Football fights Covid-19

Schnaderbeck keeping everything on track

Arsenal's Viktoria Schnaderbeck.
  • Viktoria Schnaderbeck is 'Fit for the Job'
  • Mental and physical health is incredibly important in crisis situations
  • Austrian captain making good use of the enforced lay-off

Nothing is the same any more. Coronavirus has thrown everyone’s daily lives into turmoil, turned our world upside down and presented us with challenges we have never seen before.

Football has also seen time stand still, with the sport on hold until further notice. Instead of training with your team-mates and looking forward to the business end of domestic competitions, the UEFA Champions League and international qualifiers, players now have to spend most of their time stuck at home. This is also the case for Austrian international Viktoria Schnaderbeck, who has been playing her club football in England with Arsenal since 2018.

"For me personally, on the one hand it’s important that I keep myself fit, and at the same time make sure that I prepare for the time when it all gets going again," she said in an interview with FIFA.com. "The league may well start up again. From my point of view, I would say that every player is obliged to do their level best. On the other hand it’s a challenge when you don’t have any certainty on how and when it will start up again."

"If I’m being honest, the time I’ve got now is no bad thing at all as it’s an opportunity simply to come down a little. Not in terms of sport but the mental side. When you get into a rhythm of permanently playing matches, you’re also under permanent mental pressure. As a footballer I’m used to that, but now that it’s gone away, it gives you time and space for things that otherwise you wouldn’t do in your daily lives," said the former Bayern Munich player, with whom she won two women’s Bundesliga titles.

 Viktoria Schnaderbeck of Austria controls the ball
© Getty Images

Fortunately for Schnaderbeck, who hails originally from Graz, motivation has not proved an issue. Recurrent knee injuries have meant that she has often been forced out of action, so she already knows how important it is to concentrate completely and utterly on rehabilitation and preparation.

"I try to vary things, keep challenging and motivating myself," she explained, “and I have to say that I’ve managed pretty well so far. Arsenal have sent us a detailed plan of when and which days we have to train and how much we have to do. We also get options for strength and distance training.

"At the end of the day we can adjust things individually, so for me it’s a mixture of strength and stamina training. For me it’s important to maintain a rhythm, and that I keep involving some ball-work. I’m currently at my girlfriend’s place in Norway and the pitches aren’t closed off here, so I can do my individual training with a football. It’s obviously not the same as being with the team, but ball-work is ball-work. Running’s a lot less fun without a ball."

Things had been going just swimmingly for Schnaderbeck before the break. Arsenal are through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women's Champions League, while Austria are at the top of their group in qualifying for the European championships. Their crucial clash with France has been postponed indefinitely for the moment, and we asked her whether that is a good or bad thing for the team.

"We had a really good training camp in March in Spain and a lot came out of it. This match would have been a good opportunity to see what we’d taken away from that. But to make things perfectly clear, there are more important things on the agenda at the moment," the Austrian captain said.

"It would be selfish to say that we don’t understand why it is how it is, and that it’s knocked us out of synch. It’s happening to everyone. Everyone needs to adjust and adapt to their own situation. Obviously it’ll be a challenge when the time comes, since the team will have lost its rhythm, but that will be the case for other teams as well.

"You have to make the best of it, as they say. I think though that we’ve got a good team spirit and that we’ll come through this OK. That’s my attitude to things in general. It’s times just like this one that show how good a team is – or not, as the case may be."

Even though the team is not allowed to meet up at the moment, they are still of course keeping in contact. The players are asked to analyse videos featuring individuals and teams as well as dealing with what is happening at the present time. "I have to say that our sports psychologist has offered her help in this respect, for those who need support, who want to work on themselves or simply need to talk," said Schnaderbeck. "It’s not just about working through negative processes – it’s also about developing yourself mentally."

For Schnaderbeck, it is not only important to keep herself fit but also to motivate others to do so, which is why the affable 29-year-old is an ambassador for the Fit for the Job initiative – a health award that is organised once a year by the Steiermark Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Department for Sport and Leisure Institutions. The main aim of the initiative is to increase employees’ occupational health.

"Health – not just physical but also mental – is very important for me, both in normal, everyday life and also in crisis situations," she explained. "If you’re physically and mentally fit, it’s easier to overcome setbacks – or even crises – and you have a lot more energy to go about things in both your working and your private lives."

When you get into a rhythm of permanently playing matches, you’re also under permanent mental pressure. As a footballer I’m used to that, but now that it’s gone away, it gives you time and space for things that otherwise you wouldn’t do in your daily lives.

Viktoria Schnaderbeck

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