Virgil van Dijk provided insight on his own adaptation to a different way of life as he reiterated the importance of everybody coming together to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
We caught up with the Liverpool centre-back via video link this week and he detailed how the players are maintaining their training programmes from home during the current situation, while retaining their togetherness from afar through group chats and joint sessions.
Van Dijk also discussed the vital role supporters can play by following government guidelines around the world.
Watch the interview below or read on for a full transcript...
Let’s start with the most obvious question: how have the last few weeks been for you as a professional footballer that was preparing for something hopefully very different to the situation we’re in right now?
Obviously it has been very surreal, a bit crazy. You have never experienced things like this before, you see these kinds of things in TV shows or films, things that you never really come up against. The reality is it’s just a crazy time right now. The most important thing is everyone’s safety, that’s the main thing and the most important thing right now.
How are your family? Is everybody fit and healthy?
Yeah, as long as we’re together, that’s the most important thing. Staying home, staying together and being healthy – that’s the main thing and everyone is coping.
Jordan Henderson gave some perspective when we spoke to him the other day; we sometimes forget how much you miss out on with the pressure of playing and training and preparing. You don’t get time at home to spend with the kids. So is this precious time to be an ordinary dad?
One hundred per cent. We are away quite a lot, whether it’s travelling or staying in hotels before games. We’re not at home a lot and if we’re home it’s normally the time when the kids are in bed and stuff. So to be home right now 24/7 with the kids, all together, is precious time. We definitely enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot, the kids are enjoying it, everyone is enjoying it. It all benefits in that case. Just enjoy it, don’t take anything for granted.
I just wanted to send a message to say I hope everyone is doing OK in these difficult times. We must all look afte… https://t.co/MPcziXt9xo— VirgilvDijk (Virgil van Dijk) 18th Mar 10:57
Footballers are creatures of habit, you spend so much of your time eating, preparing, training and recovering. When that habit changes, do you have to change the way you live your life, physically and mentally?
Yeah, obviously it’s totally different. Your body is feeling different and your mindset of course as well. This period, together with the Christmas period, is the busiest and toughest period – mentally as well – of the season. Now you have no idea what might happen, you stay at home and relax basically and do other things, play other games instead of football. It’s a totally different mindset, first and foremost. You’re not in the mood to really play football. Obviously you miss it and want it but there is no other way, you just have to stay put and wait for the right moment to go out there again.
You have to stay ready, though, don’t you? How does training look and feel for you at the moment? You’re all doing your own individual programmes…
We try to get into that kind of rhythm. The fitness department tried to set up some sessions that we can all do together through video call and I think that’s a good idea, to stick together again and see each other – see all of each other again. Apart from that you just do your running and try to do at least something every day. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we do a harder session to give your body what it needs because it can go quickly if you don’t do anything for quite a while. You have to be smart and you have to do the right things to keep your body on a certain level that you can kick on when it starts again.
The lads have been using Zoom and doing sessions together, it’s incredible to see the smiles come back when you can all see each other. The togetherness you have is important…
It was fun, to be fair. It was a good session and we’re obviously going to have more of them as well. I definitely need more yoga anyway, so it will benefit me! It was good to see each other again. We had a short meeting with the gaffer as well, listening to him and what he had to say. Those kinds of things help as well because everyone is in uncertainty at the moment, no-one knows what exactly is going to happen. But those sessions definitely help, so they will definitely continue organising those sessions.
You’re one of the leaders in the dressing room, where there are a few very young players, do you feel the responsibility to reach out privately and check they’re OK and coping in these circumstances?
These things obviously need to go naturally anyway but I definitely speak to certain boys, like I always do throughout the whole season anyway. That’s just always the case, and the same goes for me with the national team boys; I try to keep in touch with them as well because we’re all in the same situation. I try to get in touch with everyone and see how everyone is.
We understand the players’ social media posts are being shared in the Melwood WhatsApp group, whose has got the biggest reaction?
No idea! The group chat is actually pretty lively, everyone is participating properly in it. It says a lot about our team, everyone is part of it, no-one is afraid to say something or try to be funny. Everyone is doing their bit basically and it’s good to see everyone is participating.
You’re an optimistic character and that must be really important for you at the moment, adjusting to the unknown…
The unknown is the difficult part because obviously everyone wants to look ahead to something, you want to think of how long it will take. But I think in this case you have to just be very patient, do the right thing and stay home. Stay together with your family and enjoy the moments with your family, enjoy the moments of being together and make the most of it. We will all get past this if we all do the right thing. I don’t want to say take the positives out of this because there are too many negatives of it still; there are so many people dying and it’s horrible. But there are things that you have to take from it. Be sensible, do the right thing and stay home. Think about each other because you don’t only help yourself by staying at home, you help each other as well, that’s the main thing. Just follow the rules, follow the restrictions that have been put out by the governments in each country in the world. That’s the only way we come past this – and we will. I’m not doubting that at all.
Have you taken this chance to reflect on the season and watch any games back, or is watching football not something you want to do at the moment?
I don’t watch too much football, to be fair. Especially from this season I didn’t watch any particular game back, if I’m honest. I don’t know why, it’s just how it is. I saw only one game back of me when I played one of my first games in Holland, that was on TV, when I played at right-back. I couldn’t believe what I was doing at that time! I watched that game back because I was 18 or 19 at the time and I didn’t watch that game back since that time. It was on TV and I watched it back. I miss watching football and obviously playing football but it’s a bit of a difficult one I think. I didn’t watch any of the Liverpool games this year, I have seen a couple on social media, some highlights – it’s nice to see and a good feeling to get. But, apart from that, not really.
Finally, what is your message for the fans? They really miss you, they miss Anfield and the feeling of being Liverpool fans…
First of all, stay safe. Stay home. Do the right things, wash your hands and do all the things the government is saying, which you have heard probably every second of the day – but do it because it helps everyone. It helps you but it helps everyone around you as well. The second thing is that we miss you guys as well, we miss being out there, we miss working hard every day and trying to get better and show our qualities to all of you. Just stay put, wait and see, that’s the only thing we can all do anyway. The most important thing is to stay safe and look after yourself, your family and the people that are close to you.