Kike Mateu is a very familiar figure to Spanish football supporters. He’s a contributor on El Chiringuito de Jugones, the country’s most popular night TV football show. But he’s become even more famous since contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) while in Milan to covering the UEFA Champions League game between Atalanta and Valencia on February 19.
The 31-year-old, who was a member of a travelling group of Spanish sports journalists, carried on his routine as he normally would, attending the game’s post match press conference and dropping down to the mixed zone after the final whistle to interview some players. There had only been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy at the time of the match.
That Monday afternoon, Mateu began experiencing the early symptoms of a flu-like virus, including fatigue and a dry cough. When he woke up on Tuesday morning, he felt slightly worse. With more cases having been confirmed in Northern Italy at that time, he decided to get checked out.
“I started to feel bad but nothing serious,” says Mateu. “The typical symptoms when you have a cold—that you have your nose a little blocked and you generally feel a bit poorly.”
“Just because I was in Milan, I thought it would be important to confirm that I did or didn’t have the coronavirus instead of keeping on going, and going to work, as if nothing was happening, as normally I would do.”
Come Wednesday morning, he phoned the emergency line in Spain, stressing to the person on the other end of the line that he had recently been in Milan. He was told their services were straining to cope with the number of calls they were receiving and that the medical unit would call out to him the next day, Thursday.
He was tested, and at 4:30 a.m. the next morning, Thursday, 27 February, he was confirmed as having the coronavirus. To alert others, he diligently sent messages to those he remembered being in contact with after his return from Milan a week earlier. He’s been in isolation since his diagnosis.
“I am completely isolated,” he said during a phone interview with B/R last Friday. “The people who are infected have to be totally isolated from other people. I suppose there might be other people with the coronavirus in the hospital here, but I don’t know. I’m in lockdown. I have no information about what happens outside.
Mateu was the first to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in the region of Valencia. His background in the media and his willingness to speak about his experience both make him a notable voice in the coverage of the virus.
One of the things Mateu did once he became under quarantine was to release a video on the Las Provincias website, describing his symptoms and the course of rest and treatment he’d been following. Salvador Illa, Spain’s minister of health, applauded the public service broadcast.
In a press statement released last Saturday after the 100,000th worldwide case of COVID-19 was confirmed, the World Health Organization stressed that, “Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives.”
“We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system,” the statement added.
“The La Liga measures follow the decision by the Spanish High Council of sports today that all competitions and sporting events in Spain, professional and non-professional, state and international level must be held behind closed doors. Public health is paramount,” says Joris Evers, La Liga’s chief communications officer.