Hernán Santana: “In China we still play in a bubble and with PCR every 48 hours”

Hernan Santana (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1990) arrived in April at Sichuan Jiuniu of the Chinese second division, a club that belongs to the conglomerate of city-group. She landed in China after an experience in India, where she also had to live hard with the pandemic. In China, he maintains a strict “Zero COVID” policy with extreme measures in the country that leaves bizarre situations.

What has been found in China?

It is a new and complicated experience. We live under a “Zero COVID” policy and that marks everything. In the second division, we are still playing in a bubble. The league started in July and the three Spaniards who came joined us in August. We had to comply with the quarantine, we trained a couple of times and we already played. Here everything is like day 1 of the pandemic.

What do you mean?

We still play second with empty stadiums and life is very controlled. A few days ago, images of an IKEA that were sealed with people inside went viral because the Covid alarm had gone off with one person. People tried to escape as best they could. It is not strange to see how they lock down a neighborhood, an area of ​​the city, a building… As soon as a case comes out, alarms go off. You have a transit application that you have to keep up to date to be able to go from one place to another. You have to show it before entering public places and you must renew your green code every 48 hours with a PCR. At the minimum they quarantine a city or a neighborhood. Each city has a code and to move you have to request permission. With this application they know where you come from, where you are going… Masks, of course, are mandatory in public places. The Covid passport is a reality.

And it’s still in a bubble, he says.

Yes, I’ve been two in a row and it’s hard. It competes in phases, now with six teams each. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I played a game with people. Mixing teams and movements is still avoided here, as far as possible. The government meeting that is going to take place regarding the measures to be taken in the coming weeks is anxiously awaited, to see if anything is softened. The bubbles are hard, it’s like a luxury prison. You’re in the hotel all day, you don’t lack anything, but you can’t even go out for a coffee.

He comes from India from another similar experience.

In China you can see the difference at the sporting level. The facilities, the clubs, the sports cities are spectacular. I trained and left UD Las Palmas, I made the transition from Second to First, and then I went to Sporting. From there I left hand in hand with Sergio Lobera, whom I know very well from Las Palmas. It was a nice opportunity, working with the City Group on their project in India. Things went very well there, we won everything with Mumbai City. Lobera left and I signed for North East, also from India, until I received the call from the City Group again with the opportunity to work with Lobera again. I accepted and here I am. It is a nice project aimed at achieving promotion.

They have taken the philosophy of the Canarian soccer player to China.

We are characterized by the game of the street, enjoy with the ball. Some forget that the essence is that. They did not instill in us that there are 11 guys behind the ball, it does not go with what they taught us. It is the hallmark of the Canarian player.

He will be very aware of UD Las Palmas, who have started the season well.

It has signed very well in the market. There is a lot of quality and the Viera, Vitolo, Sandro, Sidnei… are called to take a step forward.

Moleiro has been signed and renewed.

It’s a rough diamond. Pedri’s explosion delayed Moleiro reaching the first team, but he is there. Pedri is a separate case. Moleiro now has to be pampered, he carries the 10 on his back and many times he wears the team on his back. His expectations have been proven. But I insist, the most experienced must take a step forward to return the team to First Division.

You also lived with Setién a unique moment in your career and unique in the history of Las Palmas.

It was a super good stage. He reinforced what is the idiosyncrasy of the club, of the team, he convinced us against anyone within the philosophy that the institution has always had. In addition, he put UD on football’s radar.

Then he saw what he suffered in Barcelona. Has football been unfair to Setién?

Of course. Quique goes straight ahead and is one hundred percent Barça philosophy. As is Eder Sarabia, a soccer patient. He sometimes gets hot, but without malice. They arrived at Barcelona at a difficult time. If the club is in trouble, that ends up reaching the player. They were not going to let him work and it was obvious that they did not allow him to make the decisions. In Las Palmas it was his fault that we played so well for a whole year. They make you think, him and Eder, see the spaces, learn to generate superiorities.

And the City Group, what philosophy does it have?

It is very similar to Barcelona. It’s like Manchester City. They want to win with style, to be dominant. Open centrals, ball exit and take great care of an image. For example, here in Asia there have been problems with buying matches and players. As soon as you arrive they make it clear to you, any well-founded suspicion of it and you go out.

How do you assume the bubbles?

It is the hardest. The same routine, without freedom, without being able to go to the movies or have a coffee. What I’m saying, it’s a luxury prison. You don’t make life The only thing you can do is train. In India I didn’t even have Spanish colleagues, here I have at least two. But that at least makes you smart with languages, it came in handy with English.

Does Chinese cheer you up?

I have encouraged myself with a colleague who wants to learn Spanish and we exchanged. But it’s very complicated. The same word has a different meaning depending on the tone.

What future plan do you have?

I have one more year of contract and 31 years. The goal is to go up and enjoy a year in the Chinese Super League, it would be a great experience. Then it would be seen.

The Chinese Super League did not escape the crisis. The giants that used to pay millions to foreigners have stopped and even many clubs have disappeared. What happened?

In China a bubble was created and it burst. There was a lot of dependence on the real estate sector in some teams, and they went bankrupt. Many depended on construction companies and have collapsed. They have had to put the brakes on, a cap of four million dollars has been placed on the salaries of foreign stars. Here they no longer want to throw money away, what happened was crazy.

A few weeks ago we talked to Álvaro Medrán and told that many Spanish players they contacted him to go to Saudi Arabia. Opportunities are scarce in many cases in Spain. Do they ask you too?

Half joking half seriously, some ask you. They probe you. The situation is not good in some parts and they tell you that if what is there is truncated, there is room here. I have friends who are still without a team now. Football suffers from the same scarcity as other fields.

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