Musicians and athletes pitch in on virus fight

People | ASSOCIATED PRESS 30 Mar 2020

Musicians and athletes have taken part in an online global music festival organized by the Spanish league that raised more than 625,000 euros (HK$690,000) for the fight against the coronavirus.

Barcelona's Gerard Pique, Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos and tennis star Rafael Nadal were among those who participated in the charity event organized to raise funds for the purchase of medical supplies and to support fans confined to their homes.

Celebrities in the festival also included Chinese pianist Lang Lang and singers Aitana, Alejandro Sanz, Beret and Luis Fonsi, as well as actress Danna Paola and music bands Morat and Taburete.

"It's a very difficult situation, and for the league to be able to do something like this, it makes players, clubs and fans very proud,'' Barcelona captain Pique said.

"It's nice to see that when people need us, we can unite. I'm proud to be part of something like this,'' Pique added. "It will be difficult, we will have to go through some difficult moments. People close to us will suffer, some of us will suffer first-hand, but together we have to overcome this, and I believe that together we are invincible.''

The celebrities athletes and participated from their homes in the four-hour event, which was shown live to 180 countries through the league's international broadcasters and streamed via YouTube and Facebook.

Players from all 20 first-division clubs participated, along with other Spanish athletes, such as swimmer Mireia Belmonte and badminton player Carolina Marin. Among the soccer players were Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona, Jesus Navas of Sevilla and Chinese forward Wu Lei, one of the members of the Espanyol squad who tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Together, we'll succeed in convincing people about the importance of staying at home at this time while raising money to buy medical supplies, which are in such high demand at times like these, league president Javier Tebas said.

Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, has been one of the hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic. It reported 832 more deaths on Saturday in its highest daily count yet, bringing the total to 5,690. Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000. Only Italy has more deaths than Spain.

The Spanish government said it will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday to intensify efforts to stem the virus outbreak in the country.

"We are concerned with the disasters that we are seeing every day on TV,'' Nadal said. "We are trying to adapt to this, everything is new. The reality is that we have to adapt. It takes time.''

Nadal and Spanish basketball player Pau Gasol this week launched another campaign to encourage donations for a Red Cross fundraising effort to help with the health crisis. They both made donations and urged others to follow their lead. Former Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas quickly said he would pitch in. Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone also was helping a Red Cross campaign.

In addition to the more than 625,000 euros raised by the end of the live broadcast on Saturday, 1 million masks were donated by league sponsor Santander. Earlier, Barcelona said it donated 30,000 masks to the Catalonia government.

"This is something unique, with every league fan around the world, and anybody else, really, being able to contribute with their grain of sand,'' Pique said. "I'm happy to be able to participate in an initiative like this.''

Pique's Barcelona was among the clubs that reduced players' and coaches' salaries this week because of the coronavirus crisis. Atletico Madrid did the same.

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