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Live and play in the soccer bubble

Dhe Taimei Xiangguli Hotel in Suzhou is a posh place to stay. Polished dark marble adorns the floor, a spacious breakfast room and a modern indoor pool create a feel-good atmosphere. The German soccer professional Felix Bastians should feel the complex more like a golden cage in the coming weeks. The Chinese Super League estimates that the 32-year-old from the first division club Tianjin Teda and hundreds of other players and coaches will be isolated from the outside world for about 80 days. No direct contact with friends, no direct contact with family – the extremely strict catalog of measures for the start of the season this Saturday demands it.

The 16 teams from the elite league were divided into two groups of eight, the venues are fixed. One base is in Dalian, the second, which includes defenders Bastians and Tianjin Teda, is in Suzhou near Shanghai. A total of 1870 people are in the “soccer bubble”, all of which were tested negative for the corona virus in advance.

The coming time will be difficult for Bastians. The players only see their hotel, the training grounds and the stadium for over two months. The eight teams dine in separate rooms. In addition, the teams have predefined meeting rooms and specially assigned staff. Spread of the corona virus should be avoided. For players, coaches and coaches, everyday life will be monotonous and clearly structured – possibly with consequences for mental health.

The time in isolation will be nerve-wracking, Liu Yi, the general secretary of the Chinese Football Association, believes. After two or three weeks, players are likely to experience physical and mental fatigue. “They’re just people too. You need to be able to switch off, which could be a challenge, ”he told Xinhua State News Agency.

The players have no choice. The late start to the season – the season should have started on February 22 – is symbolic. Master Guangzhou Evergrande starts the game against Shanghai Shenhua. Then Wuhan Zall, the club from the former epicenter of the pandemic, returns to the grass – as in all games in front of empty ranks without fans.

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