Singaporean footballers in Thailand coping at a home away from home
Singaporean footballers in locked-down Thailand find ways to keep occupied
The recent months have proven to be a tough and bleak period for many across the world, but Baihakki Khaizan has found opportunities for growth in this phase of uncertainty.
The 36-year-old is one of five Singaporean footballers plying their trade in Thailand, which has been in a lockdown since last month due to the Covid-19 crisis. Like many of their counterparts elsewhere, they have been affected by the suspension of football competitions.
With the Thai government enforcing stringent measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, they are mostly cooped up at home.
Baihakki , who plays for top-tier side PT Prachuap, spends his time keeping in touch with loved ones, doing home-based training and improving himself.
"I have so much time on my hands now that, if there is an online university degree offered, I would gladly take it up," the veteran defender told The New Paper, with a chuckle.
"I have picked up cooking from YouTube. I have prepared a variety of dishes, like linguine vongole, grilled chicken breast, salmon steak and grilled beef."
In addition to whipping up new fares, he has improved his proficiency in Arabic too, also through YouTube.
"I rely on technology to get most things done, ways to better myself, stay connected with my family and friends and even training," he said.
Training is also conducted with technology's help.
Prachuap have issued individual training programmes to supplement the daily online team sessions, which are conducted via Line, an app with a video-conferencing feature.
"Every day, at 4pm, we are all connected on Line for team training and we work on cardio and conditioning," he said.
"We have been given equipment, like a ball and elastic bands... I have a garden, so I have space to do shuttle runs and short sprints...
"We are adapting to make it as seamless as possible for us."
Baihakki added that the players have an agreement with the club that they will meet targets on weight and body fat percentage, failing which they would be fined.
"This is a good thing as we players, don't want to take advantage of this period, stay home and do nothing," he said.
"This way, we are challenging ourselves while keeping ourselves fit."
Thanks to the FaceTime app, he gets the feeling that he is "at home" all the time.
"I'm thankful for the support of my family, I miss them," said the father of three.
FEELS LIKE HOME
"The FaceTime app on my laptop is open all the time, so that I can hear my kids running around, screaming... It feels like they are at home with me."
Prachuap are one spot above the relegation zone in the 16-team Thai League 1, on one point after four games, following a 0-0 draw with Irfan Fandi's BG Pathum United.
Irfan has also found being confined "really tough and boring", but changing his sleep cycle has helped in coping with the monotony.
"It has been really tough for me, gets really boring but, luckily, I have my PlayStation 4," said the 22-year-old defender.
"Also, in order to kill time, I've started sleeping later and waking up much, much later. But that would mean I have my meals at a later time, which isn't ideal though."
Besides home-based training, he also spends time on gaming and Netflix sessions.
Another coping mechanism the Lions defender has come up with is having quick and frequent shopping errands.
"I leave the house only to buy essential stuff from the market," he said.
"I would not stock up for a long period. So, that way, I have a reason to leave the house. Otherwise, it would be unhealthy to be cooped in."
Being walled in has been less of an issue for Afiq Yunos, who joined FC Trat this season, on loan from Hougang United.
The defender was accompanied by his wife and three-year-old daughter for his first overseas stint, which was also made easier because of a familiar face.
Long-time friend and national goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud also signed for the top-flight outfit this season, after two campaigns with League 2 side Nongbua Pitchaya.
Afiq, 29, has played only once for his new club, before the league was suspended on March 4. It is tentatively scheduled to resume on May 2.
On the disrupted start to his first overseas sojourn, Afiq said: "It began well but it is a little worrying now, as I am not sure of what is ahead of me.
"I've been doing high-intensity training to keep in shape, but that can be tiring and mundane as we don't play any matches, understandably.
"I'm hoping for the league to restart soon and for things to go back to normal...
"But, for now, I'm glad to have my family here, safe, and also Izwan, whom I have known for 15 years, as we go through this together."