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Japan soccer chief gets coronavirus after Europe, U.S. trip

Argentina v Japan: Group D - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10: Tashima Kozo (C) and Shaikh Salman (L-1) and Gianni Infantino (R-1) watch during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group D match between Argentina and Japan at Parc des Princes on June 10, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)

Getty Images

TOKYO -- The head of Japan soccer, who is also the vice-chairman of the Japan Olympic Committee, has tested positive for the coronavirus and apologized for possibly infecting others.

“I have slight fever and pneumonia ... but otherwise I’m doing fine,” Kozo Tashima said in a statement released by the Japan Football Association on Tuesday.

Tashima visited Europe and the U.S. on football business from Feb. 28-March 8. He got himself tested after learning on Saturday that Serbian soccer association president Slavisa Kokeza, whom he said he was seated near at the UEFA general meeting in Amsterdam, was infected with COVID-19. Swiss soccer president Dominique Blanc, who also tested positive on Saturday, was also there.

Tashima apologized to Japan Football Association officials, staff, and journalists whom he has had contact with at conferences and meetings for the past week without knowing he was infected.

“By facing squarely with the disease, I hope to contribute to eliminating prejudice against the new coronavirus,” he said. “I will cooperate in various research for the disease, and I will be back.”

The 62-year-old Tashima first visited Belfast, Ireland, to attend an annual meeting of the International Football Association Board. He had a presentation at the UEFA meeting in Amsterdam on March 2, went to the U.S. for women’s soccer events, and arrived back in Tokyo on March 8. He went to his office several times last week to prepare for a board meeting.

“In Amsterdam and elsewhere in Europe in early March, there was not as much nervousness over the coronavirus as now, and everyone was hugging, shaking hands and exchanging kisses,” he said in the statement.

He said he disclosed his infection because he had to inform people he had contact with, and that he didn’t want to cause trouble to his neighbors. Such revelation is unusual in a country where prejudice against infectious diseases are strong, and patients and their families most often remain anonymous to avoid harassment.

“At a time when many people around the world contracted the virus and are fighting the disease, I have decided to firmly face this,” Tashima said.

For most people the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of those who are infected recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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