Amidst a period of COVID-19 enforced uncertainty for players, administrators and fans alike, PFA President Alex Wilkinson remains hopeful that the competition can somehow figure out a way to finish the regular season and finals in a safe manner.

However, with a number of players stuck in an uncertain grey zone surrounding not just about their immediate futures, but also their professional opportunities in the medium to long-term, there remains significant pressure on the mental wellbeing of Australia’s professional players.

In light of that, the Sydney FC defender and 16-time Socceroo is thankful for the support services and communication being offered by the PFA during the pandemic.

“It’s obviously tough for all of the people involved in football… the general public as a whole,” Wilkinson told the PFA’s Footballer’s Voice podcast.

Click play below to listen to Episode 2 of the Footballers’ Voice:

“We’re sort of waiting to get some clarity from [Sydney FC] on what we’re able to do in terms of if we can go into training in smaller groups or if they want to continue ticking over at home and making sure that we stay… not fit but with some sort of basic condition.

“Because we, as players, we’re hoping that the season is not finished, it’s just suspended and that we can start it up and finish off the year at some stage.

“Whether that’s April 22nd… or whether that’s a month or two after that. Who knows? We as players are sort of holding out hope that we can finish it off, we’re so close.

“It would be a shame to write the season off completely when, you know, all the teams have done so much to get to where they are now.”

A decision on the A-League’s immediate future is due on April 22.

For now, though, Wilkson is doing what he can to stay fit and mentally sharp on the home front – as well as tackle other responsibilities thrown up by the extraordinary circumstances brought on by COVID-19.

Across his long playing career, the 35-year-old has been tasked with marking the likes of Marco Reus, David Villa, Robin van Persie and Hulk but, in recent weeks, he’s had to marshal some much more slippery characters.

“As far as day to day now for me, it’s daddy daycare at home,” he said.

“I’ve got my seven-year-old home from school and my three-year-old home from day-care. So, I’m just trying to manage home-schooling that seven-year-old while trying to entertain the three-year-old – fun and games. [It’s] a little bit different from a normal day to day life of playing football again.”

As well as serving as the bedrock of the Sky Blues title-winning defence, Wilkinson also serves as President of the PFA, a position he was re-elected to for another three-year term in November of 2018.

The PFA has launched a number of services for its members during the COVID-19 shutdown of football, tools which have since been expanded to professional referees and staff previously employed or stood-down by Member Federations who require mental health support. 

Mental health advice and links have been collated in collaboration with PFA partner The Mind Room, as have career and education tools, advice on seeking out support from various governments and fitness advice – including an isolation program designed by renowned high-performance expert Dr Craig Duncan.

“I guess the common feedback [the PFA is receiving from players] is that you’ve got a really anxious and concerned playing group because no one really knows what’s going to happen next,” Wilkinson said.

“We’re hearing mixed reports in the media and from clubland and from all sorts of different stakeholders in the football game. Everyone’s got a different opinion of what’s going to happen.

“As players, we’re very much in limbo and just waiting to see, I guess, how the dominoes fall and what affects this virus has.

“We’re only two months away from all the players coming off this year’s current contracts. And unfortunately, we’ve got about 60 per cent, I think, of the league that are coming off contract.

 “So that leaves [them] in a massive amount of limbo, because normally if you’re coming off contract, you’ve got options as a professional footballer.

“[In the past] you could, if your current club isn’t going to renew your contract, you’ve got the option of maybe going over to Asia or going overseas to Europe and trying your luck over there.

 “You could go to the NPL to play or you could try to get into a different A-League club but at the moment, with everything stopped, there’s really limited options in terms of football.

 “That’s the main sort of feeling of the playing group at the moment, it’s that anxious and concerned feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen not only in the next couple of months till the contract ends but the following years after that and how the competition’s going to look going forward.

 “The PFA has been unbelievable since the first time [COVID-19 affected football]. I think it was the Matildas who had to go over to Wuhan a couple of months ago January when the virus first broke out.

“Ever since then, the PFA, they’ve been keeping the whole of football, the whole of the playing groups updated with information on the virus, how we can stay healthy. As things have escalated over the last couple of weeks their contact’s been extremely regular.

“Within each club, we’ve got player delegates, two or three players in each club. They’ve been ringing them on a daily basis, updating them on any information that they’ve had throughout that day and in meetings they’ve had with the club or the FFA.

“So, the contact from that side’s been first class and that’s really, as players, it’s given us, I suppose, the most information and made the best out of a very difficult situation.

“At the PFA we offer the ability to go and see people on a sessional basis, too. If any of the players are struggling with mental health issues, which, in a time like this where this virus has not only affected football but affected the general population of Australia, it’s important that we’ve got procedures and people in place that can help players who are feeling anxious and feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

 “It’s fantastic that the PFA have got those sorts of avenues for the players to access if they want to.”

Click here for information on the PFA’s Wellbeing Support

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