Speaking in an exclusive interview with Marca, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic discussed returning to football, the risk involved in doing so and how is he handling life during the crisis.
How are you coping with everything that is happening?
With a lot of care and respect. It’s a new situation for everyone and I think it is a time to be more united than ever, to join forces to move forward and to emerge from this situation. I know we can do it.
What have you missed?
My family, my friends, the people with whom I like to share my life. I have missed being able to take my girls to school, have breakfast in town, being able to go to train, and going out to eat.
Did you think you could live in this type of situation?
The truth is no, I don’t think anybody could ever have imagined something like this. I remember a very important moment when we were going to play the first leg of the Champions League tie against Napoli in Italy, just when this situation started. I made that trip with uncertainty, now I think that what we have to do is think positively, knowing that the effort we’re making is for the good of everyone.
What lessons have you learnt from everything that is happening?
Many things, but the most important thing is that I appreciate the small details a lot more. The simplest moments and the importance of being close to my family. The situation has been a big lesson for everyone.
Have you been afraid?
I don’t know if fear is the correct word, but I’ve had a similar feeling. Uncertainty worries me a lot, I’m a very organised person who likes to control and analyse everything with my family and the people closest to me. Having my family spread between Seville, Croatia and Switzerland has been a concern. Thankfully we’ve all been able to connect via video calls and send messages every day. I admit that I have had nervous moments. But thank God my whole family is fine.
Some countries don’t want football to return, what are your thoughts?
I respect everyone’s opinion. In recent days we heard about the French league, one of the biggest in the world, won’t be finished but we must respect that decision. Every country and every league has to analyse their own data and the needs of their situation with regards to how everything is and then decide what is best in each case. What I’m sure of is that all countries and all leagues, when they make the decision, will do so in the best interests of the citizens and athletes. I support and respect the decisions that each country makes.
What place should football occupy when things return to normal?
Football is very important to many people and the proof of this is that it moves a lot of money. Lately, I have heard many people talk about the problems there would be if we don’t play, economic problems, issues with European competitions, calendar issues, promotions and relegations but I haven’t heard anyone talk about people. Those people who, for them, their team is part of their life and they have suddenly had it taken away. I think it is time for those of us who are involved in football to take a step forward, and I’m not saying this for economic reasons.
I recently read about the money in taxes and the jobs that professional football in Spain is responsible for while helping grassroots football and other minority sports. Socially I believe we must take a step, to be able to entertain people with what they like and help people stop thinking all about viruses and disease. We must be able to joke with our neighbour who supports a rival team, it’s important that we have as many reasons to hug as possible when it is eventually allowed. I feel we have to try to make football unite us, to give a feeling of unity that we need so badly. We have the possibility to support others and we must do so.
What role should footballers play?
It’s evident that we must try to return with the best health guarantees, but we must also know that they can never be 100 percent. I want to play. Every worker in their return to work will have the same risk. Supermarket workers also change in dressing rooms and have the same or an even higher chance of getting the virus than we do. They take that risk and I want to take it too. I think that we have a duty and I’m sure if we asked the fans then they would love for there to be football. We have to try to make people enjoy football again. Us as footballers can be an example, giving support to all the workers who have shown us strength.
Are you willing to risk getting infected?
Without a doubt, and I say this from the awareness that the risk will be very small, but also because of the solidarity with those who have been fighting for us from the first minute, and they have done so for many days.
Do you think you’re indebted to society?
I don’t know if we are in debt, but what is certain is that society has given us a status that is well above the average. I pay a lot of attention to the fans and the efforts they make to see us in stadiums and on TV. They meet us at the stadium, training ground or even airports. In those moments, every time I see a child with my shirt on, I think how much effort their parents have made to buy it for them. That effort is what I think we have to do now, prepare ourselves properly, try to control the risks and return football for the people.
What do you think about football returning without fans in the stands?
It will be very hard and very unusual for us, but I would like to say to the fans that we will be more focused than ever. We will know they will be at home living and breathing it with the same passion as always and that we won’t disappoint them.
Will football be the same?
Hopefully, after this, we will all be a little more human and realise the things that are really important. What we have to do is prepare ourselves well and try to play in the best possible way. It is clear that in this situation, even with empty stadiums at the beginning, it will be something different but I’m sure that very soon everything will return to normal and we will return to enjoying football as we always have.
What is your idea of what the future will look like?
My main hope is to enjoy football and start playing again as soon as possible. When that happens and the season is done, then it will be time to analyse the situation. My plan is to work hard, give my best, enjoy football and try to win everything.