Tuesday 21 April 2020, 06:45

From ambulances and education to pizza and asparagus

  • Clubs and member associations stepping up their efforts

  • Tributes to health workers amid donations of food and equipment

  • Attempts made to help people #BeActive and stay #HealthyAtHome

As the world continues to unite in battle against COVID-19, countless stories have emerged of people and initiatives across the globe doing their bit to contribute. A number of football stars have joined forces to honour those who are keeping society functioning on a daily basis, while football associations all over the world are coming up with new ideas and strategies.

Sport brings people together, but the coronavirus is currently forcing us apart. With that in mind, Canada Soccer launched a new online platform for the country’s players, coaches, referees, fans and volunteers to connect with each other and continue learning in webinars.

"During this challenging time, Canada Soccer Nation needs to be stronger than ever while supporting our government’s efforts to flatten the curve of this ongoing global pandemic," said Steven Reed, president of Canada Soccer. “We can see through all the great photos and videos being shared that everyone is doing their best to keep soccer in their day-to-day lives. Until we are back on the pitch, Canada Soccer Nation Inside will celebrate our collective love for the game."

The Football Federation of Belize (FFB) published a video on their Facebook page showing the nation’s players doing their part to help and encouraging the population to do likewise, while also thanking those who work in the healthcare system.

The Ecuadorian Football Federation (FEF) has primarily focused on how to help people and football in the country during this time. As part of a measure titled ‘20 necessary actions for 2020’, they approved a new budget that has been adjusted to reflect the current situation; the format and dates of the current domestic competitions are to be adapted; and, above all, they will seek to absorb the financial impact of the pandemic on the country’s clubs.

“Despite the present obstacles, the aims [the federation set itself] remain achievable and will be implemented thanks to the ability and dedication of the federation’s most important resource: its employees’ talents,” read an FEF statement.

With fans and footballers alike all longing for the game, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) used its grassroots Facebook page to suggest simple drills for people to do at home. All that was needed to complete the first set – and to simultaneously do a bit of exercise - was a ball, a couple of obstacles and a balcony.

In Niger, the Fenifoot Football Federation made its technical centre available to the health authorities, just as their Nepalese counterparts did a few weeks ago, in order for up to 200 inpatients to be able to receive medical attention there.

The Football Federation of North Macedonia (FFM) is likewise supporting its country’s healthcare system, having purchased and immediately donated three ambulances to a hospital in the capital city of Skopje. "This time reminds us all how important life and health are to the people,” said FFM president Muamed Sejdini. “It is our duty as a socially responsible institution to help with hope of contributing to mitigate the consequences of this situation."

German club SC Sand, who are currently seventh in the Women’s Bundesliga standings, sent their team to help harvest the crop in an asparagus field owing to the current shortage of foreign workers in the country’s agricultural sector.

“We were asked if we wanted to help out,” midfielder Dina Blagojevic said in an interview with DFB.de. “We were happy to help and enjoyed doing it. I’d do it again any time they need our help. We’ve also got other initiatives planned. I think people need to show solidarity during this crisis. Football is a lot easier. Cutting asparagus was a bit like doing weights in the gym.” Recent pictures have shown the Sand players at work in a strawberry field.

In England, Plymouth Argyle paid tribute to the country's National Health Service (NHS) by mowing its initials on the pitch at their home stadium. The images from a bird’s eye view are particularly impressive and serve as another example of the current appreciation for front-line healthcare workers.

Symbols are important, but so too is being pragmatic and taking care of daily needs. That is likely to have been what motivated Newcastle United’s Danny Rose, who had hundreds of free pizzas delivered to the employees at a local NHS hospital just days after donating 19,000 pounds to help combat the coronavirus.

Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus was behind an initiative that distributed 400 food packages to the neighbourhood in Sao Paulo where he grew up, while his Brazilian compatriot Philippe Coutinho donated 20 tons of food and medical supplies to be given to the needy in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the content itself, the packages contained printed messages of support from the Brazil international as well as the most important hygiene instructions.

Like food, clean drinking water is also essential for people’s health. As such, Kenya international Francis Kahata personally made sure that 10,000 litres of water were available for those who needed it.