Zimbabwe international midfielder Marshall Munetsi has described his Stade de Reims team doctor, Bernard Gonzalez, who committed suicide on Sunday after testing positive of coronavirus, as a “great person’’.
The 60-year-old, who had worked at the club for 23 years, killed himself on Sunday while in self-isolation at home, where he has been staying with his wife, who also tested positive to the Covid-19 virus.
Gonzalez led the Stade de Reims medical team which conducted Munetsi’s medical before the midfielder completed his switch to the French Ligue 1 club last year.
Munetsi, who turns 24 on June 22 this year, is considered by some as a future Warriors captain.
He has been one of the stand-out players among the fresh crop of Warriors who have been making their mark in the senior national football team.
“Such a great person and always full of kind words, Rest In Peace Dr Gonzalez, our team doctor,’’ Munetsi wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.
The midfielder had also tweeted on March 15 urging people to unite in the battle against this pandemic.
“In the wake of the Covid-19/corona virus, I urge everyone to hold on to hope, love, practice good hygiene and we will come out stronger,’’ he tweeted.
“Let’s pray, unite and fight for each other.’’
According to numerous reports in Le Parisien newspaper, Gonzalez had been self-isolating at home, with his wife, when the doctor decided to take his life.
He also left a “detailed letter’’ explaining the link between his actions and the diagnosis.
Gonzalez worked for Stade de Reims for more than 23 years, and was a club legend to both fans and staff.
His death is said to have caused heartbreak throughout the city in northern France while it vibrated across the entire football world.
Mayor of Reims, Arnaud Robinet, released the following statement regarding the tragic news:
“He was the club doctor. A great professional, recognised and appreciated by all,’’ the mayor said.
“My thoughts are for his parents, for his wife, his family. He is a collateral victim of COVID-19. I know he left a note to explain his gesture. But I ignore its content.”
A medical source also confirmed to AFP the existence of this letter but added that the doctor had appeared “to be in good shape two days ago”.
Jean-Pierre Caillot, the Stade Reims president, said: “Words fail me, I am stunned by this news.
“This pandemic affects Stade de Reims in the heart, it is a personality of Reims and a great professional of the sport who left us.
“His mission to the club of more than 20 years has been carried out with the utmost professionalism, in a passionate and even selfless manner.
“Doctor Gonzalez, in the harshest periods of the club, worked on a voluntary basis.
“He is my personal doctor, and today all my thoughts, those of the club of which he will remain a strong figure, go to his wife and his parents. Today it is a drama that strikes us.”
As the football club mourned the loss of its most experienced medical practitioner, French authorities announced a further 518 deaths on Sunday.
In total, more than 90 000 cases of the illness have been recorded in France, with almost 3 000 deaths.
According to Ligue 1 president, Bernard Caiazzo, there is no chance of the league resuming any time in the near future due to the severity of the virus, but June has been earmarked as a potential month where football could return in France.
“Devastated, Reims cries for Bernard Gonzalez,” said a statement released by the Ligue 1 club.
“Not just the club but also hundreds of men and women in Reims.”
Ligue One clubs and sides from across Europe rallied around Reims to pay tribute to Gonzalez after news of his death broke tonight.
Marseille said: “Our sincere condolences to the family of Doctor Gonzalez, his relatives and to @StadeDeReims”
AJ Ajaccio added: “We offer you our deepest condolences at this time of terrible pain.
“To you Stadists, to the family of Doctor Gonzalez as well as to all those affected by this drama. Wholeheartedly with you”
Meanwhile, FIFA will confirm an indefinite extension to the current 2019-20 season, giving the power to each country to determine when their campaign will restart.
As reported by The Athletic, the governing body of world football are also set to change the dates of this summer’s transfer window and allow players to extend their contracts beyond June 30.
The plans, which could be announced in the next two days, means the concept of rendering the season null and void is less likely to materialise as Premier League sides look to avoid paying back huge sums of money in broadcast rights.
This season’s Premier League needs to finish otherwise clubs will be forced to repay £762 million to broadcasters.
The report details that specific time frames for completing the season were not discussed in Friday’s meeting between Premier League clubs — the UK is currently in lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
But FIFA’s plans have somewhat relaxed the situation, allowing countries and leagues flexibility in order to finish seasons whenever realistically possible and depending on the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that same meeting on Friday, the 20 Premier League clubs released a statement saying they would hold talks with their players over accepting a 30 per cent wage cut.
Some Premier League clubs believe the season will have to be finished behind closed doors anyway, due to the restrictions on mass gatherings.
But other clubs believe football in the UK should only return when fans are permitted to attend.
FIFA acknowledge that the coronavirus spread is different in each country and thus seasons need to be catered and altered differently.
Last week, UEFA committed to finishing the current season including domestic leagues and European competitions. — The Herald/AFP/The Sun/givemesport.