England manager Gareth Southgate calls for unity and praises hospital 'heroes' amid coronavirus pandemic
"In the way you've all come together to support our team, we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many"
Last Updated: 20/03/20 9:49am
England manager Gareth Southgate has called for a united show of strength to face the "extreme test" of coronavirus.
In an open letter to England fans distributed across Football Association channels, Southgate spoke about the need to follow the precautionary guidelines and praised the "heroes" working in the country's health facilities for their role in combating the spread of the virus.
England had been due to play friendly matches against Italy and Denmark this month but both of those fixtures have - like almost all sport in the world - been postponed.
In his letter, Southgate wrote: "For everyone in our country, the primary focus of the present - and the coming months - is undoubtedly to look after our families, support our communities and work together to come through what is clearly the most extreme test that we've faced collectively in decades.
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"On behalf of all the team and staff, I would like to take this opportunity to send our sympathies to those who have lost loved ones already. Our thoughts are with you and with those who sadly will suffer similarly in the coming period.
"In the way you've all come together to support our team, we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many. So, please continue 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.
"We are also conscious of the economic uncertainty affecting so many businesses and, consequently, virtually every family. Coupled with the unique challenges of self-isolation, the loss of routine to normal working and social life, we face real challenges to our mental wellbeing. Our children may feel anxious with uncertainty. It's not normal for any of us and it's going to challenge us all.
"Look out for each other. Please don't suffer alone, and remember that our great country has come through these enormous challenges before - and, together, we will do so again."
Regarding the postponement of the Italy and Denmark matches, Southgate said: "We were due to play next week and to represent you all this summer, but 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 centres to look after our friends and families. They won't receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.
"When we play again as an England team, it will be at a time when not only our country but the rest of the world as well is on the road to recovery. Hopefully we will be closer to each other than ever, and ready for the beautiful distraction that football can bring."