Coronavirus: What's it like for professional footballers to be tested?
"I didn't have any symptoms or anything... but that wait is quite nerve-wracking," says Easah Suliman, the former England U20 defender now playing in Portugal
By David Reed, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 15/05/20 9:23am
What's it actually like for professional footballers to be tested for coronavirus? Sky Sports News reporter David Reed caught up with Vitoria de Guimaraes defender Easah Suliman...
The phone pings - a date, time and location. Easah Suliman is about to go through what hundreds of Premier League players will experience over the coming weeks.
Turning up at the Vitoria de Guimaraes training ground, the former England Under-20 international is not met by the sight of Louis Vuitton backpacks or the latest Yeezy trainers - it's full protective gowns, aprons, masks and face-covering visors. Two coronavirus testing stations have been set-up outside the main building.
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"It's normal to feel a bit worried and uncertain," says the Birmingham-born defender. "But since I've been back, the measures put in place by the club have been good, it just makes you feel safe."
The process, though intimidating, is swift. Mask on, take a seat, and blood is taken from the finger. Suliman's club are using an antibody test to determine whether any of the squad have already been infected - then the wait. The test has a rapid response but for the Aston Villa academy product, it certainly didn't feel like it.
"Yeah (I was nervous)," says Suliman. "I didn't have any symptoms or anything so I wasn't too worried but that wait is quite nerve-wracking."
The 22-year-old's result was negative as was the rest of the squad. "I've been back two weeks now. All the players and staff were tested on the weekend which was comforting to know that everyone is all OK and there are no problems.
"We started back training on Monday and the club made it as safe as possible, minimising contact with players, not using the changing rooms, not going into the main building. We are putting our boots on by the pitch and having our own area to train in."
Suliman only moved to northern Portugal from Villa in the January transfer window and was getting up to speed with his new team when the pandemic hit.
"We were just preparing for a weekend game. We had Sporting Lisbon and there were obviously rumours that it was going to be put behind closed doors. On the Wednesday, it got put behind closed doors but then within the next day, it was cancelled.
"You're just watching the news and seeing other leagues getting postponed, it was just a matter of time before ours would be as well."
'A confusing time'
On his own in a new country, the player admits it was an uncertain time but the club allowed him to travel home at the start of the crisis, enabling a month in Birmingham with family.
Portugal has now begun to ease its lockdown restrictions. They haven't been as badly affected as neighbours Spain, and the Primeira Liga are working towards a potential resumption before the end of May.
The Premier League will be watching other divisions around Europe to see how they implement a restart of training and matches but Suliman says each country will have a different approach.
"I've followed it a little bit but probably not as much as I would have done if I was still playing in England. It's all a bit confusing to be fair," says the centre-back.
"I don't think anyone knows the right way to go about it at the moment. Maybe they'll wait and see how the Portuguese or German league go with it and make a decision off that, but it all depends on the country itself I think."
There's sympathy too for players who are worried about a return. "Initially, I was a bit anxious to come back to Portugal but since I've been back, the measures that have been put in place are as safe as it can be.
"They (the Premier League) will have to follow individual training, then small groups, then collective training, and then back into normal training, but from what I've experienced here, it's been good at the moment."
For Vitoria, there's still plenty to play for as they chase a place in Europe. "Our aim is to get into the Europa League positions for next season so hopefully we can achieve that. My main focus at the moment is just to try and get started and become a regular in the team."
While Suliman's attention turns back to football, thoughts won't be far away from home. His message will be echoed by the Premier League's foreign stars as they leave family to return to the UK ahead of restarting football.
"Stay safe, missing everyone, I can't wait to see you again."