Hugo Gaspar celebrates a point for Portugal in the 2016 FIVB Volleyball World League
Lisbon, Portugal, March 26, 2020 – Hugo Gaspar has spent the past few seasons combining his medical and volleyball careers, but following the coronavirus outbreak he has to prioritise his work as a doctor at the Travessa da Saúde Family Health Unit in Lisbon.
“Now I'm just a doctor, 200% a doctor,” he told Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias.
The Benfica VC captain and Portugal player admits that his work combatting COVID-19 means that he will need to be away from his family “for the next three or four weeks,” and he has already completed a 14-day quarantine period after two of his colleagues tested positive for the virus.
The Portuguese league was suspended in early March with Benfica top of the standings. Their last win was a 3-1 victory away to SC Caldas on March 7, but like many sports and leagues around the world it is unclear when they might be able to finish the season.
“Everyone's concern is to try and contain this epidemic, otherwise the casualties could be enormous,” said Gaspar.
“We will be on the front line. As the situation becomes more complicated, there will certainly be an even greater demand for doctors and health personnel.
“No country was prepared for an epidemic of this size. No country thought it would arrive with the strength with which it arrived.”
Before the outbreak the 37-year-old Gaspar balanced training with 40 to 48 hours work a week as a doctor.
It hasn’t stopped the outside spiker from enjoying a great deal of success in his career.
Gaspar played in Italy for Sisley Treviso for a season before returning to Portugal to play for Vitoria SC with whom he won the Portuguese league and Cup. He moved to Benfica in 2010 and since then has also won multiple league titles and Portuguese Cups.
He has been a mainstay for Portugal since he made his international debut in 2002 and he was part of their teams that finished eighth at the Argentina 2002 FIVB Volleyball Men’s World Championship and fifth at the 2005 FIVB Volleyball World League.
Portugal were due to play in the FIVB Volleyball Challenger Cup this year which meant Gaspar did his best to maintain his fitness during his period of isolation at home.
“We devoted at least an hour a day to physical exercise at home,” he said. “In my case, as an athlete, I really have to be careful.
“I already took a lot of care at home, notably maintaining maximum hygiene care and following all recommendations.”
It remains unclear when Gaspar, his teammates and athletes around the world will be able to return to training and competing.
Nonetheless many clubs have played their part in helping fight COVID-19 and Benfica has donated €1million to help fund treatment.
“Benfica is perhaps the largest institution in Portugal and these projects and initiatives are to be commended,” Gaspar said.
“Right now, what we need most is civic awareness, how to behave in the face of this threat. I, too, will be at the forefront, helping all those in need, often with the fear that my family is at home, waiting for my safe return.
“I would like to send a positive message of strength and unity, and with the certainty that everything will pass and that soon we will all be together to celebrate our victories. One of the celebrations will be against this epidemic, which no doubt we will defeat.”