Genoa midfielder Valon Behrami wants to bring the fans ‘joy’ in the Derby della Lanterna against Sampdoria and praised coach Rolando Maran.
The Grifoni have had a difficult start to the new campaign, including an outbreak of coronavirus in the group.
It peaked at 22 cases of COVID-19 including staff and players, one of them was the 35-year-old midfielder from Switzerland.
“I don’t like when you say: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’,” Behrami told Il Secolo XIX. “I didn’t find myself stronger, I found myself more fragile.
“It’s not a physical problem, we are well trained. I lived the fear of something I didn’t know, the fear that it might touch my children, my parents, my wife.
“Better on me than them, I thought. And then for many hours alone, closed in a room, isolated from the world: I discovered my fragile side, it made me more sensitive to the suffering of others.
“When I went back to training, I had little desire to talk. I saw my other teammates and I felt their suffering.
Behrami, who arrived as a free agent at Genoa in January 2020, said coronavirus has changed us.
“Luckily my wife didn’t have any problems. We didn’t see each other again after the match against Napoli, we were distant.
“She was not infected and for me it was a great relief. I see so much aggressive nervousness around, you can’t express an idea, right or wrong, without being attacked by those who don’t agree.
“It happens in all moments of life. We end up saying nothing, we remain trivial and that’s not good for me.”
The last Derby della Lanterna ended in a 2-1 win for Genoa, when Domenico Criscito and Lukas Lerager scored on either side of Manolo Gabbiadini’s goal for the home side.
“In July, I was in the stands suffering, for us it was the game of a lifetime and we managed to win it,” he said. “Now, we’ll try again, with the same intensity as then.
“Unfortunately, the atmosphere is not the usual one, it’s perceived around that there are other priorities.
“When I arrived in January, the people who met me were telling me about the Derby, asking me to win it.
“Now, I look at those who live near me, they almost avoid talking to each other. It’s up to us to isolate ourselves, do everything to win and give joy to our fans, a glimpse of serenity.”
Behrami said the Derby will be different without fans and admitted the ‘strange atmosphere’ has changed the games.
“Football without fans doesn’t excite me, but at the moment, it’s impossible to think of having fans in the stands again.
“This strange atmosphere has changed many things, for better or for worse. Players stand up five seconds after they are being fouled.
“Playing in empty stadiums leads to moments of distraction, we are getting used to a new situation.”
Behrami praised coach Maran, who took over after Davide Nicola, and admitted the new coach makes him ‘discover new things every day’.
“The coach is very prepared, tactically and technically. He has modern and interesting ideas. I’m now at the end of my career, I observe him carefully and he is making me discover new things every day.
“We need time to build the team, COVID has taken a lot from us. But we are already in the middle of the championship and of this we are certainly not afraid.”