Italian football clubs and players raise millions in fight against coronavirus

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Italian football clubs, players and fans have come together to raise millions of euros to support the country’s stretched health system amid the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday was one of the darkest days in Italy’s battle against Covid-19 as the death toll rose to 3,405, overtaking China as the highest number of fatalities from the disease in one country.

A state of nationwide lockdown remains in place as the government looks to control the spread of the virus and all sports events have been suspended since March 9.

In Serie A, the number of cases among professional footballers rose to 13 when Juventus’ French midfielder Blaise Matuidi and Hellas Verona player Mattia Zaccagni tested positive.

But a series of campaigns by clubs, players and owners have helped fight back against a crisis that is being felt at every level of Italian society.

AS Roma delivered 8,000 pairs of protective gloves and 2,000 bottles of hand sanitiser to churches around the capital, where they will be redistributed to those most in need, while Inter Milan donated 300,000 face masks to the public health department.

First-team players and staff at Inter have donated €500,000 (Dh1.9million) while crowdfunding campaigns set up by Roma, AC Milan, Juventus and Fiorentina have each raised more than €420,000.

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Football stars who have tested positive

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive on March 14. Staff who had been in contact with him were self-isolating. AFP

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi was the first Premier League player to test positive. He said on Twitter on March 13: "As you may be aware I had the virus for the last couple of days which I have recovered from. I am following the health guidelines and self-isolating myself from everybody for the week. I hope to see everybody soon and hopefully will be back on the pitch very soon. Reuters

Valencia's Ezequiel Garay was the first La Liga player to test positive on March 15. "I tested positive for coronavirus, I feel very well and now all that's left is to do what the health authorities say, which is to isolate myself," he said on Instagram. All football is suspended in Spain. EPA

Valencia's Eliaquim Mangala, left, was one of five players and staff at the club to test positive. "I'm feeling good and I have no symptoms associated with the virus. However, I am confined in house and separated from my family," he said on Twitter. AP

Juventus confirmed that French midfielder Blaise Matuidi had become the second player from the club to test positive for the coronavirus. Italian defender Daniele Rugani was the first player to play in Serie A to test positive last week. EPA

Juventus' Italian defender Daniele Rugani was confirmed to have the virus on March 12. "You've read the news, so I want to reassure everyone who's worried about me, I'm fine," Rugani said on Twitter. The entire Juventus squad is to spend two weeks in quarantine. AP

Manolo Gabbiadini of Sampdoria is one of five players to have tested positive at the club. "I still want to tell you that I'm fine, so don't worry. Follow all the rules, stay at home and everything will work out," said Gabbiadini on Twitter. PA

Albin Ekdal of Sampdoria tested positive. Italy is one of the worst affected countries. Getty Images

Sampdoria's Omar Colley, right, was confirmed to have coronavirus. AP

Fabio Depaoli, left of Sampdoria, said on Instagram that he was "fine" after testing positive. Getty Images

Fiorentina foward Patrick Cutrone, on loan from Premier League Wolves, is one of three players to test positive at the club. EPA

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A campaign set up by Lazio highlighted the importance of people continuing to go and give blood, reassuring house-bound residents that it is permitted and safe to do so.

Individuals have also been at the forefront of the fundraising charge.

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic launched a "Kick the Virus Away" campaign on Thursday, putting in the first €100,000 himself, and his fund has passed the €250,000 mark.

Others, including SPAL striker Andrea Petagna, Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne, Torino forward Simone Zaza and Juventus winger Federico Bernardeschi, have raised or donated more than €430,000 between them.

Former Roma and Italy forward Francesco Totti also weighed in, donating 15 machines for monitoring vital signs to a hospital in Rome.

The largest contributions came from two of the biggest names in the country. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, owner of third-tier team AC Monza and former president of AC Milan, made a €10m donation to the Lombardy region on Tuesday to help build a 400-bed intensive care unit

The Agnelli family, owners of Juventus football club and the Fiat Chrysler Group, matched the sum to support the national health service, while Juve announced that the family holding company Exor is in the process of buying 150 artificial respirators for Italian hospitals.

Updated: March 20, 2020 04:01 PM

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