Life seems like it is standing still around Awer Mabil, but the Australian in Denmark is rallying around a Socceroos-like family to keep the positive vibes flowing.
In Herning and Ikast, the city where Mabil currently resides while playing for Danish Superliga giants FC Midtjylland, everything is closing down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
On March 17, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen banned all gatherings of more than 10 people. Restaurants, shopping malls, indoor sports facilities and hairdressers have been shut down until March 30 under strict new social distancing rules.
Midtjylland have suspended training indefinitely and given all players individual training programs to do from the confines of their home. But Mabil and his teammates are banding together in trying times.
“I’m blessed to have a good environment, good teammates who are like family. It’s like being in the Socceroos squad for example. All the staff, all the players, it’s like a big family," Mabil told www.socceroos.com.au.
“I think it’s really difficult because it feels like a movie now. It started like, we’ll have two days off and then we’ll be back next week training. From there, it’s got worse and worse.
“It’s sort of stopped our momentum but we’ve come together and had a chat about how can we not lose our focus in this period.
“I think the best way is to stay together in the group chat and… talk to each other a lot fun in the group chat and sending funny videos, that keeps the energy going.
“Also, we talk like this is another pre-season so now we just have to, start again, and we start again when we’re ready.
“That’s how we approach it. It’s another pre-season – a chance to work hard and get stronger.
“Instead of just blaming what is happening on anything, we just take the responsibility and just say ‘ok, it’s another way to get stronger.’”
What is particularly frustrating for Mabil is that the global COVID-19 pandemic has halted Midtjylland’s charge to the Danish Superliga title.
The Wolves missed out last season after their title bid collapsed during the last 10 games of the Championship round and they stuttered into second place behind the nation’s heavyweights, FC Copenhagen, as Mabil saw the first league winners’ medal of his career flash before his eyes.
But all was running smoothly in 2019/20, with FC Midtjylland surging into a 12-point lead over their rivals from Denmark’s capital after 24 matches – until the coronavirus hit and the competition was suspended.
Mabil’s last match was played on March 9, a 2-0 win on the road against seventh-placed Randers.
But and the 14-cap Socceroo is doing everything possible to keep his teammates energised.
“We stay home, workout at home and then, what the club has done, is put three players together for training,” Mabil told www.socceroos.com.au.
“So, you stay together with those three and you go on the field together, so they try to keep a small group. If one is affected, then it’s only going to be three that’s affected.
“You can do that at the training ground, or you can go running together and just do it yourself if you want. They have a lot of individual coaches so, when you have three players, one of my good friends – a striker – and then a winger, work together and do running after that. [Sory] Kaba and Gustav [Isaksen].
“It’s really tough. It’s easier for the Danish guys because they have their families here and, for example, me and other foreigners, we don’t have our families here so it’s hard to not get affected when you are at home alone.
“That’s the most difficult part, I think. When you are not training what do you do? Pretty much stay at home and pretty much not go out.
“I play FIFA all the time with my cousins. I’m tired of beating them so I’m kind of bored. I have a home setup so when I want to stay home, I just stay home and work out there.”
Prior to the suspension of football in Europe, Mabil was enjoying another excellent campaign for Midtjylland, who he joined from Hyundai A-League outfit Adelaide United in July 2015.
He has scored seven goals and tallied five assists in 22 league matches, nailing down his status as one of the side’s key players, as the Wolves established a 12 point lead over Copenhagen at the summit.
What is even more impressive about the Kenya-born flyer’s rise to first team prominence is that it came after he was sent out on loan twice, to Danish rival Esbjerg and Portuguese club Pacos de Ferreira.
“I don’t think there’s a real reason because I’ve been working off the field in the same way. I guess sometimes things just click at the right time," he said.
“Of course, it also comes down to enjoyment. When you enjoy what you are doing, everything else takes care of itself and, when the environment is good, everything else takes care of itself."