Lockdown kept us apart but it also brought many players closer than ever to fans through acts of charity and tireless work with club trusts and foundations. Portsmouth community champion.Christian Burgess led by example.
How important has community work been for you in lockdown?
Very. It has enabled me to get out there. I live down here on my own so I would have been pretty lonely. I’ve really enjoyed being able to go out and see volunteers and work alongside them on projects.
You’ve helped to deliver medicines and been out and about for good causes – what else have you done?
I’ve done a lot of volunteering in person. It has given me structure through this weird time. I’ve had places to be and reasons to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve also been engaged online. I’ve popped into a few Zoom meetings like an Under 7s team meeting to say ‘hello’ and do a Q&A. I’ve recorded messages for awards ceremonies and videos for the club to stay in touch with fans.
Have you done much with the other Portsmouth players?
We’ve kept in touch on WhatsApp and we all put in some money for a fund, which has been put to good use through Pompey in the Community. That supported a range of things: half went into a thank you appeal for the Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth; the rest went towards funding food for the community – to a kitchen run by Enable Ability that supports disabled people, and local restaurant the Akash that cooked food for a foodbank.
What other activity have you done with Pompey in the Community?
Through PITC we organised some care packages for our disabled season ticket holders. They all got a package with little presents, things to do and some Pompey gifts. The packages were hand-delivered by the lads.
What has the mood been like?
There has been some anxiety, lots of people worried and unable to get out. Some are relying on the services from PITC and the Hayling Helpers volunteers. It has been difficult to hear some stories, but people have been thrilled with the help and delighted to see you. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a chat. Some people are lonely, so it’s nice to stay for five minutes, socially distant of course, and just have a talk about what’s going on.
You met an ex-Pompey player on the doorstep…
John McClelland, yeah. We talked about football and playing for Portsmouth. I also spoke to his wife, Heather. She was a sprinter who travelled the world. It was nice to speak to them. They came alive and he showed me his book of memories from his playing days.
Have you had more time to do community work in lockdown?
More time, but also more flexibility. I’ve been able to volunteer at a local kitchen at 9am because I haven’t had to be at training. I can do my training at 7pm rather than having a fixed structure. That’s nice, because the kitchen normally shuts at 1pm when the food is gone. Now I’m back in training I can’t go any more because they’re done by the time I’m finished. It was good to do something productive with that time.
Has lockdown changed your views on community work and life in general?
It has given me a hunger to give more of my time. The sense of community amongst the volunteers is great – being with a group who are so generous with their time has been fantastic and I want to carry that on.
What have you missed in lockdown and what won’t you go back to?
The freedom to see my family and definitely to see my girlfriend. She lives far away, so that has been hard. Things I won’t go back to? Hopefully I’ll watch less TV after this. It’s been off – it helps when there isn’t a lot of sport – but it’s been nice to do other things, to put more time into reading and being productive.