HE was only too happy to join other prominent sports personalities and public figures in his native Serbia last week and make a sizeable financial contribution to help in their ongoing battle again the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, Gordan Petric, the former Dundee United, Rangers and Hearts defender who has donated €50,000 towards the cost of ventilators and medical supplies for doctors and nurses who are treating those infected with Covid-19 in his homeland, is coping better than most with the crisis personally.

Being quarantined for a prolonged period of time to prevent the outbreak spreading and causing more deaths has been difficult for millions of people across the world to deal with – but to Petric it is nothing new.

The 50-year-old grew up in the former Yugoslavia, who he made five international appearances for, and sampled the strict conditions that footballers in that communist country had to work under when he was starting out in the game as a youngster.

Being confined to his home for weeks on end is nothing in comparison with what his predecessors had to endure under the legendary Miljan Miljanic, the former Yugoslavia, Red Star Belgrade, Real Madrid and Valenica manager, back in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Serbia is like everywhere else,” he said. “At the start of the coronavirus, people here thought ‘this won’t happen in my country, won’t happen in my city’. But it has happened. It has been four weeks now. We have listened to what doctors have said and taken advice from the government.

“But, if you ask me, it is easy for football players to follow these instructions. I think people playing sport adapt well to being under quarantine at home. It is like what I did when we played football. You would train, stay in a hotel, play a game, stay in a hotel, train, stay in a hotel. That was our life.

“Milan Miljanic is one of the best coaches ever. When he was manager of Red Star Belgrade in the 1970s he stayed in a hotel before and after every single training session and before and after every single game. Believe it or not, one season he spent 260 days in quarantine with his players in a hotel. It was the same when he was with the national team.

“If you asked today’s players to do the same thing they would say: ‘It’s a f****** disgrace!’ Would Richard Gough or Brian Laudrup of Paul Gascoigne have agreed to it? I don’t know. But that’s how it worked before. Maybe it was better!”

Petric continued “Mr Miljanic was very important when I started playing football as a young boy. He was the main guy in the Yugoslavian Football Federation by then. He helped us win the World Youth Championship in Chile in 1987. He wasn’t the coach, but he oversaw selection. I was lucky to work with him. He was like a father to us.

“When I moved from my first club Beograd to Partizan Belgrade we also had these rules. We had to stay in hotels before and after games. Because it meant we could relax, rest and eat properly. Quarantine is not too difficult for me.”

Still, Petric has been eager to assist others who are not so fortunate. He has given money to many charitable causes – including to rebuild a church in Belgrade that was badly damaged by NATO bombing back in 1999 – on many occasions over the years. He considers himself fortunate to be in a position to help.

“I donated some money,” he said. “I am lucky that I am able to do so, to have that chance to make a difference. It isn’t just me who has done this in Serbia. Other football players and tennis players, like Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, have done so as well.

“I am not saying that every former player should do it. Every person has a different situation. But I have seen people in Serbia, Italy, Spain, Germany and Scotland struggling in this emergency and suffering and I was happy to help.”

Petric, who is still represented by John Viola, the Scottish agent who advised him throughout his playing career, has moved into coaching and management since being diagnosed with skin cancer forced him to hang up his boots aged just 32 back in 2001.

Now fully recovered, he has worked in a variety of different roles, including as a general secretary and sporting director, at a number of clubs in the years since.

He knows there are no simple solutions to the dilemma facing leagues across Europe – to play in the 2019/20 season to a conclusion after the shutdown or award clubs titles based on current positions – at the moment.

He can sympathise with the plight of his former clubs Dundee United, who are poised to be promoted from the Ladbrokes Championship, Hearts, who could be relegated from the Premiership, and Rangers, who could theoretically still pip Celtic to the title.

However, the former centre half fears that starting back too quickly and squeezing too many fixtures into too short a period of time before the new campaign kicks off would be ill-advised.

“After two weeks without training your fitness goes down even if you exercise indoors,” he said. “You have to prepare properly to play in a game. We have a lot of league games and cup matches still to play in Serbia. If the players aren’t fit enough they risk picking up injuries and suffering problems.

“You need more time. You can’t play Monday, Wednesday Saturday. You will kill the players doing that. It isn’t easy to know what to do. But if you make the decision to play these games before next season starts then players, including big players, can pick up injuries and be ruled out for next season.”