Solidarity in times of Covid-19
Besides remote online training sessions, TikTok videos, and Instagram live chats, football players – the same as many other professional athletes – want to show their solidarity and support in this time of crisis, be it through making donations, starting charitable campaigns, launching private fundraising initiatives, or waiving a part of their salaries.
Already in mid-March, immediately after the first measures in the battle against coronavirus in Germany had been put in place, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich launched the #WeKickCorona fundraising campaign. So far, their initiative has raised over €4m in donations, which are being dispensed to charitable organizations and social institutions in need of immediate help. These range from blood banks to organizations who support the homeless. In addition to countless private donations, the nationwide #WeKickCorona campaign has also attracted the support of many celebrities, including numerous footballers and other professional athletes.
“As professional football players we lead a healthy and privileged life,” Goretzka and Kimmich say in a joint statement on the #WeKickCorona website. “Therefore we feel obliged to take responsibility in these difficult times. We consider it imperative for us to give and help each other.”
Other FC Bayern players have also done their bit to help over the past two months. Robert Lewandowski and his wife Anna, for example, donated €1m towards emergency aid and front-line fighting in the pandemic. In an Instagram post they stated: “We are aware of the difficult situation around us. Today, we are all playing on the same team. Let us be strong in this fight. If we can help someone, let’s do it.” A few weeks later, they donated another some €45k to a hospital in Lancut in southern Poland, where currently only Covid-19 patients are treated.
Jérôme Boateng supported the “Tafel” in Munich and his hometown Berlin with a donation that was used in part to purchase protective suits and disinfectants, among other things. Boateng also raised awareness for the situation of the people in Africa and made the urgent request to think of them and support them with a donation: “Corona has arrived in Africa,” he wrote on Facebook. “With its extremely poor medical infrastructure, the continent is not prepared for a pandemic of this kind and cannot cope with it. If washing your hands is promoted as the most important measure to contain the spread of the virus, then in Africa this will already fail for the most basic of causes: lack of water. Let us act together and support the people in Ghana and all of Africa.”
Philippe Coutinho supports the people in his home country Brazil: The midfielder had a total of 20 tonnes of food and hygiene products distributed in the districts of Favela Barreira do Vasco and Favela Mangueira in his native city of Rio de Janeiro in order to help maintain a basic level of supply and care there.
As I mentioned in my last article, Javi Martínez helped the Munich Red Cross to provide food and shopping aid for elderly and vulnerable people who were unable to leave their homes in the pandemic. He has also made his football camp available to the health authorities in his home country of Spain where people suffering from the virus can be treated now.
Thomas Müller organised a thank you event in his home town of Pähl: There he provided the helpers and volunteers, the “everyday heroes” in the coronavirus crisis, with a hearty lunch: Schnitzel and roast pork were on the menu, but vegetarian and vegan options were available as well. Over 1,000 meals were prepared and delivered to Pähl and the surrounding area.
Thiago is also concerned about his native country: With the “Alcantara Family Foundation”, which Bayern’s midfielder founded last year together with his wife, parents and brother, he has made a donation to the campaign of the Hospital Clinic in Barcelona. The hospital has been raising funds to improve the care of patients and their families and to extend their research department in order to be better prepared for possible pandemics in the future.
In order to prevent the numerous employees of FC Bayern from suffering financially from the pandemic, the players, the board of directors and the supervisory board of FC Bayern have declared that they will waive 20 percent of their salary in the coming months.
“FC Bayern has some 1,000 employees and there are many more who perform important tasks around the club,” said captain Manuel Neuer, representing the team, in an interview with the daily newspaper “tz”. “As a team, we want to help them and offer them security.”
The club also supports the digital campaign “Mia Gehn Online!”, an initiative of the City of Munich, the ReDI School Munich and UnternehmerTUM. “Mia Gehn Online!” helps small businesses in Munich that have got into difficulties as a result of the coronavirus crisis by providing free advice and helping them take their sales and services online. “FC Bayern is part of the local community in Munich”, new board member Oliver Kahn is quoted as saying on Bayern’s website. “It is therefore a matter of course for us to support this initiative.”
Professional footballers are often said to live in a bubble that has nothing to do with the real world. This is, of course, a justified assertion in some respects, but especially in times of a global crisis they can and should show solidarity. Not everyone has done so, but many have. No matter what happens in the Bundesliga, whether the season can be finished or whether the competition has to be abandoned after all: It is to be hoped that the pandemic has brought us all a little bit closer together as human beings – and that this state will outlast the crisis.