Serie A should be suspended to curb spread of coronavirus: Minister
Italy's sports minister urges tough action to curb Covid-19
Italy's sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora yesterday called for an immediate suspension of the Serie A season due to the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 233 people and infected more than 5,800 in the Mediterranean country.
"The FIGC (Italian Football Federation) should consider immediately STOPPING Serie A," Spadafora wrote in a statement on his Facebook page.
"It makes no sense right now, as we ask citizens to make enormous sacrifices to prevent the spread of the virus, to endanger the lives of players, referees, coaching staff and fans who will surely gather to watch the matches, by not temporarily suspending football."
FIGC has called for an extraordinary meeting tomorrow, following Spadafora's comments.
Italy has borne the brunt in Europe of an epidemic that first emerged in China at the end of last year and has spread to almost 100 countries.
Yesterday, Italy imposed a virtual lockdown across a swathe of its wealthy north, including the financial capital Milan, in a drastic attempt to try to contain a rapidly growing outbreak.
Last Wednesday, the Serie A was ordered to play matches behind closed doors until April 3, as part of broader measures imposed nationwide to limit crowds and fight the spread of the Covid-19 disease.
Italian Footballers' Association president Damiano Tommasi tweeted yesterday that "stopping football is the most useful thing for our country right now".
"The teams to cheer are playing in our hospitals, in emergency rooms," Tommasi wrote.
Spadafora's comments are the reported reason for last night's early match, Parma's 1-0 home defeat by Spal, being pushed back over an hour to an 8.45pm kick-off (Singapore time).
It was one of six previously postponed games being played over the weekend.
The match was supposed to start at 7.30pm, but Sky Sports reported that as the players lined up in the tunnel to enter the field, they were led back into the dressing rooms.
After a delay of 35 minutes, it was announced that the match would go ahead.
The confusion came after Italian media obtained copies of draft legislation that ordered the quarantining of the entire Lombardy region in northern Italy, the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Lombardy capital Milan is Italy's economic heart, and the region is home to some 10 million people.
The government decree also covers parts of the Veneto region around Venice as well as Emilia-Romagna's Parma and Rimini.
The decree advised people in the quarantine zones to stay at home as much as possible, and it shuts down all night clubs as well as gyms and swimming pools.
Bars and restaurants will remain open but must ensure that everyone is seated at least a metre apart.
It stresses that entry into and out of the new quarantine zones would only be allowed for "serious reasons".
On Saturday, FIGC president Gabriele Gravina had refused to rule out the suspension of Serie A if a player tests positive for the coronavirus.
"We have to be realistic, the real risk exists and, in those circumstances, we would take all necessary measures to guarantee the protection of our athletes, and then consider what impact it could have on sporting competition," Gravina told Rai.
In some parts of Europe, football matches will be played behind closed doors, including the Champions League last-16, second leg between Valencia and Atalanta on Wednesday morning (Singapore time) and league games in Bulgaria. - AFP, REUTERS