Sharjah midfielder Otabek Shukurov is donating food and supplies to families most in need in his hometown in Uzbekistan – an initiative he hopes will encourage others to follow suit.
The Uzbek, who has represented the UAE champions since December 2017, wanted to provide relief to those hit hardest in Chirchiq by the coronavirus outbreak and has resolved to help 60 families each day. Packages are being prepared and delivered throughout the town, which lies north of Tashkent.
Shukurov posted a video on his social media platforms on Saturday, in which he implored peers to take up the initiative. In the video, recorded at his home in Sharjah, he first juggles a football before wrapping it in a plastic bag. The footage then cuts to bags of the supplies in Chirchiq, and then shows them being handed out to grateful recipients.
Shukurov, who is paying for the goods to be bought, packed and distributed, hopes the initiative will prove popular online. He believes it can have much more of an impact than the recent “toilet roll challenge”, which features many of football's most prominent stars and has since gone viral.
Speaking about his initiative, Shukurov said: “I received news that most of the poor families in my hometown have even more problems because of the coronavirus. They have stopped working so no salaries are coming, making their lives more difficult. So that’s why I decided to help them.
“I felt sorry when I saw some players were doing the toilet paper challenge, because there is no benefit to anyone except people making it for fun. What do those in need gain from this?
“So I thought of a new challenge, which can truly benefit the poor people. The first 60 families is just the beginning. I hope others watch it and do the same.”
Shukurov reminded his townspeople to stay at home during the pandemic, saying he would provide food so they do not have to leave their homes to obtain it.
“When I saw the videos of the families smiling and being happy, for me this is the real happiness,” he said. “You see the poor are happy and receiving something, and knowing others are thinking about them. The message is ‘Stay at home and don’t worry about food - the food will come to you’.”
Shukurov, 23, joined Sharjah more than two years ago from Uzbek side Bunyodkor. He has gone on to make 47 appearances, helping the club last season to secure a first UAE top-flight title in 23 years despite having his campaign curtailed by injury.
Shukurov also praised the UAE for sending aid to his homeland, saying: “I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed for the support he gave to my people by sending a plane to Uzbekistan loaded with 80 tonnes of aid.
“On behalf of Uzbekistan I say thank you to His Highness and all the Emirati people.”