Gaizka Garitano “The Health Of The People Is The Most Important Thing”
Football has come to a halt. The growing Coronavirus pandemic has forced leagues across the world to suspend their seasons with no answers as to when the stoppages will end. La Liga has called off the next two weeks of matches, though it could certainly be extended, and even the Copa del Rey final has been postponed without a clear understanding as to when the game could be rescheduled.
“It’s a situation that we have never experienced,” Athletic manager Gaizka Garitano told AthleticTV on Friday. “It’s time to adopt unusual measures because the priorities have changed. We have to adapt to what society demands of us right now. The health of the people is the most important thing.”
Garitano’s squad, along with the Women’s team and Bilbao Athletic, have continued to train at Lezama with the facilities closed to the public. Friday’s session was the last one of the week with the players scheduled to report back to Lezama on Tuesday barring any changes over the coming days.
“We are trying to continue the day to day and training daily,” said Garitano. “We will continue preparing for when the games come. A break for a few days will be good after playing so many games on Wednesdays and Sundays. Players who have had more minutes will be able to face the final leg of the season with more energy.”
The situation seems to be evolving by the day which has made it difficult for clubs to plan accordingly. Athletic will continue to make adjustments based on the recommendations from healthcare experts in order to protect the players, staff, fans, and citizens in the surrounding area.
“We’re constantly changing the planning. We had one plan and now with these new changes we have had to make another one with the reality that we aren’t going to play these next three weeks and then we may have to play games in a row. We will have to change the plan again if more games are delayed and go about living our day to day, but with the goal that the players will be ready when they have to compete again. Every day there is new information and we will try to keep complying with what we are being told. Right now we are waiting as we continue to receive information. We will wait for what they tell us and continue preparing.”
While Garitano certainly agrees with the measures being taken to protect people during the pandemic, he also recognizes that the stoppage comes at an unfortunate time for the team. Regardless, no one at Athletic wanted to play the Copa del Rey final behind closed doors.
We had achieved two very good victories in the league and advanced to the Cup final so it’s sad not to continue playing because we are doing well now. Of course, the measures being taken are logical and we respect them 100%. For us it’s unimaginable to play without fans. Nobody wanted to play the Cup final without fans, not even the players.
At this point there are no clear answers as to when football will actually be able to resume. Athletic will continue to follow the guidelines recommended by the Basque Government with the safety of the people being the absolute top priority during this unprecedented situation.