Sports stars gear up for unique battle by volunteering during COVID-19 crisis
Here's how some major sports icons are using this time of crisis to help out the community.
A major chunk of businesses and industries are suffering heavy losses due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that has engulfed the entire world. Over 20 lakh people world over have been infected by the coronavirus infection that reared its ugly head late in December in the city of Wuhan, China. The disease has claimed over 1.2 lakh lives so far.
With rules of physical distancing, self-isolation and maintaining hygiene and local and international travel suspended indefinitely, international sports has come to a grinding halt as a result. While some international sporting events such as the NBA, football leagues around the world as well as tennis events were postponed or cancelled just as the pandemic began to spread, the biggest multi-sport event of the year, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, also had to be postponed to the following year.
While a majority of the sports community, especially global sporting icons, have taken the opportunity to educate their legions of fans to practice what health authorities are advocating, they have also reached out to their followers by telling them the importance of maintaining their physical and mental health in these trying times.
Indian sports stars come forward
Sporting icons such as India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli and other global superstars have contributed generously towards efforts being made to limit the spread of the disease. Some others, however, have gone a step further and decided to volunteer with different departments of healthcare services, who are battling this global public health crisis on the frontlines.
The Kerala Sports Council was finding ways to engage several athletes into contributing to the state’s fight against the novel coronavirus infection when, a member of the Indian men’s football team and FC Jamshedpur in the Indian Super League, CK Vineeth jumped at the opportunity to join the government helpline centre.
"Whatever little I could do to help during an emergency," Vineeth told the All India Football Federation. "The plan is that we would continue this help-line till the dangers of the coronavirus are averted, and the lockdown comes to an end. The situation in Kerala is much-improved now, of course."
The spread of this global pandemic has put tremendous strain on the public healthcare system around the world, with India also experiencing a dip in blood being donated for patients with several other illnesses. Another Indian football star, Jeje Lalpeklua, came forward to donate blood in Mizoram. "Due to the lockdown, blood units are not readily available nowadays. So the hospital connected with the Young Mizo Association seeking help. The news reached me and I knew immediately what I needed to do," Jeje was quoted as saying.
Rower Dattu Bhaban Bhokanal, a gold medallist at the Asian Games and an Olympian, has chosen to help people by sanitizing his village in Nashik. "Me, my family and some friends decided to sanitise the village, which has a population of about 12,000," Bhokanal was quoted as saying by PTI.
England women’s cricket captain now NHS volunteer
Elsewhere in the world too, athletes and sportspersons have come forward offering their services to various departments of healthcare and emergency services. England’s women’s cricket captain, Heather Knight signed up with the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) as a volunteer to transport medicines and spread awareness about the pandemic across the United Kingdom.
Knight had only recently returned from Australia last month, where she had led her team to the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup. "I signed up for the NHS' volunteer scheme as I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to help as much as I can," Knight wrote in her column for the BBC. "My brother and his partner are doctors, and I have a few friends who work in the NHS, so I know how hard they are working and how difficult it is for everyone."
The United Kingdom has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases in recent weeks, with nearly 90,000 confirmed cases and over 11,000 deaths, the fourth worst-hit country in Europe after Italy, Spain and France.
Olympic athletes stand up for others
With the Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed, it has left athletes with plenty of time on their hands, and some of them have chosen to spend it in the service of others. Paula Pareto of Argentina, the reigning Olympic champion in women's judo, has returned to the San Isidro Hospital in Buenos Aires, where she works as an orthopaedic doctor. "Although orthopaedic doctors are not on the front line, we are a part of the health team facing this pandemic, and we will help where necessary," she said in a social media post.
Former Dutch hockey goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek, a gold medal winner with the Netherlands in the 2012 Games and a silver medallist in 2016, retired after the Rio Olympics, but completed her medical studies shortly after, and has been working on the frontlines as a doctor. "The most important thing is providing care to those who need it. I’m really happy that I can do my job, and I think that accounts for everyone working in healthcare or any other vital job," she told the International Hockey Federation (FIH).
Another hockey player, Australia's Rachael Lynch, is a nurse in Perth and continuing her duties, while compatriot Jo Brigden-Jones, a kayaker who took part in the 2012 London Games, is working as a paramedic for New South Wales Ambulances.
Looking after daily wage workers
Basketball stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson and Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin all came forward and donated a large chunk of their earnings to the suffering daily wage earners working at the NBA.
Several professions have been financially hit due to the unprecedented restrictions in the movement of people around the world, and daily wage earners across industries are the worst hit. "It’s bigger than basketball! And during this tough time I want to help the people that make my life, my family’s lives and my teammates lives easier," Antetokounmpo was quoted as saying.
For more information, read our article on Exercises to do at home during a COVID-19 lockdown.
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