Sam Lindsay (left) representing Lisbellaw United FC's first team back in 2019.

“Football is my life”

How coronavirus has hindered the life of a football player

Imagine getting accepted for a place at your chosen university, becoming a member of the UUC Football Club committee, being made captain of the team, and leading your side to glory in the Crowley Cup, the most prestigious trophy available to students in Coleraine, within your first year. All before subsequently solidifying a place in the senior side of the team you have represented for the past 16 years. Such was the reality of 22-year-old English with Education student, Sam Lindsay, from Enniskillen, however, following the outbreak of the coronavirus, his world was turned upside down.

Lindsay plays as a central midfielder for Lisbellaw United FC in the first division of the Fermanagh and Western Football League, and following a string of sensational performances in the middle of the park, everything seemed to be on the rise for him from a footballing aspect before the pandemic hit. Like it has for most people, the increased restrictions and multiplying lockdowns has taken a toll on both his physical and mental health due to rarely being able to leave his house.

“It’s awful not to be playing, apart from the matches on a Saturday, I (also) miss the training during the week too. Having no training or matches has meant that my exercise has been very limited. The lack of a set-in-stone return date gives me zero motivation to get out and do something… My daily routine now consists of working and playing the Playstation, in normal times I would be living a life fairly different to now. This in itself leads to mental problems. 100 percent having no football has had an effect on me”, said Lindsay.

On 16th of March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a ban against all “non-essential” travel, and thus, the FA and IFA announced the postponement of all grassroots football, leading to most local leagues declaring their seasons null and void. Fast forward to over a year later and minus a few weeks in October when restrictions were eased, the situation largely remains the same.

Being part of a football team is a big commitment to both the players and the staff, and it becomes an integral part of the daily routine for everyone involved, whether this be through organising club meetings or training sessions, or preparation for the matchdays themselves. Obviously, things are a bit more complicated now, and Lindsay believes that the lack of clarity from the footballing authorities has caused an evident strain in the relationship among players and staff.

“At the start of the pandemic last year the club had done a lot to provide online Zoom sessions and activities to keep everyone fit and in contact, but that was when we had a hope of finishing last season. This season we have only played a handful of games and the season was declared null and void very early and we have had very little to look forward to.”

“A few of my teammates are very good friends of mine so thankfully I’ve been able to keep in touch with them, but other members of my team I haven’t seen in months. Contact with the manager and the club has been very limited apart from maybe seeing them in the village or in work… Keeping in touch has been tough!”, said the 22-year-old.

Despite the setbacks, the Lisbellaw United man is hopeful of getting back onto the football pitch as soon as it is deemed safe to do so, and he is optimistic of becoming a better version of his former self whilst playing the game he loves.

“In terms of the future, I’m just praying for the day we are allowed to go back so I can get myself in shape again and start feeling like myself again!” he said.

Lindsay believes that although the coronavirus pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, it has taught us not to take things for granted, and the midfielder will certainly not take football for granted again, saying: “I’ll never not appreciate the feeling of getting smashed 3 – 0 on a Saturday morning again!”

Grassroots football returns in Northern Ireland on Monday April 12th when groups of up to 15 people are allowed to train together, however it remains uncertain when competitive fixtures will return.

Author profile

Journalist/Featured in @ArmaghI, @UlsterGazette, and more/BA with First Class Honours and MA @UlsterJournos /Co-host and Producer of @BottomBinsPod on @PRLYSports and @Spotify /Primary School Teacher✍️