| New Delhi |
Updated: November 18, 2020 8:12:54 am
Roy Krishna boarded a flight from Labasa, his hometown in Fiji, on September 24.
Ten Covid tests, 40 days and four connecting flights later, the Fijian footballer of Indian origin stepped onto the training field in Goa, where this season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will start Friday.
The 33-year-old spent 30 days in quarantine, in three countries, to make it in time to play for defending champions ATK Mohun Bagan.
In pre-Covid times, Krishna, one of the biggest names in the ISL, would have taken two days to complete the trip. But this time, with Covid curbs and limited flights, the star striker flew from Labasa to Nadi within Fiji, to Auckland in New Zealand, to Sydney in Australia, and finally to Delhi and Goa.
“I was very paranoid,” says Krishna. “I sanitised all the time, cleaned every spot I was going to touch with alcohol wipes and wore a mask.”
Last year, Krishna, whose ancestors are from Kolkata, made an immediate impact when he joined the Kolkata-based club. He scored 15 goals in 21 games to become the ISL’s joint top scorer as ATK, which merged with Mohun Bagan this year, won their third title. In the 2018-19 season, he was named the best player in the Australia league while playing for Wellington Phoenix.
This year, ATK Mohun Bagan’s preparations were to start in late October. “So I set out almost a month in advance. I had to take an hour-long domestic flight to Nadi, where the international airport is located, then a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Auckland where I had to be quarantined for 14 days,” Krishna says.
In Auckland, those at the quarantine facility were allowed to go for a walk outside for an hour every day. “But I was told some of the positive cases were in the same facility. So I didn’t take the break due to my fear of coming in close proximity to someone who was positive,” he says.
The next connection he could get to Sydney was a week after he completed his quarantine. And Krishna, who also has New Zealand citizenship, spent the time catching up with relatives and friends. “I was able to enjoy a couple of days of golfing, going to the beach and just eating out as New Zealand is a Covid-contained country,” he says.
But then, when the time came for him to board the Sydney flight, Krishna was not allowed as he did not fulfill the protocols set by Australian authorities. “Due to lack of information and constant changes in policies, I had to delay my flight by a few days, which made me more anxious. I had to take more tests prior to flying, request for special exemptions to fly to Sydney and take a connecting flight to Delhi,” he says.
On October 14, Krishna took a three-hour flight from Auckland to Sydney and spent two days at a quarantine facility in the Australian city. And after another 13 hours on a plane, he reached Delhi on October 17, where he spent one night in quarantine. The next day, he took another flight to Goa, where he had to spend 14 more days in quarantine as per league protocols.
Krishna says he used this time “reconnecting with friends across the globe” and training indoors. Finally, on November 3 — 40 days after he left home — Krishna was able to join his teammates to prepare for their season-opener against SC East Bengal on November 27.
“The first thing I did was run out and meet my teammates. It was good to be with them again, knowing that we were there for each other. I also enjoyed being able to stand outside and breathe in the fresh Goan air…like being back home,” he says.
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