Former Socceroo Erik Paartalu says he’s struggling to cope after being confined to a hotel room in India for the past seven months, only allowed to train and play for Bengaluru FC in Premier Indian League, due to the COVID-19 crisis in the country.
Although the Indian national competition ended two months ago, Paartalu has not been allowed to leave the team’s biosecure bubble. For seven weeks, Bengaluru has been preparing for a continental qualifying match with no confirmed date.
And if the former Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City midfielder were to consider returning home to Australia, he now faces five years in prison after the government imposed a travel ban from the COVID-ravaged country.
“As an Australian who has lived and worked in India for four years now, I have never felt so far from feeling Australian. I don’t know how you can refuse citizens to go home, especially when there are quarantine hotels in place, ”Paartalu said on social media.
“I understand everyone’s concern about the level of infection here and the possibility of a new variant. But isn’t that the purpose of the 14-day hotel quarantine?
With his family in Sydney and his wife back in his native Scotland, Paartalu has no path to freedom, with the UK and Australia having imposed travel restrictions from India, where nearly 400,000 new coronavirus cases were recorded on Sunday. While other foreign players in India left the country at the end of the league in March, Paartalu had to stay on for Bengaluru’s AFC Cup qualifying campaign.
Those commitments were meant to extend his trip by just a few weeks, but Bengaluru are still waiting to play their qualifying game against Club Eagles of the Maldives. The Herald solicited comments from the Asian Football Confederation on the schedule and the welfare of the players.
“It’s a horrible thing to say, but I think no one is doing it,” Paartalu said. “You go past a point where it becomes exhausting. We are all past that point now and it is becoming a really sad normalcy. You have a daily routine: you wake up, eat breakfast, go to workout, go to the gym, come back to the hotel, eat, sleep.