Andros Townsend: Footballers 'have to give back' in coronavirus crisis

Andros Townsend
Andros Townsend has won 13 caps for England

Footballers "have to give back" to supporters in times of crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, says Crystal Palace's Andros Townsend.

The winger, 28, is among the Premier League players involved in the #FootballUnited campaign that launched on Wednesday.

Players are urging people to donate to the initiative, which is aimed at supporting the elderly and vulnerable.

Townsend said it is "our role" to assist in the community.

He told BBC Sport: "These guys, they support us on a Saturday through thick and thin. The general public effectively pay our wages with their season tickets and their subscriptions to the TV services so, at times like this, we have to give back.

"Crystal Palace is calling up season ticket holders, making sure they are OK and seeing if they need any help with shopping or any other errands.

"Wilfred Zaha is giving properties to NHS workers so everyone is trying to find their own little way to kind of help in these troubled times and hopefully I can do that with #FootballUnited."

Manchester United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin are also supporting the campaign, working with the National Emergency Trust asking people to donate towards the £100,000 target.

'Reach out to loved ones'

Strict government rules issued this week instructed people to stay at home and to leave only for essential needs and for one form of exercise a day.

More than 500 people have died from the virus in the UK, with Thursday's figures seeing more than 100 deaths in a day for the first time.

"I am very fortunate that I have a family and two young kids. I have a gym where I can workout as well," said Townsend.

"I am very fortunate but I know there are others maybe, younger guys in a flat on their own, getting a bit of cabin fever at the minute.

"Just reach out, reach out to loved ones or on social media, or anybody really just to speak to someone and get it off your chest, because from myself I know the main thing about mental health is just speak.

"Don't let things bottle up inside, make sure it's out in the open and hopefully you will feel a lot better."

'I want to start playing as soon as it's safe'

All Premier League games have been called off until at least 30 April.

Asked what he missed most about football, Townsend said: "The adrenaline, the pressure, everything that goes with it."

The England international, who has been playing esports, added: "I entered a Fifa tournament last week for charity and there were 10,000 people watching on the stream at one point.

"It just hit me that that adrenaline, pressure, nervousness was everything that I crave and it made me realise how much I do miss it, so I definitely want to start playing as soon as it's safe."

With Euro 2020 postponed until next summer, there is an opening in the calendar to finish off the season this summer, although this may take place behind closed doors without fans.

Townsend added: "When I was asked this while the league was still going I said 'no way, I don't want to play without fans - football is nothing without fans'.

"But when all of a sudden there is no football and for the foreseeable future it's not going to be safe for 30-40-50,000 people all in one stadium... so if it is either not playing or playing behind closed doors, then I'm afraid it will have to be behind closed doors to try and finish the season as normal as possible and as quick as possible."

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