Australian players who have just finished the Indian Super League (ISL) season have been struggling to get home due to travel restrictions put in place by Canberra for those returning from the current epicentre of the global pandemic.
With daily cases in India around 400,000, the Australian government has banned all flights from the country until at least Mid-May leaving significant numbers struggling to get home.
Dylan Fox was one of the lucky ones. The former Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix star finished a successful season with Northeast United in March, helping the team to third-place and he then managed to get home before restrictions were put in place.
“I’m feeling grateful to get home in time,” Fox told The World Game. “I feel for the boys who are stuck struggling to get home after being in a bubble for five to six months and their own country locking them out. I hope they are all back home soon with their families and loved ones.”
While Fox made it back just in time, Erik Paartalu, who has just finished his fourth season for Bengaluru, took to social media to express his frustration at being unable to return home.
“As an Aussie that has lived and worked in India for 4 years now I have never felt so far away from feeling Australian,” Paartalu, who was, like all ISL players, confined to Goa hotels for the entire season, wrote. “I don't know how you can deny citizens to return home especially when there are hotel quarantines in place.”
Paartalu told The World Game that he had to go to the Maldives instead and if he is unable to go home, will instead head to the United Kingdom.
“I have worked inside a bubble for 7 months here in India and this is a huge blow to mine and thousands of others trying to get back to Australia," he added. "I hope the government aren't able to implement what they are trying to do. I understand everyone's concern with the level of infection over here and the possibility of a new variant. But isn't that the purpose of hotel quarantine for 14 days?”
James Donachie had a longer season than most as FC Goa took part in the AFC Champions League group stage in April after the ISL came to an end. With one game remaining, however, Goa allowed its foreign players to leave due to the worsening situation in the country.
The former Melbourne Victory star saw his flight home cancelled and with France or Spain his only options, he is currently in Spain and starting his 14-day quarantine.
For Donachie, the dash to Europe was an unexpected end to an interesting season.
He helped Goa make it to the championship play-off series and met Mumbai City in the semi-finals. After a 2-2 draw over two legs, Mumbai, who went on to lift the trophy, took the penalty shootout.
“We did well and we are one of the teams here that plays football really well. We played well against Mumbai and were unlucky not to win the first game," he said. "In all, it was a decent season and I try to look at it that way.”
It ended with Donachie missing from the spot, however.
“I’ve been in shootouts before, two with Melbourne. I always think to myself that I’d rather take it and miss than not take one at all. I had two chances within the game to score, two headers that came close. I said to the sports director that it wasn’t my night in terms of goals. In India, there is a lot more emphasis on centre-backs scoring goals which has never been a problem area for me. I could have been the hero and it’s disappointing but we played well.”
It remains to be seen whether Donachie and the other Aussies, come back to play in the A-League next season.
At the moment, they just want to get back home.