Coronavirus in football: Birmingham boss Pep Clotet on torment of sending family to Spain

These are strange times for everyone. But imagine having your loved ones, your wife and children, your parents, 800 miles away – and not being able to do a thing to help them. English football is packed full of foreign managers, coaches, players and other staff. Some have their close families with them, many do not. But all will have family members in their home countries, some of them countries where the coronavirus has struck hard, some in lockdown.

Birmingham manager Pep Clotet is one of them. Last Wednesday he packed wife Vanessa, three year old son Max and one year old daughter Helena back off to his native Spain, as they felt that was the safer place to be.

But within a day of their arrival, their home town of Igualada near Barcelona, suddenly hard hit by the virus, was in lockdown. There also, are his parents, father Ramon, 71, and mother Maria, 68 – who has health problems.

And, back in Birmingham, training his team as they wait for the re-start of a season that may never actually start again, is Clotet, 42.

If it was not for the internet, he would have no chance of seeing wife and his children – and the anxiety is crippling.

The Blues manager, handed the job permanently in December after acting as caretaker since the summer when Gary Monk left, said: “I am so worried. At the moment, everything is ok with the family. We are all still alive.

“In Spain we have been more aware than people were in England. It hit us earlier, but it is still on an upward curve. But we know what is coming. I don’t think people in England do. In Spain they were getting another 2,000 cases a week.

“I had the family with me until Wednesday of last week, but as soon as things got worse here, we decided to make a move. We felt they were controlling things better in Spain, and where we live there is better, so we decided they should go back. It was safer.

“So I rushed them to the airport. But as soon as they got to Igualada there was a major outbreak, and the police closed it.

“We have a small farm there, as well as a house, so they could be pretty isolated. My parents are locked down in the house, and my brother calls every few hours. It is incredibly worrying. I am calling my wife and kids, and my parents, several times a day on the phone or using WhatsApp.

“But I cannot go back to see them because I am working. It is so difficult. I am so far away. Vanessa is great, she is very calm and very conscious of the situation. She is in control.

“In Spain right now people do not go into the streets, except to buy groceries. You cannot even go out to exercise. It is like a scene from the Walking Dead!

“The kids and my wife have the farm, and they grow their own food, so they should be ok. It is only small, but it is impossible to come into contact with people.”


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As of Tuesday, there had been 11,178 cases of Covid-19 and 491 deaths registered in Spain, the second-most affected country in Europe after Italy.

For the former Oxford manager, the emotional stress is huge: “I am caught between two worlds. I feel I cannot do my job properly. I keep thinking, ‘maybe I should go back?’ But I cannot go back – because I am working.

“The Spanish players and coaches all talk to each other, especially since the lockdown. We are following everything that is happening back home.

“No one has tested positive here at Birmingham. No one is feeling ill. We had put a lot of measures in place. We have divided the training ground up into separate areas.”

The EFL, like the Premier League, declared a break because of the crisis up until April 3 at the earliest. But Clotet said: “I am not optimistic. There is a lot to consider.

“The most important thing by far is to protect human lives.

“ Even if you play a game behind closed doors you, are still talking about more than 50 people being in the stadium.

“This is not going to be solved in 2-3 weeks.”

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