Kuala Lumpur: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has launched a new public awareness campaign to fight the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some of the biggest names in Asian football are part of it. Former Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia is also included.

“The #BreakTheChain campaign carries the message of solidarity in these challenging times and promotes the guidelines put in place by the World Health Organization (WHO), particularly #StayAtHome, and to practice good personal hygiene, social distancing as well as respecting the rules of self-quarantine,” AFC said.

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It added, “The first instalment features eight of Asian football’s finest including 2018 AFC Women’s Player of the Year, Wang Shuang from China PR, Suwon Samsung Bluewings duo Terry Antonis and Doneil Henry as well as Korea Republic and Chelsea FC star Ji So-yun. The quartet are just some of Asian football’s brightest stars who are doing their part to showcase their support for communities across Asia.”

The 43-year-old Bhutia played in more than 100 international matches for India. He captained the national team for over 10 years. He led the team at the AFC Asian Cup in 2011 when India returned to the continental tournament after a gap of 27 years. In 2014, he was inducted into the AFC Hall of Fame. Bhutia held the record for most international goals (43) by an Indian before current national team captain Sunil Chhetri surpassed him in 2013. Bhutia retired in 2011, ending his 16-year illustrious career.

AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said, “In these unprecedented and challenging times, the AFC extends its wish that all members of the Asian football community remain safe and healthy.

“Football will have an important role to play in the weeks and months ahead as the world returns to normality, but now our focus is firmly on protecting the well-being of all those who are involved in our great game.”

The AFC President also praised the AFC Member Associations for their cooperation and valuable feedback following the AFC’s decision to postpone several competitions, matches and events as part of efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of teams, players, fans and all stakeholders.

He added: “These changes to our calendar were aimed at ensuring the safety and health of our Members, their officials, their players, their staff and, of course, the millions of fans who engage with football in Asia each year.”