in the meantime, home workouts remain the order of the day. So how are the players coping?

For the foreigners on the team, the surroundings are just as new as the situation that they’ve been thrust into.

“I’ve been coping with the lockdown pretty well,” American right back Andrew Brody, noted. “Obviously there’s down times, like I’m sure everybody is experiencing, but I’m keeping myself busy and sticking to a schedule. I think that’s very important at a time like this.

“As a professional soccer player, you tend to have a lot of free time. I’ve definitely picked up some hobbies over the past few years that have been given extra attention during quarantine. I got into painting back in Salt Lake so I got some blank canvases on Amazon and have been producing masterpieces.

“A typical day for me (during the lockdown) usually consists of waking up, having a morning cup of coffee (or two) and playing three games of Risk on my IPad. Risk is a fun strategy game that I can play with my buddies from SLC (Justen Glad, Aaron Herrera, and Jordan Allen).

“Then Josh (one of FCP’s attacking midfielders) and I head to the grocery store to pick up food that we’ll cook for dinner and come back and do a home workout. From there we tend to do our own thing until dinner. For dinner we’ll usually cook chicken rice bowls or chicken and pasta. On Taco Tuesday, Josh will cook his famous tacos. After dinner we usually toss on a movie/series or play video games until bed.

“Being in a foreign country definitely has its challenges. I would, without a doubt, like to go home at a time like this since my whole family is together. My brother and sister are back from college so it would be a perfect time to go home and spend some time with them. As someone who has lived away from home since he was 16 playing at the RSL academy, I really wish I was able to utilise this tough time and be with my family.”

Josh Heard, a Welsh-Canadian on loan from Real Monarchs in Salt Lake City, is certainly valuing being able to exercise in these uncertain times. His friendship with Andrew really came across in this interview, and it’s because of his room-mate that if you see him out and about, there’s a very good reason why he might well be wearing a hat at all times!

“I'm doing well! Getting outside to exercise each day has been the key to quelling any feelings of cabin fever. In this line of work you have a lot of downtime anyway, so I think soccer players have an advantage when it comes to managing the lockdown boredom. I've learned that my roommate (Andrew Brody) isn't the greatest barber. Let's just say I'm glad there isn't video or pictures attached to this interview!

“I'll give you an exciting (lockdown) day example. Painfully early wakeup at 9:30am. Coffee. Head to the grocery store to restock on snacks. Procrastinate my workout with Twitter or Youtube. Workout - either a run through the trails or a lift in our thrown together home gym. Lunch. Shower (Yes that's become an event). Binge Netflix/books/podcasts, maybe even a nap since I got up so early. Dinner. FaceTime with friends/family. Then Andrew and I get inexplicably mad at Call of Duty for the rest of the night.”

“With the nature of the job you get used to being away from family and friends for most of the year, so you become good at that long distance communicating through FaceTime/Social Media/Texting etc. However when our season and the whole world is on hold and nothing else is really going on, it makes you miss them a bit more. Saying that though, we have a good group of guys out here and we will make it through all of this - just with worse haircuts.”

It’s great that the guys can retain their sense of humour, and that’s something that midfielder, Englishman Harry Cooksley, can identify with. He’s felt welcomed since the very beginning of his Austrian journey, and the hair theme also continues with the Brit.

“It’s mainly down to the Austrians that have made us feel welcome. They really took our arrival well. They wanted to win with us and wanted the team to do well. It was great, I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

“Brody’s wanted to dye his hair blond for ages. I had to go over there to see how it turned out, and as soon as I arrived, him and Josh said ‘you have to bleach the moustache!’ I had a rash under it within 24 hours! I never thought I would grow a moustache like this, but I honestly think now that this could be my new look. I want to grow it so I can curl it!

“Quarantine just makes training and the things that you might not enjoy so much like the fitness side of things, it makes us not take it for granted. It’s just so weird not being able to train. Training makes me happy, and though I don’t feel down all the time it just feels like something is missing at the moment. I just think everyone is going to be so happy to get back playing. We’re itching to get back to training with everyone, to playing and competing.”

Goalkeeper Henrik Regitnig boasts dual Canadian and Swedish citizenship, and joined FCPS in the most recent winter window. As one of the team’s full-time players, he can dedicate himself solely to improving his craft. An imposing figure, Henrik has brought a calmness to his role, which as every defender knows is of huge benefit to those in front of him.

“FCPS has remained more or less the same since I joined in January. Apart from the addition of coaches as well as a few players, the ambitions and drive for promotion as well as the atmosphere for everyone to work to be better has remained constant. For me, it meant more of a subtle shift in my playing style to fit Ziege's vision and how he wants us to play.

“My best attributes are being a big presence and commanding in goal. While I am a tall goalkeeper, I am also very agile, explosive and quick, and able to get to the high balls and down low. I also take pride in having great distribution. I bring a calm attitude into matches, where players always know they will be able to count on me at the back. It’s been a pleasure to play under Ziege so far, as it’s a great opportunity to see the experience and wisdom that he brings to the game first hand. He is unique but also similar to several great managers I came across before in England.

“The lockdown has not been particularly hard in a sense. I have it much better than a large percentage of the world at the moment and I make sure to always think back to that each day. I have been working out and training outside my apartment, as well as keeping myself busy taking German lessons and gaming with a few of my mates. With the personal goal of always improving, I am making sure I am getting better and fitter in quarantine, rather than sitting around getting worse.”

One of the players isolating the furthest away from home is New Zealander Ollie Valentine. Despite having left home at 14 years of age and being accustomed to time away from his family, the current situation is tough for the now 19-year-old left-sided wingback.

“A situation such as this one makes you reflect on the past and what you are taking for granted. I do think it is important to be able to surround yourself with family at this time. The closest family I have are in England with my immediate family being in New Zealand. So to be able to head home meant potential consequences I was not willing to take.

“I think personally I am making the most out of the current situation, adapting well to the circumstances of being in lockdown. I have learnt a couple of new things about myself, one being I thoroughly enjoy cooking. Finding and experimenting with new recipes has been a great way to stay busy, but finding ways to stay fit, strong and healthy has become a more focused point of my day to day routine more so than ever.”

As most of us are experiencing just now, the boredom has been particularly difficult to deal with, and for a professional athlete, those feelings are magnified. That’s why it’s important that Ollie and his Pinzgau colleagues stick to as much of their usual routine as possible.

“Each day I wake up and create a plan in my mind of how I am going to use the day to my advantage. It is something I have always thought about but never as much as I need to be doing now. I have had to adapt my training regime a bit to fit the circumstances. A lot more road runs have been introduced to help keep my fitness levels ticking over, and more home workouts, having to adapt to less gym equipment and facilities.

“In terms of struggles, I think the only thing would be the lack of football training. I love to train as often as possible and enjoy having the ball at my feet at every opportunity, so to be told that is not allowed is hard. But some things are bigger than the sporting world and Christian and the rest of the staff have been wanting me to stay healthy before staying fit.”