La Liga footballer who played in India ditches boots, joins front line of virus battle

By: Sports Desk |

Updated: March 28, 2020 7:28:50 pm

Toni Dovale (with the ISL trophy in Bengaluru FC colours) has slipped into a pharmacist’s coat.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Toni Dovale, a footballer who has played in the La Liga and Indian clubs Bengaluru FC and East Bengal, has discarded his football boots for now and joined the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dovale, who was visiting his family in Spain when the pandemic took hold of the globe – with Spain being one of the worst hit – decided he could use his services as a pharmacy graduate. The 29-year-old studied pharmacy in university but had not put his education into practice till now.

“I really was packing my bags to go back when things got complicated,” Dovale told AFP.

Travel restrictions trapped Dovale in his native La Coruna in the Atlantic coast region of Galicia, where he started his football career with nearby Celta Vigo.

“I was playing in Asia then; pharmacy is different there and I was never in Spain long enough to work,” he says, “With football stopped and travel banned I said to myself ‘get some practical experience and do your bit’.”

The coronavirus is ravaging Spain with a death toll of over 4,800 and some 64,000 registered cases of infection.

There is hope of course with around 10,000 people already cured of the virus in Spains for multimedia clients “We’re in a really frightening situation. Those of us working with the public are afraid, and the people who come to us for advice are afraid too,” says Dovale, who is working in a pharmacy run by his family.

He has gloves but no mask, and does not appear ready to lose his smile any time soon.

“We all know we are exposed, that this is a pandemic and a complicated situation,” he says.

“But we all know too that our behaviour in complicated situations defines who we are, and for me I need to put fears for my own safety to one side and help in any way that I can.

“There are shortages of many things and we are struggling to get enough of the simple things like thermometers, paracetamol, gloves and hand gels.”

Dovale has played football for Spanish top flight clubs Leganes and Rayo Vallecano, Sporting Kansas City in the United States and also Bengaluru in the Indian Super League before moving to Thailand.

“Right now I’m the same as everyone else in that I train at home jumping over the furniture,” he jokes.

“I start at 7am and I use whatever I can including bottles of water and stuff like that. Then I go downstairs to the pharmacy.

“I hope this is over as soon as possible and that I can go back to playing football again.

“Right now though everything is up in the air and I have no idea when sports will get going again over there (in Asia) or when we Europeans will be allowed to even travel again.

“I have no idea how this is going to pan out. Let’s just hope it’s all over soon and I can get ack to my normal life playing football.”

(With AFP inputs)

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