STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Finland’s soccer players were looking forward to competing at the finals of a major tournament for the first time ever in June, but captain Tim Sparv said it was right to postpone the Euro 2020 Championship to protect fans from the coronavirus.

The towering 33-year-old, who plays for FC Midtjylland in Denmark, was out training by himself when the news broke via the Norwegian FA that the tournament was to be postponed by a year.

“I think that the football society as a whole needs to take their responsibility and try to protect our fans, the football fans. I think it’s the only right decision,” he told Reuters by telephone.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a really long time. It would have been the first time that Finland was in a European Championships so it’s a bit sad, but in the general perspective, in the big picture, football is a really small matter. Now it’s about life and death and trying to control the spread of the virus, so it’s a good decision.

“I’m sure that, next summer, Finnish fans and players can enjoy their time in the spotlight. We just need to be a little bit patient,” he added.

With games and team training suspended in Denmark, Sparv has been trying to keep fit and focused as the world struggles to bring the COVID-19 virus under control.

“We’re not allowed to have any team trainings. I’m running around in the forest and by the lake, and today I was running around with the ball as well, trying to stay as fit as possible. It’s really nice, mentally I think it’s very wise to actually get out of the house and do some physical activity, it keeps the mind sharp. It would make you crazy to stay inside!” he joked.

Having represented Southampton in England, Halmstad in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, Dutch club FC Groningen and Greuther Furth, Sparv is enjoying one of the best spells of his career with Finland qualifying for the Euros and Midtjylland currently leading the Danish top-flight table, a whopping 12 points ahead of FC Copenhagen.

With one goal in his 74 caps, Sparv is one of the more senior players in the Finland squad, and he laughed off the suggestion that he might retire before the Euros kick off in just over a year’s time.

“One year is not going to be a huge deal! Like everyone else, I was also looking forward to leading my team out, but it’s a very wise decision by the big bosses in charge of the championships and it’s gonna be good for everyone,” he explained.

“We just need to be a little bit patient and take care of each other, make sure that this virus doesn’t spread and then get the football season started again.”

(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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