Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini: I was shattered by Covid-19
Atalanta coach recounts ordeal of fighting against coronavirus during Champions League match
Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini revealed yesterday he thought he would die as he battled coronavirus symptoms when the Italian team played their Champions League match against Valencia in March.
Gasperini told Gazzetta Dello Sport that he was sick when Atalanta beat Valencia 4-3 behind closed doors at the Mestalla on March 10 to reach the quarter-finals with an 8-4 aggregate victory.
"The day before the Valencia game, I was sick, the afternoon of the game worse. I didn't look good on the bench," said the 62-year-old.
"It was March 10. The following two nights in Zingonia (Atalanta's training centre) I slept little. I didn't have a fever, but I felt shattered, like I had one of 40 (deg C).
"An ambulance passed every two minutes. There is a hospital nearby. It seemed like a war zone. At night I thought, 'If I go in there, what happens to me'?
"I can't go now, I have so many things to do ... I was saying it jokingly, to lighten things up. But I really thought so."
Gasperini said he was never swabbed, but serological tests in mid-May confirmed that he had Covid-19.
"I have antibodies, which does not mean that I am now immune," he added.
Gasperini said that four days after the Valencia game, he felt the worst was over, after a workout like he hadn't had in years and running 10km on the treadmill, but he then lost his sense of taste.
A celebratory meal and vintage 2008 Dom Perignon sent by a Michelin-starred chef and Atalanta fan, tasted like "water and bread", Gasperini said.
"I stayed at the Zingonia training ground for three weeks," he continued. "When I did get back to my home in Turin, I always respected social distancing with my wife and children."
Bergamo, in the northern Lombardy region, was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus pandemic, with many experts believing Atalanta's Champions League game at San Siro on Feb 19 to be one of the key causes.
More than 40,000 fans travelled the 60km to Milan, joining in celebrations for a historic 4-1 result, in the club's first elite European campaign.
"Every time I think about it, it seems absurd to me: the historic peak of sporting happiness coincided with the greatest pain in the city," said Gasperini.
"It will take years to truly understand what happened, because right here was the centre of evil."
Serie A will return to action after a three-month absence on June 20, with Gasperini's side sitting fourth in the table, 15 points behind leaders Juventus.
Teams will now be able to make five substitutions instead of three, but Gasperini said the new ruling is "awful" as it "distorts the game".
While some have questioned the sport's return, Gasperini believes it's a natural response.
"Some consider it amoral to start again," said the former Inter Milan and Genoa coach.
"I saw people singing on the balconies of Italy while Bergamo loaded their coffins onto trucks.
"I didn't consider it 'amoral'. I consider it an instinctive reaction, an attempt to cling to life...
"None of the players left the city. More than one has lost weight...
"Atalanta can help Bergamo to restart... The team has remained connected with Bergamo's suffering and will bring it to the pitch." - AFP