The coronavirus pandemic has meant an effective blackout on sports events, including soccer, which is pretty much on an indefinite hiatus. That hasn’t stopped soccer players from trying to help communities battered by the spread of the virus. Over the last several weeks, their efforts have included everything from donating millions of dollars, providing groceries and supplies, and auctioning off soccer gear to raise money. Over the weekend, LaLiga also organized LaLiga Santander Fest, a digital telethon and concert that combined music and soccer to raise more than €600,000 for medical supplies and assistance in Spain.
Spain is currently one of the areas most affected by COVID-19. The European country has the second-highest number of deaths in the world right now and recorded its biggest overnight jump in fatalities (849) on Monday night. LaLiga Santander Fest featured several artists and soccer stars who performed and made speeches from their homes. The lineup included Alejandro Sanz, Luis Fonsi and Juanes on the music side and Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vázquez on the sports side.
“This initiative has turned into something huge,” LaLiga’s president Javier Tebas said in a statement. “We have the best artists from the best clubs and the best players and the best fans. Together we can convince people of the importance of staying at home and achieve the objectives to buy hospital materials.”
Other players have been working at an individual level to help their home countries and others in need: Lionel Messi donated €1 million to be split among Clinic Barcelona and COVID-19 efforts in his home of Argentina. Cristiano Ronaldo and his agent Jorge Mendes donated the same amount to Portugal, while Luis Suárez put 500 baskets filled with food and necessities for families in Uruguay’s neighborhood of Casavalle as the pandemic reaches Latin America. Michael Ortega has also auctioned off a few jerseys to raise funds for families who may be having a difficult time during Colombia’s quarantine.
The U.S. is seeing similar efforts across leagues. When the NBA announced it would suspend the season, several players turned their attention to the hundreds of stadium workers who would be out of a paycheck as a result. Zion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Blake Griffin have all pledged money to make up for the salaries of arena employees affected by the season’s postponement. The NFL has seen similar efforts. Most notably, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his wife Brittany brees donated $5 million to relief efforts.