Saturday March 14 2020
Leagues learn from Italy during Coronavirus

People criticised the Italian authorities for their reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic, but Emmet Gates realises after seeing other leagues that they were leading by example.

Italian football and leading by example are never normally associated. This is, after all, a nation that is light years behind the rest of Europe on a whole array of issues, ranging from tackling racism, redeveloping stadiums and the systemic culture of blaming referees, to collective TV rights, blatant self-interest and a general aversion to modernising the way in which clubs are run.

And yet, with the Coronavirus now declared a worldwide pandemic by the WHO this week, Italian football can be somewhat proud of the steps it took in suspending games, and ultimately the league altogether. For once, the much-maligned officials that run the FIGC and the Lega Serie A can be considered examples in the on-going COVID-19 crisis.

It was only yesterday that the Premier League finally relented and suspended their competition after coming under serious scrutiny, despite intentions to forge on this weekend. The Bundesliga was the last organisation to suspend its league, and had also planned to carry on this weekend, albeit playing games behind closed doors for this round of fixtures and suspend the league from Monday. But, after finally seeing sense, they also got in line.

The point must be made of course that Serie A was the first organisation to react due to Italy being the hardest hit country in Europe. The country exploded as the epicentre of the pandemic outside of China, with Inter’s postponed game against Sampdoria three weeks ago being the first official match to be cancelled because of the virus.

As is often the way with Serie A, heels were dragged and indecision ran riot as multiple bodies within the country struggled to come to terms with the seemingly lightning-quick spread of the disease. Cancel the season? Suspend certain games, but allow others to play? Play behind closed doors? It’s fair to say that certain decisions that were ultimately made wouldn’t be made again with the benefit of hindsight.

Yet Lega Serie A and the FIGC should be given some benefit of the doubt, considering they were on the front line facing a new strain of virus, but what about the other leagues? Why weren’t they stopped sooner? Even now, precautionary measures are slight in England, despite Arsenal boss Mikael Arteta testing positive for the virus.

It’s an issue former Juventus and current West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna touched upon in an interview with the Corriere della Sera. “It’s almost as if they are waiting for someone to die before taking action,” said Ogbonna. “It’s just not football, but this is ingrained in the English mentality. They still don’t realise the danger of a virus that can be passed on in seconds if you don’t behave in the right way.

“I haven’t been checked or tested in any way. That is another testament to an attitude that is at the very least superficial,” continued the defender.

Carlo Ancelotti also reinforced the point to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We’re not really self-isolating at all, some prevention measures did come after a player had a fever.” It’s generally accepted now that the situation in Italy would’ve been much graver had the government not decided to first lock down certain red zones, and then later the entire country. Yet walk around London in recent days and it feels like just another day of the week, save for people panic-buying copious amounts of toilet roll.

Spain, Germany and France are no different in that regard, all three nations tried desperately to continue their respective seasons, ordering games to go ahead behind closed doors. Whilst no doubt each were trying to make do in extenuating circumstances, what is a game of football without fans? As anyone who watched the Derby d’Italia can attest to, hearing every kick of the ball, every tactical instruction, every groan of a player falling to the ground is a surreal experience and, ultimately, isn’t a positive one. It provided evidence, if ever really needed, that the fans make the game, not vice versa.

Paris Saint-Germain also proved that playing behind closed doors is futile if people don’t realise the scale of the problem. Thousands gathered outside their Champions League game with Bayer Leverkusen, the French media even praised their ‘passion’ rather than condemn the mass stupidity, and Layvin Kurzawa took the biscuit by throwing himself into the crowd of complete strangers after the final whistle.

With the sport ground to a halt for the foreseeable future, there are a myriad of issues to be decided, and clubs across Europe could face financial ruin if the pandemic stretches into the summer months. Yet there is no doubting that the correct decision was made by all leagues to down tools.

And for once, Italy - perhaps begrudgingly - led by example.

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Have your say...
@blackandblue (keep up) you're full of it.
on the 19th March, 2020 at 10:18pm
et tu, Dio??
on the 18th March, 2020 at 10:55pm
ARD, I have a friend in Bergamo. BOTH his partner's parents are in intensive care with the coronavirus. No hoax. My brother-in-law's mother in law (keep up) is in intensive care in South London with the coronavirus. No hoax. You get back to taking your pills while the grown ups deal with reality.
on the 18th March, 2020 at 9:57am
now the season is tarnished... and EUROs postponed. Azzurri had so much potential and momentum going in,now the chemistry is thrown off and we have to wait an entire year... where many changes can happen til then.
on the 16th March, 2020 at 10:26pm
My dear FI friends

Just a few short weeks ago we thought that what we see out there now only belonged to the realm of sci-fi.
No reason to panic but extreme caution and foresight should be the two most welcomed commodities.
Let’s be safe, mindful and care for everyone.
We can come back after this whole mess is behind us and fall back into the familiar pattern of being the usual jerks to each other.

on the 16th March, 2020 at 7:42pm

maybe you should continue living your life as per normal, whichever country you are in, you should continue and even go to the hospitals and inspect and find evidence. Rather than staying home and commenting on here.
In fact if you're so confident of your statement go to the hospitals and record and put everything on social media.
I'm sure you can find the truth
on the 15th March, 2020 at 6:45pm
@Gee has anyone died in your family? I hope not but I don't think so. You know any friends that have died? I hope not but I don't think so. I have family in Italy every one is alive just a big scare. Im not being disrespectful Im just saying what this virus is. Which is a big hoax.
on the 15th March, 2020 at 3:25pm
I suspect Steven Zang's use of a 'disruptive mechanism' (McKinsey management concept) by calling the guy a clown and standing by the statement will never be given the credit it deserves. He had knowledge of what was happening in China and his statement made a lot of people (me included) more aware of the dangers - which have of course now been realised.
on the 15th March, 2020 at 9:10am
ARD people and loved ones are dying and you make this comment?

Very disrespectful, I shall assume that you have mental health issues for you to make such a comment. Absolutely disgusting comment.
on the 15th March, 2020 at 7:38am
Unfortunately every criticism leveled at those decisions was based on individual interests, not those of public health or the league as a whole. While hundreds of cases were being discovered every day, some were busy arguing how certain decisions affected their chances of a better outcome, outrageous claims were made with little consideration for what's best for the people and the sport.
on the 15th March, 2020 at 5:49am
@ARD, if you keep smoking whatever you are, mental infirmary is the next item on your menu.

Let the world know we are UNDER ATTACK. Period.


on the 15th March, 2020 at 5:20am
I don’t understand why the Italian govt and sport authorities received so much criticism. This is an unprecedented situation so they had no template to work with. Perhaps they did make mistakes but the task was complex and huge. I admire their work and their seriousness.
on the 14th March, 2020 at 8:58pm
Corona virus is a Hoax
on the 14th March, 2020 at 7:45pm

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