Football stars ‘pass the message to kick out coronavirus’

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent

Football stars from around the world have implored fans to follow health advice to help stem the tide of coronavirus.

A new campaign between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Fifa has been launched to “pass the message to kick out coronavirus”.

Gary Lineker, Lionel Messi, Alisson Becker, Carli Lloyd, Han Duan and Samuel Eto’o feature in an advert calling on the public to ensure they wash their hands, catch sneezes and coughs properly, avoid touching their face, keep a safe distance from others and stay at home if they feel unwell.

The WHO said football can reach millions of people, particularly youngsters, that public health officials cannot.

It comes as most football leagues around the world have suspended games due to the pandemic.

Launching the campaign, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said the day after the coronavirus outbreak was called a pandemic, he asked the WHO how Fifa could help.

“Football means so much to billions of people around the world,” he said. “It is clear to me that we have to show leadership and solidarity in these difficult days.

“There are no actors in this campaign, just the players themselves, and they all want to highlight the advice that is provided to all of us by the WHO.

“I would like to thank all the football players, all the legends, that are in this campaign for making it possible. Together we are going to really pass the message to kick out coronavirus.

“Now we have to be strong, follow the guidance of WHO, of our governments.

“Football is ready to be part in that. Like in football, by acting together with determination, discipline and teamwork, we will win.”

Alisson Becker (Martin Rickett/PA)

Liverpool goalkeeper Becker, who is also a WHO ambassador, said: “We football players, we are used to acting together, working together, training together.

“I know in these tough times everyone has changed their lives – staying home, not going out. In my case, I am not able to be with my colleagues, with my teammates, to do what I love.

“I was made for playing football and now because of these tough times we are not able to do that, to bring happiness to people through football.

“But we understand that it is necessary. It is necessary to stay home, it is necessary to act in solidarity.

(PA Graphics)

“People need the right information. Follow the information from your local authorities and WHO.

“Health comes first in this moment. It is time, like in football, for teamwork – everybody doing their own job, that includes to be safe and at home, and washing hands properly, keeping distance from people. We need now to work as a team.”

Fifa has donated 10 million dollars (£8.6 million) to the WHO’s solidarity response fund.

It comes after Lineker said he had gone into isolation after his son showed symptoms.

He tweeted: “In self isolation as @GeorgeLineker has symptoms. They’re not the regular ones, but complete loss of sense of taste and smell. Odd these have not been pointed out much. Been nearly a week and has spent time at mine. I’ve been vigilant, hand washing/distancing but isolation it is.”

– The full list of players past and present who are participating in the WHO and Fifa campaign is: Sami Al Jaber, Alisson Becker, Emre Belozoglu, Jared Borgetti, Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, Sunil Chhetri, Youri Djorkaeff, Han Duan, Samuel Eto’o, Radamel Falcao, Laura Georges, Valeri Karpin, Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, Gary Lineker, Carli Lloyd, Lionel Messi, Mido, Michael Owen, Park Ji-sung, Carles Puyol, Celia Sasic, Asako Takakura, Yaya Toure, Juan Sebastian Veron, Sun Wen and Xavi Hernandez.