ANKARA: Former Turkish national team and ex-Barcelona goalkeeper Rustu Recber is in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus and is currently in a “critical period”, his wife said late on Saturday.

Recber, who is Turkey’s most-capped player having made 120 international appearances, took on hero status in Turkey as he kept goal at the 2002 World Cup, anchoring his team to the semi-finals and ultimately third place, their greatest ever performance in the tournament.

The powerfully built and poney-tailed goalkeeper was easily recognisable at the World Cup due to the black, anti-reflection product he smeared beneath his eyes like some NFL players.

“Rustu is in hospital with a COVID-19 diagnosis,” Isil Recber said on Instagram late Saturday. “We are in a state of shock after the symptoms developed rapidly while everything was normal. These are critical times and it’s very difficult.”

She added that she, as well as their son and daughter, had tested negative for the virus.

Isil Recber said her husband was isolated at the hospital and that they were not allowed to visit. “May God give a speedy recovery to all the patients, including my husband,” she said.

The goalkeeper, now 46, enjoyed a brief spell at Barcelona in 2003 after starring in the World Cup a year earlier when Turkey beat co-hosts South Korea 3-2 in the third-place play-off.

He retired from the sport in 2012, after a five-year stint with Besiktas, and is revered at Turkish giants Fenerbahce, where he played for more than a decade.

“We convey our wishes for a speedy recovery to our former national team goalkeeper Rustu Recber who sported our jersey for many years; we wish for him to regain his health as soon as possible and hope to receive good news from him,” Fenerbahce said on Twitter.

“Get well Rustu! We love you and we as Barcelona stand with you!” Barcelona wrote on Twitter in Turkish.

Last week, Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim said he also tested positive for the virus.

Turkey’s death toll from the coronavirus increased by 16 to 108 on Saturday, as the number of confirmed cases rose by 1,704 to 7,402, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020