Meals, messages, drive-ins and cardboard cut-outs

  • Football continues to come together in the fight against COVID-19

  • Member associations and iconic stadiums part of the effort

  • Harry Kane and Shay Given among the players and ex-players doing their bit

“In this crisis, no-one should go to bed hungry,” said Leon Aarts, founder of Compassion London, a charity set up to provide nutritious meals to people in the city during the COVID-19 crisis.

One of the world’s most famous stadiums is helping to try and ensure nobody is. Wembley Stadium opened its gates to Compassion London ten days ago. There, 20,000 meals per day have been cooked by chefs and delivered to those in need by volunteers.

“We are so thankful for the support of Wembley Stadium and the individuals who have gone out of their way to help us to help others,” said Leon. “Our meals fuel the carers and also go to people who are struggling to eat.”

Healthcare workers, rushed off their feet during COVID-19, have also been struggling to eat during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why the Football Association of Thailand launched its Changsuek Cook From Home Project, which sees players and officials deliver meals to hospitals.

“FA Thailand would like to do our part as a member of society to provide support and encouragement to doctors and hospital personnel who are working tirelessly during this extremely challenging period,’’ said the Thai FA's acting general-secretary, Mr. Patit Suphaphongs.

Players are also playing their part. Not only will Harry Kane sponsor the shirts of Leyton Orient, with whom he made his senior debut while on loan from Tottenham Hotspur in 2011, but he will use the space for three great causes.

The O’s home jersey will emblazon a message of thanks to the frontline workers tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Their two change strips will support mental health charity Mind and Haven House Children's Hospice. Orient will also donate ten per cent of each replica shirt sold to the cause on its front.

"I was born and brought up only a couple of miles from Orient's stadium, and I'm really happy to have the opportunity to give back to the club that gave me my first professional start,” said Kane. "It also gives me a platform to say a big thank you to the many frontline heroes and charities out there who provide care and support during these challenging times."

Orient chief executive Danny Macklin said: "Thank you, Harry, for your amazing support and generosity – you are a true role model for the modern game."

Shay Given, who faced Kane a few times and who has long been involved in charitable causes, has been doing his bit in his native Republic of Ireland.

"Every week we were reading about the shortage of masks, aprons and gloves for the frontline workers,” said the 134-times-capped former goalkeeper. “It's probably easier to sit back and do nothing, but we thought that we could do something. So a friend and I set up Care Given as a way of supporting the NHS [National Health Service] and also frontline workers in the Republic of Ireland.

"It's mad to think that the people who are fighting COVID-19 for us are going into work sometimes not with the right equipment. This charity we hope can bring as much equipment as possible to help protect them from getting this terrible disease."

The not-for-profit organisation’s first deliveries were made last week, with enough money raised to supply over 10,000 masks directly to those who need them.

Clubs have done a lot in the fight against COVID-19, and now they’re trying to give fans the best possible experience as football resumes behind closed doors. Borussia Monchengladbach have made life-size cardboard cut-outs of 5,000 of their supporters to fill Borussia-Park, which will host its first game since March next Saturday.

FC Midtjylland, meanwhile, have made 2,000 spaces available in their car park for up to 10,000 fans – on a five-per-car basis – to watch their matches on two giant screens outside the stadium. The supporters will also be able to listen to live audio commentary broadcast on a special radio frequency.

Another Danish club, AGF Arhus, are creating virtual stands via the Zoom videoconferencing app. Supporters will log in and the players will be able to see their reactions on screens inside Ceres Arena throughout games.

Football is getting creative in its fight against COVID-19.