Andreja Brulc's Blog

Day 0 [12 March 2020]: 4 Days before COVID-19 Lockdown: Football/Team Spirit/My Niece [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Books, Covid-19/Lockdown Diary, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 12/03/2020

This post is dedicated to my niece Živa, a 16-year old and a half teenager (the photo from her last birthday in July 2019). She LOVES football, and — as a goalkeeper for her club (U17) — football has been her life outside school since she was bearly 10. 3 to 5 training sessions per week, plus 2 matches at the weekend when the football season takes place for the 1st youth and women’s leagues. She is also the second goalkeeper for women’s team in her club as of last September, plus, the second goalkeeper for the national team (U17). What a lovely achievement at her age due to her dedication and, needless to say, many sacrifices that she had to make during all these years! 

Slovenia where I am currently ‘stuck’ at my parents’ house – is getting ready for the lockdown. IMHO it is two weeks too late, if not more, considering that the country borders with Italy, and skiers, who were the first tested positive for COVID-19, were/are still holidaying in the Italian Dolomites. As of today, two schools in two different places have already closed down as a teacher and a pupil in each of them tested positive – both went skiing to Italy during the half-term!

On the other hand, the UK is still being extremely and worryingly ‘slow’ in making any coherent decision how to protect its citizens, despite the warning of some European leaders to take Italy as an example, and, above all, ignoring the fact that the country has such a dense population per small area! As reported on Monday, around 25,000 Brits were in Italy last weekend (some tried to travel back to the UK via Slovenia as the airport is still open) and around 20,000 Brits are in the French Alps! And, even scarier, UK football stadiums are still full of people!

My niece who is currently staying in my parents’ house as she is doing her work experience in the local kindergarten as part of her school curriculum – asked me while we were watching evening TV news how come English football was still allowed to go on, while her international UEFA competition was cancelled. Thanks to a fast decision of the President of UEFA from Slovenia, Aleksander Čeferin, who placed the well-being of players FIRST. He said that UEFA had plenty of money in its reserve to cover its losses! Not being biased, but I have such high respect for him, as, according to the Wikipedia, “the investment in grassroots and women’s football has been at the core of Čeferin’s mandate and while record grants for the development of football were announced at the 42nd UEFA Ordinary Congress in February 2018, UEFA also pledged to increase the funding of women’s football development projects by 50% in October 2018. He also oversaw the signing of UEFA’s first-ever sponsorship deal dedicated entirely to women’s football in December 2018.” His dedication to women’s football really proved when he had decided that the UEFA 2019 Super Cup between Chelsea and Liverpool would be in charge of the French referee, Stephanie Frappart, who became the first female to officiate in a major men’s European match. My niece’s generation is literally the pioneering generation of female youth in Slovenia, as the interest in playing football among young girls have started to grow significantly in the last decade – and it is fairly obvious how he influenced this new trend!

Early on during the day, she had learnt about the sad news that her team was not going to travel to Portugal in two weeks time to play matches against the host country, Spain and Turkey in the next stage of qualifications. She had so looked forward to attending this competition for months – she had even treated herself to a new pair of professional goalkeeper’s gloves which came by post from Germany today. Of course, her family and, even herself, is relieved now, as it has become increasingly obvious that her health and that of her team and opposing teams come first. The matches are postponed to 2021, but she will no longer qualify for that age. It breaks my heart to see such a personal loss for youth at that age, where her dream, built on hard work of training of many years, can disappear over the night by something as mundane as ‘a’ virus! And, of course, having a place as a goalkeeper in a national team is even more difficult than in the case of other players as not many goalkeepers are needed in such teams!

In difficult times as ours, I thought I would dedicate a post to her to give her emotional support through this crisis as I am sure it is very disappointing for her. I remembered our time together from around the same time 10 years ago how supportive she was – I had to design a series of 10 book covers for Pocket Beletrina in such a short time with a tight deadline. The series was for the World Literatures – Fabula Festival 2010, the central event of Ljubljana’s time as UNESCO World Book Capital 2010, in conjunction with the project called A Book for Everybody. While I was really struggling to get ideas together on time, she, then as a 6-year old and a half, was sitting for hours at my desk while making her own drawings. This was the time that she kept on saying “perhaps I will be a book designer like my aunty when I grow up”. She loved using my Faber Castell Pitt Pens! It was also the time in her age that drawing HEARTS in school notebooks was a popular thing! And bingo – her HEARTS became a leitmotiv for one of the book covers, LJ kot LJubezen: Pesmi o LJubljani [Eng. transl. LO as LOve: Poems about LJubljana (Ljubljana as a place cannot translate but one can see the point from the original or from the cover below)]. I do hope her resilience will help her get through this global humanitarian health crisis, as now she will have to put the time to her training by herself, and although guided by her trainer, training in quarantine will never be the same – football is, after all, a team spirit. Therefore, she needs plenty of HEARTS, in hope that one day “she will become a professional goalkeeper when she grows up”, or, even, as she dreams, a medical doctor. HEARTS. HEARTS.HEARTS. And more HEARTS.

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