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German stars donate $1.1M to ‘We kick Corona’ campaign

The Latest on the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

German soccer players Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich have donated 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to start a campaign called “We kick Corona” to help social workers and health services cope with the new virus.

In a Twitter post, Goretzka thanks health professionals, doctors and social workers for “giving their all to master the situation” and says he hopes fans will follow his and his Bayern Munich teammate’s example.

“On the pitch we can beat anyone. But we can only beat corona together,” the 25-year-old Goretzka writes.

The money raised is to be used to help those affected by the virus and hospital equipment.

“As professional soccer players we have been leading healthy and professional lives,” Goretzka says. “So we see an obligation to accept responsibility in these difficult times. Giving and helping each other is the order of the day at this time.”

People can donate at the www.wekickcorona.com website, where others who need support can also ask for help.

Formula One is setting up a series of virtual races to replace postponed or canceled Grand Prix events.

The series says a “number of current F1 drivers” will take part in the races, with the first set for Sunday. That’s the day when the Bahrain Grand Prix was supposed to take place.

None of the drivers taking part have been named.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris are among drivers from various competitions who have already been taking part in various online races not organized by F1.

The Australian Grand Prix last weekend was canceled at short notice and the Monaco Grand Prix was canceled from its May 24 date on Thursday. Races in Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Spain and the Netherlands have been postponed.

A German virologist says he doesn’t think professional soccer in the country will be able to resume this year.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, tells broadcaster NDR: “I firmly believe it will only be possible for it to take place again next year.”

The German soccer league has already suspended play in the county’s top two divisions through April 2, though most expect play to resume without spectators in May at the earliest.

Schmidt-Chanasit says the so-called “ghost games” without fans are also unlikely to take place as fans would gather elsewhere to watch them if they are not allowed in the stadiums.

“I believe it’s not realistic that the season will be able to be played to the end,” he tells NDR. “We can see what the situation is like in Europe and what’s ahead of us.”

Schmidt-Chanasit says that even if Germany isn’t hit as badly as Italy by the new coronavirus, it shouldn’t mean that soccer restarts as “that means the situation would worsen again significantly.”

The European Swimming Federation says it has decided to postpone the European aquatics championships, which were to be held in May in Budapest, because of travel restrictions and other effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The federation, or LEN, said Friday in a statement that it has proposed new dates in August, “though this might be confirmed only in May or early June.”

LEN’s elective congress and the European Masters Championships, planned to be held alongside the main championship, have also been postponed.

LEN President Paolo Barelli said a tentative date of Aug. 17-30 has been set, “however, at this stage it’s difficult if not impossible to plan with a definite time frame, so we agreed with the Hungarian organizers to reassess the situation in late May or early June.”

All rugby in England below the top-flight Premiership has been canceled for the season.

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, says the decision was taken “to assist with long-term planning and provide clarity to the game at a time of continuous change” during the virus outbreak.

Sweeney says the RFU is in “active discussions” with Premiership teams about managing the end of the season, which had been scheduled to finish at the end of May.

Several Premiership teams have asked players to take a pay cut during the outbreak.

England manager Gareth Southgate has urged people to “work together to combat” the coronavirus during the global outbreak with the same spirit they have shown in supporting his team during its improvement over the last two years.

In an open letter to fans, Southgate encouraged them to “follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all.”

Southgate also warned of “challenges to our mental wellbeing” during a period of widespread economic uncertainty and self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak, and said: “Look out for each other. Please don’t suffer alone.”

With soccer virtually in a global lockdown, England will not be playing upcoming friendly matches against Italy and Denmark. This summer’s European Championship has also been postponed until 2021, meaning England will have to wait for its opportunity to win a first major international title since the World Cup in 1966 – having reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 against the odds under Southgate.

Southgate says “now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre stage. The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centers to look after our friends and families.”

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