Zeno Ibsen Rossi was one of the young Cherries players who had the chance to broaden his horizons on loan in 2020/21, but being stuck in isolation in Scotland doing pre-match workouts probably wasn’t what the defender had in mind as he left the south coast.
Moving to Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership while still a teenager, the defender made his senior debut the month after signing but by the autumn was facing tests not just between the lines at Rugby Park, the entire squad sent into isolation after a Covid outbreak.
Ibsen Rossi gave his account of an unusual experience with afcb.co.uk and having to stay match fit without being able to leave the house.
He explained: “Well, in October we got eight or nine Covid cases in the squad and we were one of the first teams to get it – it hadn’t yet been established what you need to do as a team when that happened.
“The SPL said everyone had to isolate, so we had two weeks inside and then two days later came out and had to play a game.
“Honestly, I was in my flat in limited space trying to do anything I could to keep myself ticking over. I was doing HIIT sessions, all sort of random stuff, drills using the sofa – my neighbours probably hated me!
“That was tough, that was probably the toughest time, along with when I was injured.”
FACING THE PRESSURE OF RELEGATION
Overcoming that Covid challenge, Ibsen Rossi went on to make first team 20 appearances, though his stay north of the border ended with relegation after Kilmarnock lost the relegation play-off with Dundee over two legs.
Now 20, the defender continued: “It didn’t end how I would have wanted it to from a team perspective but from a personal point of view it was really good.
“The play-off atmosphere was new because I haven’t really been involved in games like that, we were all aware that there was a lot on the line, so much more than what I’d been used to in an under-21s match.
“There were jobs on the line and it was massive for the club and the fans. It goes to a whole different level of importance, but I tried to treat it as just another game because it’s not good for you as a player to blow it out of all proportions.
“Hopefully in my career I’ll be involved in lots of big games, so I just saw it as being hopefully the first of many.”
The undulating campaign also saw the loanee working under two different permanent managers and a caretaker, throwing down further hurdles for Ibsen Rossi in his race for appearances.
“It was tough when those things were happening,” he said. “Looking back at it there are so many things that I could learn from packed into one season.
“The managerial changes, when the first one happened I was starting every game, then I wasn’t playing for a bit, then I was playing again a lot towards the end of the season.
“It was full of ups and downs but looking back at it that’s only helped me and can only teach me as during my career loads of thing like that could happen to me, it’s what you have to deal with.”
HEADING IN A GOALSCORING DIRECTION
A first senior goal came for the defender when he rose to head home in an epic 3-3 cup tie with St Mirren, and while Killie eventually lost in a penalty shootout, his thumping effort is fondly remembered by Ibsen Rossi as he picked out his high points in East Ayrshire.
He said: “If I think of three then you’ve obviously got my debut back in August. It was my senior debut anywhere, not just with Kilmarnock. It was a special moment and to be honest it came sooner than I’d even thought, I was really happy with that.
“Then there was the first game for me against Celtic. Even though we lost it was a highlight because what a huge team that is. As a youngster you grow up thinking,
‘Wow, I’d love to play against Celtic’, so that was a good achievement.
“Finally, there’s my first goal. It was in the quarter-final of the cup so it was quite a good moment. I was thinking that it would have been great to have fans there for my first goal but hopefully for the next one they’ll be in.”