Japan Football Association President Kozo Tashima called Japan’s health care workers “our national team” on Saturday and pleaded for people to support them following his own bout with the new coronavirus.
Speaking to reporters online, Tashima, who was hospitalized for two weeks starting on March 16, suggested the people who cared for him are not always treated as well as they should be and that the Japanese people could do more to help by working from home.
“Health care professionals are in the front line, fighting the invisible enemy,” he said. “One hears that they and their families are suffering from discrimination and prejudice. That can’t be tolerated.”
“There is a movement in Europe now to applaud these health care workers. Japanese always applaud the national team as it competes in World Cup qualifying, but right now these health care workers are our national team. I want people to support them as much as possible by applauding and cheering for them and getting them the necessary supplies.”
The JFA has appealed to players to submit videos that can be posted on social media sites to applaud the people who are supporting Japanese society during this crisis.
“Athletes are volunteering, calling for people to wash their hands and exercise self-restraint. We have to make this joint fight against the new coronavirus a priority and put it ahead of our own physical training. When the world is at peace and safe, we can play sports because people are healthy.”
Tashima traveled to Europe and the United States from late February to early March to promote Japan’s bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Even though he carried sanitizer with him and washed his hands, he became infected.
“It can strike anyone,” he said. “After returning home, I felt chills, but had no cough. I was examined and pneumonia was suspected. I went to the hospital knowing I would test positive. Without that knowledge, I might have gone about my work as usual and increased the number of infected people. Those without symptoms are out in society infecting others.”
Immediately after the infection was discovered, Tashima became the first individual in Japan to be named after testing positive. He said he wanted this so that others at the places he had visited could take precautions. No other infections have been reported at the JFA since Feb. 26, when employees began working from home since Feb. 26.
“I wasn’t confused about going public,” he said. “It was a miracle the association did not become home to an infection cluster.”
“While riding on a crowded train before going abroad, I thought, ‘This is dangerous’ and felt a sense of urgency, and so (the association’s) work from home was started.”
“I really hate online meetings, but I’m glad we did that. I want more and more people to work from home to reduce the burden on doctors.