Pep Guardiola admits world events over the past year put his Manchester City side’s footballing achievements firmly into context.
City, the Premier League champions and Carabao Cup winners, will next week hope to complete a treble when they face Chelsea in the Champions League final.
Coming in a condensed season after a shortened summer break and with little preparation, City’s performances seem all the more impressive.
We try to do our best but the real heroes this season are the people working in the hospitalsPep Guardiola
Yet Guardiola, whose mother died amid the coronavirus pandemic last year, is well aware of the bigger picture outside the game.
The City manager said: “I think sometimes we just play football. The reality is the reality, it is a game.
“We try to do our best but the real heroes this season are the people working in the hospitals, in the NHS – men and women all around the world, not just in the UK and Spain, in incredible tragic circumstances. They work every single day.
“And not just at Man City but all around the world are loved ones, tragedies, (people who) lost part of their family lives in difficult circumstances. We cannot hide from this reality.
“We know exactly what is happening right now in Israel and Palestine. It is four hours away from where we live. It is happening today. That is the real world.
“We are incredibly happy this season that we were able to do our job but the world is much more than our job.
“We will love to do a good game, alongside Chelsea, for people to enjoy the final and, of course, for our supporters, to try to win.
“But never, not one day, especially as my family suffered, has anyone forgot the amount of work these women and men have done for all of society, working against a virus we didn’t know that appeared one day and started to kill people.
“This season, especially, is for them. Absolutely, it is for them.”
After such a trying year, Guardiola admits he is looking forward to switching off from football and seeing friends and family over the summer break.
He said: “For a long time I didn’t see my dad. All of us, the backroom staff, have not seen families since October, November. We cannot travel.
“We will go back home and switch off. We are looking forward – (first) the final, then look forward.”
Guardiola expects his side will arrive at the final in Porto next Saturday in good shape.
“I have an incredibly good feeling we will do well and we will play a good game in the final,” said Guardiola, whose side wrap up their Premier League campaign at home to Everton on Sunday.
“We’re incredibly satisfied to be the first guys in more than a century of this club who will be there.
“It is a privilege and an honour and we are going to enjoy it and at the same time be as big competitors as possible to win the title.”