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Football and COVID-19: Q&A with local coach Marcial Munoz

Football has some of the highest participation rates for sporting activities across the country and is considered to be the world game. It can be used as an escape from everyday life. Its benefits go beyond that of a person’s physical health – it can also help from a mental perspective. Football gives people the chance to connect.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced sports all over the country to be postponed, with Football Federation Australia (FFA) recently postponing the sport at all levels. Having some of the highest participation rates for football in the country, the ACT will feel the force of the lockdowns, with clubs to be impacted heavily.

Marcial Munoz is the head coach of the Gungahlin United FC National Premier League squad. I recently spoke to Marcial on how his club is dealing with the situation and the impact it will have on them and the wider football community.

Q: How has Gungahlin United FC been dealing with the Coronavirus?

A: We’re just following the advice from the local and federal authorities and the FFA and Capital Football. They’ve advised not to undertake any group activity until mid-April which I think will be revised by the whole country at that point, but we’ll get further advice. We’re going and carrying on with our day.

Q: With the postponement by the FFA, do you think that was the right call? Should it have been made sooner?

A: I don’t have expert advice on that, and I don’t really care to speculate. I think it was the right thing to do socially, that we stop all activity and we try and maintain our social distancing and avoid any community contact. I think that’s how this whole scenario has really taken a hold of those epicentres, like China and Italy. I feel as if the decision was well taken.

Q: How will it impact the club?

A: Massively. In fact, I think everyone in football in general, not just Gungahlin will be impacted. We’ve got the highest number of members in community football in Canberra. I think it is going to impact us massively and make a big impact at every single club in the league. The impact more than anything is financial impact. We may lose some portion of registration depending on when and if the seasons go ahead. We may have even lost the few sponsors that we have purely because they may be losing business as well. These unprecedented times are going to hurt a lot.

Q: Say the situation does get better, do you think football as a sport can recover in Australia?

A: I’m sure things are going to get better, I have no doubt about that. Will football recover? Absolutely. It’s human nature to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go again. I feel as though there could be some more ramifications at the higher level – we could see less A-League sides because of this. But as a whole, this is the one thing that gives us some form of enjoyment – it gives us the opportunity to forget everything, and all the bad stuff that’s going on. At least for me, the love that I feel for football connects me with others and allows me to socialise and be more connected. I don’t think we’re under any threat at all. Not globally and not locally in terms of football. Like I said, it acts as an escape for many of us, but it also gives many of us an opportunity to connect socially.

Q: How long would it take to recover? Would it be a matter of months or would it be a year?

A: How long is a piece of string? It’s one of those questions: How long will this last? When will we have the vaccine for this virus? When we will flatten the curve?  Unfortunately, we have to take it day by day and week by week, see where we are up to with that and start potentially speculating on when all these sporting activities kick off again. I’m hoping that it’s just a couple of months because if we flatten the curve, then we will be able to put measures in place to go back to normality. But if we don’t, I think we’re going to start seeing more stringent lockdowns and we’re going to start to see people being told to stay indoors completely. That’s where I fear the process, and the length of time before we go back on the pitch and back to sporting activities is going to be far longer.

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