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Spanish female football referees turn to healthcare amid COVID-19 battle

Iragartze Fernandez is a referee in the top-flight of the Spanish women’s football league, who has now become a full-time nurse in Madrid to help battle coronavirus.

The 26-year-old has been training as a nurse for five years in Bilbao but the global pandemic – which has brought the world of sport to a halt – has quickened her move into healthcare.

Spain is now behind only Italy on the global scale for the most deaths due to the virus, with the nation now 11 days into a 30-day state of lockdown.

“When someone arrives with a cough and a fever, my job is to analyse their symptoms, while wearing full protective equipment,” Fernandez told AFP, as cited by Yahoo Sports.

“The risk of us transmitting the disease is high because we are constantly living next to it. That’s a very stressful experience because you’re always fighting against something you can’t see. You’re always playing at a disadvantage.

“I’m not Superwoman or anything like that, I’m just doing my bit, like everyone else.”

As of Thursday, there were 56,188 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Spain with 4,089 deaths while a further 3,679 Spaniards are currently in intensive care.

Despite the human tragedy of the virus, the lockdown has brought solidarity and unity to many Spaniards with a now daily 8pm tradition of widespread applause for health workers in recognition of their vital role.

Fernandez adds: “All that applause every night, it’s incredible. I’ve been working in the same medical centre for two years and to be honest, no one has ever said thank you until now. It’s really heart-warming to see our work is being recognised.”

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She is one of a number of female officials who are now on the frontline battling against the virus, and the referee admits not having the sport is damaging as it is a welcome form of distraction.

“Playing sports is usually my escape,” said Fernandez. “At work, we live with the coronavirus, we rub shoulders with it. I come home, I turn on the TV and now we only talk about that.

“The only thing to really disconnect is sport. It helps me forget everything.”

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